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Recap: Jeezy's Juke Joint 2019


Where do I even begin?


My experience at Jeezy's Juke Joint was transformative, to say the least. The weekend was a whirlwind, for sure. But every moment of this black burlesque festival was curated with intention and purpose, and it showed in the integrity of every single act I was blessed enough to witness.


I tried my best to make my burlesque teachers and my House of Knyle family proud. Every movement, every lick, every pop was a testament to the absolute angels that have blessed me with their knowledge and support: my #1 muse and inspiration Egypt, of course, who informs much of my creativity and is the biggest influence on my choreography and style; Gigi Holliday, who is a trailblazing DC legend and foremother to so many performers in the DMV - we truly are this bitch's sons, to quote Nicki Minaj; Eva Mystique and Brooke Jay, true dancers who inspire me endlessly and who share their gifts with the world - it's really a privilege to learn from them; and my friends and inspirations Venessa Chevelle, Callie Pigeon, and Jo'Rie Tigerlily, who may not realize that I learn so much just by watching how they move whether it's in a crowd or onstage. I would be remiss not to thank these women for being my instructors in the art of the tease - my loyalty and appreciation to you has no limits. I love y'all and felt y'all in my heart, whether you were actually there for my performance or not.


But anyway, if you've got time, settle in and I'll tell you all about the festival. I'll take it from the top!


THURSDAY

I was still in D.C. and had to miss the opening show on Thursday night. Womp womp. But no worries, I just followed Jeezy's Juke Joint on Instagram and salivated from afar. They post little clips from their shows via Instagram Stories. Nothing like the real thing, of course, but just a taste! Based on my Insta-stalking, it seemed like a really intimate and sexy show. Hate I missed it.


FRIDAY - MY JEEZY'S DEBUT

I flew into Chicago at around 2 p.m. I immediately hit up a Walgreens to get little things in prep for my performance that night: lash glue, bobby pins, make-up sponges, glitter, protein bars, cotton balls, etc. I always manage to forget little stuff like that when I'm flying, but I was grateful I got into town earlier than necessary so I could take my time. Afterwards, I sat in a little Asian fusion restaurant near the venue and went over my choreography notes. Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous (yet)!


I trekked with my luggage to the venue at call-time. Lucky me, I was one of the first performers there and I got to run through my act a few times! I strapped on my heels and robe and immediately tested the stage. This is the most important part of preparing to perform at a new venue to me - I get to know the stage, imagine the audience, whip my costume around, and pretend it's showtime, paying careful attention to "worst case scenarios" (for instance, "woops, there's a dip in the stage here, I could trip" or "damn is that a trap door I could fall through? great let's avoid that"). The stage at the Promontory is pretty fucking perfect, though - this settled a lot of my fears! I also thought about how cool it would be to skate up there... a girl can dream.


And then it was time to get ready. The performers came fast, and I had to stop myself from being distracted by burlesque stars that I've only seen being fabulous on social media. I chatted with other performers who hailed from all over America and the world, and I made backstage buddies with breathtaking ladies (so many beautiful people!) Demi Noire and Genie Adagio. It took me 15 minutes to put on one eyelash - that's how distracted I was by all the "melanin magic" in the room.



I didn't see as much of the show as I would have liked, mostly because I was getting ready. I did, however, try to sneak out to watch at least 2 minutes of each act and I was inspired by everything I saw. The fabrics, the skin, the hair, the literal "woosh" I could hear when someone whipped their skirt or spun their robe... it was all so visceral. I still managed to take some self-indulgent videos in between though:



By the time my performance came towards the end of the show (I was third to last), I felt nervous. I had to black myself out immediately in order to not let the nerves take over. I do this by meditating and mildly dissociating, in a way - I tell myself that I am playing a character, so whatever hangups I have are not relevant to the moment. I tell myself that I am a vessel, a physical body of movement that carries sensuality to the audience without needing anything back in return. As I finished my mantra, I was staring into the stage lights as the opening riffs of my music began.








As I performed, I saw Jeez Loueez sitting front and center. Her energy was EVERYTHING. I felt like I was performing for my favorite cousin! The joy in this woman's face, people... this is a true believer, a real burlesque fan!! Even though she is one of the top performers in the entire world, I saw someone who just loved burlesque for what it is -- it wasn't about fame or followers or glitz or maybe even money, really... when I looked at Jeez this entire weekend, I saw someone who is fully committed to burlesque as an art form, someone who was thrilled and excited by her own fucking festival. That's fucking magical and TRUE boss shit!! She's someone else who has my undying love and loyalty, because this woman GIVES herself to burlesque in a way that is truly extraordinary. We are all very blessed to have her in this industry, and I learned a lot just by watching her this weekend.


When my act was over, I felt the roar of applause and kind of blacked out. Lol. I couldn't find the curtain when I got offstage and I'm pretty sure I did a naked scramble looking for it! Also, my merkin popped off during my final reveal!! Shit happens. Shrug -- it was still a magical night and I'm not gonna beat myself up for it!


After the show, I went to the afterparty with Blaze Bordeaux and Jezebelly, who also graciously let me stay in her absolutely beautiful vintage pin-up pad! Nothing much happened at the after party this night, except that I got to hug my sisters Crocodile Lighting and Briq House, and I met Po'Chop in person and was like WOW. I subscribed to the email newsletter The Brown Pages about a year ago, so I been a fan but you know how you meet someone in person and you're just like WOW? Yeah... that was totally me. #Nerd


Jezebelly and I stayed up way too late talking, and then I stayed up *even later* (or earlier?) Face-Timing my boyfriend and 3-year-old son back home (who was still up terrorizing the house).


SATURDAY - CLASSES + THE BIG SHOW

By the time the next morning rolled around, I felt dead to the world! I woke up late and missed Missa Blue's class on the business of burlesque, but I heard it was amazing. In the morning light, I got to truly appreciate Jezebelly's fantastic place:



Long story short on the classes: I was blown away by every. single. class. (Are you noticing a trend? I was pretty much blown away the entire weekend.) I won't share all my notes (and I took meticulous notes #librarian) because I think everyone should pay these beautiful people for their knowledge, but I will share little tiny nuggets of major takeaways that I learned from each burlesque instructor.



The first workshop I attended was hosted by Lou Lou la Duchesse de Rière, and it was all about floorwork. She broke things down so easily, and was so down-to-earth and charming that she made learning floorwork fun. HUGE shout-out to my first floorwork teacher Brooke Jay -- with Brooke's intro classes in my background, I was able to tackle some of the more advanced floorwork moves and really challenge myself to be a better stripper.


MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM LOU LOU:

(1) PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT, SO WORK ON YOUR FLEXIBILITY WHENEVER YOU HAVE TIME. START WITH A BASE MOVE AND BUILD UP TO DIFFERENT LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY.

(2) GETTING UP IS AS IMPORTANT AS GETTING DOWN! KEEP IT SEXY.


The next workshop was on hosting, taught by Foxy Tann. Foxy hosted the show the night before, so I was really happy I got to see her and meet her again. I love her face - can I say that out loud? She is so expressive, and her energy lit up the room. I have never hosted a show before, but I wanted to learn about it anyway because I'm interested in talking onstage one day in addition to stripteasing (or maybe both!). Foxy had some GREAT tips and I took some pretty priceless notes, but all I can share with you is this:


MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM FOXY:

(1) YOU CONTROL THE FLOW OF THE SHOW! OWN THE SPACE.

(2) PRACTICE YOUR VOCALS AND HAVE A VOCAL RANGE - DON'T BE MONOTONE.

(3) KEEP IT WITTY, BUT YOU DON'T "HAVE" TO "ACT" FUNNY - IT'S MORE IMPORTANT TO HIGHLIGHT THE PERFORMERS AND KEEP THE FLOW OF THE SHOW.


After that, Isaiah Esquire taught us about explosive movements and energy. All of the classes were amazing, but if I had to pick a personal favorite, this would be it! Isaiah's teaching style reminded me a lot of my mentor Egypt - it was very serious and engaging, while also remaining seductive and surprisingly introspective. Isaiah has a calming and kind presence, and I fell in love with his teaching style. I am not sure if Egypt or Isaiah have ever taught together, but if I could take a master class from them in one day I think my burlesque choreography game would be upped by 1000%. They both have a way of transcending the physical movement to cut to the core of why we are moving the way we move, and how we can get there in a sexier way that will have the biggest impact on the audience and on how we feel as performers. And I noticed that he was telling us things that Egypt has told The House of Knyle over and over, so it deepened my appreciation for her and I felt even luckier to have someone as dynamic and honest as her by my side as a teacher. This class was a blessing in ways that I can't even go into without spilling the "secrets" of the class, so I'll just give y'all one major takeaway because I'm greedy like that about hoarding Isaiah's knowledge to myself lol:


MAJOR TAKEAWAY FROM ISAIAH:

(1) IN YOUR ACT, TELL YOUR STORY AND BELIEVE THAT YOU'RE IN CONTROL. DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR POWER BY SHORTENING YOUR MOVEMENTS. EXPAND AND EXPLODE.


The last class of the day was with Redbone! She is so much fun, y'all, and she taught us about the term lifer, which means someone who is gonna be doing burlesque for life. And yes - Redbone is an absolute lifer!! She taught us Burlesque 101, and this class was packed with people who had never performed. I was incredibly inspired by these brand new folks because it reminded me that burlesque is for everyone. Redbone gave an amazing crash course into what burlesque truly means - not the rhinestones or the costumes, although that stuff is great. Redbone taught us about the energy and freedom and raw sensuality that must accompany any burlesque act, and I am excited to see who from that class takes the burlesque world by storm in the near future. Because I know Redbone bit some of those people with the burlesque lifer bug for sure.


MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM REDBONE:

(1) ALWAYS START OVER WITH CONTINUING BURLESQUE EDUCATION - THIS IS KEY TO LONGEVITY.

(2) IF YOU AIN'T DOING IT FOR YOURSELF, WHO ARE YOU DOING IT FOR?!

(3) THE MORE BURLESQUE YOU WATCH, THE MORE BURLESQUE YOU LEARN.

(4) USE YOUR BURLESQUE PERSONA AS A CHANNEL TO FIGURE OUT WHO YOU TRULY ARE.


And then the long day of classes was over and it was off to get ready for the show!


Saturday night was exceptional. From start to finish, every act displayed feats of sensuality, strength, freedom, intellect, physicality, musicality, and so much more!! This was an all-black show, but trust and believe there was no tokenism in the building --- those performers were not up there because they were black, which is a misconception some people seem to have about Jeezy's Juke Joint. They were up there because they are fucking magnificent, and they represented some of the best of burlesque in the world.


Standout acts to me were Isaiah Esquire, who exhibited every lesson he taught us earlier that day; Phathoms Deep, who performed the best Prince tribute I have ever seen and who also humped Jeez Loueez's grandma's head, much to Jeez's chagrin; and Missa Blue, who embodied the fun and excitement of burlesque with every thump of her feather fans and every laugh that escaped her while she was onstage. Shout out to Missa Blue for being the first performer I have EVER seen laugh out loud authentically onstage -- it was somehow shocking and revolutionary to see a black woman doing this, and I was more taken aback in the best way by her freedom and joy, than I was by the fact that this woman swallowed multiple swords! Haha - she was actually my favorite of the night.


eAfterwards was THE afterparty. I say THE afterparty because it was the best one I've ever been to. No words... just twerking. Shout out to Blaze and Briq for being amazing party companions - I haven't danced that hard in so long!! I wore a pink faux latex dress, but next time I'm wearing gym shorts and sneakers for maximum twerkage

e.


SUNDAY BRUNCH

Before I flew out of town, we all met up for brunch at a Jamaican spot. That's black af, right? I love it.



I got to hug Blaze and Jezebelly one more time before leaving - they were really fun to hang out with and I love them so. I feel like I made so many new friends and I became a much bigger fan of burlesque in general. I also talked a lot about social issues I care deeply about, and I appreciate everyone creating space for that kind of open dialogue. It was really a safe space, and not in the cheesy way that some allies use that term when they want to get a soundbite from a person of color, but in a real way that made me think deeply about what type of future I want to see in burlesque.


This post was a monster to write, and I didn't even get it all out. There's so much that I feel right now, and this weekend I discovered my own strength of self. I will probably write about that in a separate post, but I just wanted to get out the sequence of events so I can come back and relive these moments when I'm an old lady. :-)



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