Breaking Burlesque

Renee Holiday performing with The Ruby Revue at the House of Blues - Dallas, TX
Renee Holiday performing with The Ruby Revue at the House of Blues – Dallas, TX

In the early 16th century Francesco Berni wrote a manuscript entitled Opere burlesche. This is the first time in recorded history that any root of the word, burlesque, had been used. During the 17th century in England the word became synonymous with the grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic. What a bunch of uptight quakers our ancestors were. The truth about burlesque is that it is an art form just as much as it is entertaiment.

The Ruby Revue was created in Texas in 2006 and has been making a strong name for itself ever since. The Revue has been featured on G4’s Attack of the Show (may you rest in peace) and the CW’s Eye Opener TV. The ladies have also provided enertainment for Dita Von Teese at Strip, Strip Hooray. With continuous shows in Dallas and Houston these ladies are hard to miss if you live in either area. The ladies of The Revue are revered and respected and after attending their show it is very clear why. I sat down with Renee Holiday, Ruby Room Studio Manager and songstress extrodinaire, for some insight on her experience in the world of burlesque.

COOGRadioWhen were you first exposed to Burlesque?

Renee HolidayThe first time I saw burlesque, I was very young! I watched “Gypsy” starring Natalie Wood. She played the role of burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee. I was totally captivated by her change from Louise Hovac (her real name) to Gypsy. She was beautiful, confident, and sexual. And even though I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing I knew I wanted to be like her.

In addition to Natalie Wood, who or what inspires you most in the burlesque world?

Without a doubt my “breast-friends,” all the girls in the Ruby Revue! We each have our own style, strengths, and backgrounds. They inspire me everyday. Although, my mentor and friend Ginger Valentine particularly inspires me to work hard and create. Her grace and smooth movement (from years of classic ballet training) blended with raucous bump and grind is what I consider, in my mind anyway, classic burlesque. But burlesque has many styles and no true definition nowadays.

You ladies express your femininity in such a bold way. Was there any one particular event that sparked your decision to perform burlesque?

Even though I’ve had an interest in vintage style and burlesque for a long time, I can pin-point when I decided to perform. I had just moved to Dallas and I had no friends and no job. (My husband) was very busy with his work and was gone a lot. So I watched a lot of Netflix. I watched “A Wink and a Smile,” a documentary about the Seattle burlesque scene. It stars many burlesque stars who I’ve now had the pleasure of either meeting in person or seeing perform live, including Indigo Blue, The Shanghai Pearl, and Waxy Moon. I made (my husband) watch it the next day and I said, “I’m going to do that.” To which he replied, “You will be great!” Later that week I was taking Intro to Burlesque at the Ruby Room Studio (The Ruby Revue’s official studio) and the rest is history!

Have you and/or Ruby Revue been accused of exploiting women?

Not to my knowledge. You might be surprised by how many women come to our shows. I have had mostly positive responses from women. They admire us for showing so much of ourselves onstage and ask us how can they get into burlesque!

The women of Ruby Revue come in all shapes and sizes. Do you feel that you and the other ladies have helped debunk the public perception of the female body image? Does it contribute to the interest of your female audience members?

The national burlesque revival as a whole has certainly shifted the view of what a women should look like and how she should act. Regardless of her shape, size, age, or disability (yes, I’ve seen women well into their 80s perform in wheelchairs) women in burlesque feel beautiful, confident, and sexual. And separate from the male gaze. Burlesque is for all audiences, male and female. It’s true we’re stripping and simulating sexual acts (let’s get real! Bump & grind is exactly what you think it is) but it’s not for men exclusively to enjoy. I perform to an audience of adults who appreciate the whole show. Rhinestones, glitter, pageantry, and well rehearsed song and dance by beautiful girls who also happen to get naked. And by the way, burlesque is not just performed by women! There are lots of men who strip as well!

Do you have any men involved with The Ruby Revue?

Yes! I’ll be performing in Houston and Dallas next weekend with Russell Bruner, King of Burlesque 2012!

What personal boundaries have you overcome during your time with Ruby Revue?

Surprisingly, I had no problem whatsoever stripping to pasties and a g-string right away! So the boundaries I face are different. They are those that I impose on myself. I frequently refer to myself as “a singer trying to be a dancer.” My background is vocal performance. So I often say to myself, “I can’t do that move” or “I’ll never be able to dance like that” but I’ve worked hard and had lots of help from my Ruby Revue sisters and I’ve achieved a lot of my goals as a dancer. I continue to struggle with confidence in my ability as a dancer, but I have a great support group in the Ruby Revue and my family.

You have an incredible voice. What is your favorite song to perform and why?

I knew this answer instantly! My favorite song is a classic burlesque number by David Rose, “Black and Tan Fantasy.” The Ruby Revue performs as a group to this number. There are several versions of this song, but this version is so raunchy! The brass section is so raw and dirty you just have to bump and grind to it! It’s one of those songs that tells you exactly what you should do. A bump obviously goes here with these drums. A glove peel goes with this slow, pretty part. An ass shimmy goes for this entire 8-count of a wailing trumpet!

This past weekend Renee was the recipient of the “Future Legend of Burlesque” award. Given to her by none other than burlesque living legend, Tiffany Carter. You can find more information and photos of Renee by visiting www.facebook.com/renee.holiday.1 and www.therubyrevue.com You can catch Renee and the ladies of the Ruby Revue live at the House of Blues in Houston on Friday, September 13th and if you’re in the mood for a road trip, go see The Ruby Revue on September 21st at The New Orleans Burlesque Festival at the House of Blues in New Orleans.

Renee Holiday receiving "Future Legend of Burlesque" Award from Tiffany Carter
Renee Holiday receiving “Future Legend of Burlesque” Award from Tiffany Carter

 

By Nick Page

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