Kool Kat of the Week: School of Va-Va-Voom: Ursula Undress Teaches Atlanta a Tassel or Two About Burlesque

Posted on: Sep 5th, 2013 By:

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress. Credit: Derek Johnson.

Curious if you have what it takes to tease? This Saturday Sept. 7, the Atlanta School of Burlesque is offering a sneak peek behind its doors for a Grand Opening Launch Event Day with a chance from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. to sample a variety of classes for just $5 each (see list of classes and times at the end of this article) followed by a party from 2:30-5 p.m. with refreshments, prizes, vendors and discounts on School merchandise. The burlesque revival has been thriving here for over 15 years now, but unlike other major cities, Atlanta has not had its own academy for this art form until Studio Burlesque opened last winter. Unofrtunately, it was shortlived but the demand was so great that The Atlanta School of Burlesque has quickly taken its place, and veteran performers have a place where they can share their techniques, both classic and contemporary, with aspiring dancers and anyone who just wants to spice up their love life or enjoy a fun, different exercise program.

ATLRetro wasn’t surprised to learn that the headmistress and founder was none other than the dynamic Ursula Undress, regular performer with Syrens of the South Productions and co-consprirator at the first Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, which will celebrate its fourth year next spring. We’ve been eyeing Ursula as a Kool Kat for a very long time, so this week seemed like the purr-fect time to check in with this self-proclaimed “naughty girl next door” to find out more about the school, as well as her own secret origin story and what else she has up her sexy sleeves.

What drew you personally to the burlesque revival and when/what was your first performance?

I was a performer in musical and dramatic theatre for about 15 years. Personally, I was trying to find my identity again after returning to school and sort of immersing myself in classes and projects, etc., not to mention finding friends I could connect with when I first moved here and didn’t know anyone. So, burlesque – something I was already excited about – seemed a good fit.

Did you have any early role models, either classic or contemporary, who helped shape your approach to the art form?

Yes – Dirty Martini. The first performance I saw of hers was a YouTube video of her performance at the HOWL festival in 2007. I could not take my eyes off of her. She was the one who gave me the confidence to get on stage. But as for my performances being shaped by something, I would have to say that it was the music that did it.

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress. Credit: Nimh.

Some said that Atlanta just wasn’t suited to an annual burlesque festival, but you helped Katherine Lashe prove them wrong. How do you feel the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival (SFBF) has changed the burlesque community here and Atlanta’s burlesque reputation around the nation?

In some ways, SFBF has pulled down some walls that divided a lot of performers here in the city and showed performers that there is a fairly strong community here. I think nationally that it has put Atlanta and burlesque in the southeast on the map, and helped to inspire other cities around us to do the same. I am continually amazed at the talent and innovation that comes from Georgia and the surrounding states, and am so glad to have a place to bring it all together on one stage.

It seems like you’re now putting the bulk of your energy into the Atlanta School of Burlesque. Why are you so passionate that we need an actual school here?

Well, I was actually running the first full-time burlesque school that had a previous owner – Studio Burlesque – and the passion for this project comes from the hordes of emails and phone calls when it closed. It was apparent that we had created this community and this amazing place for women where they could come and explore other sides of themselves and just have fun. So, I pulled my resources and did what I had to do to re-open a school for not only these students, but for all of us performers to learn from each other and keep fuel on the creative fires we tend every day.

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress.

I understand the School’s students are a mix of aspiring performers and ladies who just want to get more fit in a flirty way. Can you talk a little about that? 

It is amazing – we don’t have a real target audience. We have women of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds. Of course, we have students that want to go all the way and be performers, but I think the common thread is that they all just love feeling glamorous and graceful and sexy, and most of all – CONFIDENT. I think all of the instructors provide an environment that really fosters all of those things.

Who’s teaching at the School and how do you select your instructors?

I am very adamant about people learning the art of burlesque from actual burlesque performers who have studied the history and actively tour, compete, and perform. I select performers to teach based on their love for constantly learning and working on their craft, along with their ability to lead a class and make it fun and interesting. I am very fortunate to have performers of the caliber of Talloolah Love, Lola LeSoleil, Katherine Lashe, The Chameleon Queen, Fonda Lingue, Rebecca DeShon [hula hoop] and Sadie Hawkins [aerialist]. I also love that I have the opportunity to bring in outside talent and their knowledge and expertise in with workshops and specialty classes.

What are you teaching personally this Fall?

I am teaching both Beginning Burlesque Choreography and a class called Slow and Steamy Bedroom Burlesque that is for intermediate students.

Is this Saturday’s event for current and aspiring students only? Who should come and why?

Anyone who is interested should come – it is going to be a blast! The first class – Burlesque Fundamentals is actually co-ed, so I do mean ANYONE.

I know you don’t want to play favorites, but is there one of your students who you’d especially recommend our readers to watch out for?

Wow – I think the awesome thing is that ALL of our previous graduates from the Spring are amazing on stage, and have continued to perform regularly. Greta Von Trollop is so charismatic. Nina Charrise and Roula Roulette are both competing at the Shakespeare Follies this weekend, and then Rena Rhinestone has some incredible stuff planned for her next number. Oh! And I am really looking forward to what A to Z does next; he seems to be this glue that keeps them all wanting to work together on fun stuff. So yeah,it is impossible to play favorites!

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress.

Will you be involved with next year’s Southern Fried, and if yes, can you share anything about it?

I think I will always be involved in some capacity. I really enjoy working with the legends and being a sort of liason with them and the headliners. It takes a village, and I am proud to assist Katherine with that.

What’s next for Ursula Undress performance-wise?

Well, I recently took a workshop with [burlesque legend] Gabriella Maze and am seriously in love with the cape! I have one number where I work with a large duster, and I am now looking to expand on that with what I learned from her. Combine that with some secret talks with burlesque legend Satan’s Angel, and well, that is all I am going to say. Yep, even in interviews, I have to tease!

Finally, what’s one thing about the school or about you that readers might be most surprised to find out?

Hrm….I think that people find out in our classes exactly how non-intimidating burlesque actually is.

Grand Opening Day Class and Event Schedule:

10:30 – 11:20AM – Burlesque Fundamentals with Syrens of the South & Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Producer Katherine Lashe.

This CO-ED class is designed for absolute beginners! Learn how to walk, bump, grind, and shimmy in easy, broken down steps, and then perfect them in drills and short combinations.

11:30 – 12:20PM – Classic & Glamorous Burlesque with Southern Fried Burlesque Queen Lola LeSoleil

This beginner class will help you to learn the grace and elegance of the early Burlesque style from the 1930s and 40s. This class begins with a simple, graceful warm-up, and then switches into the sultry but elegant moves of a Burlesque Queen. This class will also help you be a little more graceful in your everyday life.

12:30 – 1:20PM – Beginning Burlesque Choreography with Studio Owner & Performer Ursula Undress

This is the perfect class to get a taste of what burlesque can do for your inner and outer self while learning fun choreography to boot! Learn the basic standing and walking movements to start your journey into burlesque along with bumps, grinds, shimmies, and arm movements.

1:30 – 2:20 PM – Dance like a Mermaid with Professional Bellydancer and Mermaid Karma Karmelita.

As a professional mermaid and aquatic entertainer, Karma has gained extensive knowledge and experience in working in the water. This has given her a unique perspective on three dimensional movement when on the stage. This class focuses heavily on her original and innovative technique and teaches part of a breathtaking choreography. Recommended for people with previous dance knowledge in belly dance, but not restricted to.

2:30 – 5PM – Open Shopping and Grand Opening Soiree!

Join us for light eats, drinks, shopping, and hobnobbing with other students and performers!

Note: Wear comfortable low heels or flexible dance shoes to any class. Prices will be $5 per class, and advance reservations are not required. Due to the dramatically reduced class price, social deals will not be honored on this day. The Atlanta School of Burlesque is located at 1745 Defoor Place, Ste. D Atlanta, GA 30318. For more information, visit www.atlantaburlesqueschool.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Speaking Easy About Volstead Nights With Ruby Le Chatte; There’s No Prohibiting The Fat Cat Cabaret’s Meow

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2013 By:

Ruby Le Chatte. Photo credit: Mike Curtis, Treehouse Studio.

Ever since Gatsby’s, Atlanta’s Roaring ’20s themed night club opened this spring in Midtown, it seems like there’s a cool Retro event happening there almost every week. This Saturday June 29, it’s Volstead Nights – A Speakeasy Review presented by Fat Cat Cabaret. The ’20s themed night will feature lots of our favorite things – burlesque, cabaret, comedy, aerial silks, magic, hooping and more performed byFat Cat Cabaret troupe members and special guest artists from Atlanta and Nashville, followed by a dance. These include Nashville-based magician John Pyka “Big Daddy Cool,” Atlanta aerial silks performer extraordinaire Persephone Phoenix,  and Rebecca “HoopEssence” DeShon, hula hoop mistress who also has been an ATLRetro Kool Kat of the Week. Tickets are $15, and the show starts at 8.

ATLRetro managed to tease out a scandalous sneak preview from Ruby Le Chatte, Fat Cat Cabaret’s troupe manager and co-founder with Jacqueline Trade. While relatively new the burlesque scene, Ruby has been practicing Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance for over 10 years in both Texas and Georgia. Ruby’s name is derived from her favorite things, her shining red birthstone and her favorite color, as well as “le Chatte” the female feline.. As she says: “Don’t mistake her for a common house cat, the only thing domestic about her is that she lives indoors.”

ATLRetro: As Ruby le Chatte, you take inspiration from your birthstone and the female feline. Did you have a special cat or is it more the long tradition of sexy, mysterious feline-inspired characters/performers from Catwoman to the lethal beauties in Russ Meyer’s FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!?

Ruby Le Chatte: Yes, it’s more the history of the feline. Even in Egyptian times the feline was a symbol of grace and poise.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 1960s BATMAN TV series.

Do you have a favorite feline-inspired character/performer? If yes, why?

As a child I loved watching reruns of the BATMAN TV show with Julie Newmar as Catwoman. She was always sexy and mysterious.

You came to burlesque via Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance. For those less familiar with bellydancing, how does this differ from more traditional belly dance and what drew you to this performance art form?

Egyptian Cabaret is the style of bellydancing that most Americans are used to seeing in Mediterranean restaurants. The performances can be quite sensual, and the costumes are often covered in rhinestones. Around Atlanta, at faires and festivals, it is more likely that you will see a style of belly dance called American Tribal Style dance. The costumes consist of more earthy colors, cowrie shells and large hair flower headdresses. ATS is an amazing style of dance, usually done in group numbers where one dancer takes the lead and her movement dictates the next series of moves that she and the other performers will do. Egyptian Cabaret is more commonly a solo performance, and many props – veils, swords, candles, fans – can be used. I admit, I was first drawn to the style of dance because I am a terrible flirt. *wink*

Ruby Le Chatte. Photo credit: NewUncleMe@yahoo.com

Is there a vibrant Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance scene in Atlanta? In the Southeast?

There is a vibrant belly dance scene in Atlanta and the Southeast, though there are more ATS performers than Egyptian Cabaret  it seems. There’s also a large burlesque community, and the two different groups often work together in Atlanta to put on fabulous shows throughout the year.

Is there a story behind your passage from belly dance to burlesque? And how does your belly dance experience inform/influence your burlesque acts?

I admit, when I moved to Texas from Georgia in 2007 and tried to find Egyptian Cabaret classes to attend – it’s always important to continue your education – I was unable to find classes in that style near my home. I did take a few ATS classes, and while beautiful and challenging, I was not drawn to that style of dance as I was to Egyptian Cabaret. In December 2010, I attended my first burlesque show with a friend and a light bulb went off in my head. Burlesque can include humor, sensuality, drama, tease. It can tell a story; it can make your heart skip a beat. I enrolled in classes with Syrens of the South shortly thereafter and have not had a second thought since.

How did Fat Cat Cabaret get started?

My good friend Jacqueline Trade and I had performed together on a couple of occasions, during which we’d spoken about the things we love about burlesque.  She and I sat down over diner and drinks and hashed out what we’d like to see, who we wanted to include and our roles. She is our Creative Director, ensuring that our shows go off without a hitch, and I am our Manger, here to make sure that all the ducks are in a row.

Can you talk a little bit about what a Fat Cat Cabaret show is like and how it fits in and/or differs from the Atlanta burlesque revival scene?

Jackie and I felt there was a place in Atlanta for a vaudeville style troop of performers and crew who wanted to create classy shows with a nod to history. Fat Cat Cabaret shows include 1920-1950s style performances, and while not everything we do is historically accurate, we create our numbers with those shows in mind. The burlesque performers of that time are praised even today for their style, creativity, femininity and flair. Our shows have a storyteller who acts as our MC; the audience is fully immersed in the show with us. It’s similar to attending the Renaissance Festival. Sure you can go as a patron and enjoy the food and watching the performers, but isn’t it a little more fun when you let your hair down and interact with them a little? Don’t be surprised if you get a wink from Sally Strumpet or if Dante Roberto takes you out on the dance floor for a spin.

The Cast of Fat Cat Cabaret, ready to speak easy at Volstead Nights! Photo credit: Mike Curtis, Treehouse Studio.

Why the name “Volstead Nights”? Without giving away all the surprises, what can you tease us about Saturday’s performance?

Ah, well, The Volstead Act was enacted to carry out the 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution on January 17, 1920. The 18th amendment is better known as Prohibition. Under the laws of the time, the sale of alcohol was forbidden, and anyone who wanted a taste of “giggle water” had to find a way to get it in secret, like in a speakeasy. In our show, Benjamin Gravitt – our MC for the night – is the owner of one of those speakeasys, and he named it the Volstead as a humorous jab at the law.

Do you have anything special personally planned for your own act Saturday?

I do! You will be the first audience to see me perform with a beautiful pair of “Isis Wings.” They are like a veil or a fan, however they’re made from pleated fabric and look like the wings on images of the goddess Isis. Who knows what may, or may not, be visible when I twirl them around my body as I dance.

At ATLRetro, we’re really excited about Gatsby’s. For folks who haven’t been there, what makes it so special?

I’m so glad to hear that you’re excited. We are too! Gatsby’s is a lovely venue for many reasons. It has a beautiful art deco style, huge dance floor, expertly crafted and reasonably priced drinks (they even have specialty coffees before 10 p.m.), desserts, tons of free parking. They allow 18 and up and are a nonsmoking venue. What more does one need?

What’s next for Ruby le Chatte and Fat Cat Cabaret?

We always have something in the works. The nature of our shows involve a lot of planning and many long nights rehearsing. I believe I speak for everyone involved in Fat Cat Cabaret when I say that we are very passionate about our art. We’ve discussed our next show being 1950s in theme and maybe doing some video performances that are campy versions of the “educational/informational” old films on how to be a responsible housewife or how young ladies should dress to be respected. Whatever we do next, I can assure you that you will be teased, tempted, amused and entertained!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Rebecca Deshon On Living THE HOOPING LIFE

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2012 By:

Rebecca DeShon of HoopEssence. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

Hula hoops made of willow, grapevines and stiff grasses date back all the way to prehistoric times, but most people today probably think of them as the girls’ must-have plastic toy manufactured by Wham-O starting in the late 1950s. The quintessential toy, however, has made a comeback in recent years into hoop dance, and if you missed this twisting trend, you can catch up at the Atlanta premiere of the acclaimed documentary THE HOOPING LIFE (2010) at 7 Stages in Little Five Points on Friday Feb. 24 (doors at 8 p.m.; show at 9 p.m.).

THE HOOPING LIFE not only delves into hula hoop history but also tells eight extraordinary stories of hoop enthusiasts who have embraced it as an art form, a teacher’s aid and even an instrument of redemption. The screening will be accompanied by live performances including a spectacular aerial number by Emerald Dove (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret); hoop dance by Maria Valentin aka Riahoopaleena all the way from New York City; stunts by Luna Trix Hoops Performance & Fire Arts of Columbia, SC; hoops and juggling by James Abele; and acts by Gesche Anneliesa of Musee du Coeur and  Ashly Connor of Imperial Opa Circus.

The entire night’s festivities have been organized by this week’s Kool Kat Rebecca DeShon, proprietress of HoopEssence, Atlanta’s own Hoop Dance performance company and school. ATLRetro recently caught up with Rebecca, to find out more about THE HOOPING LIFE, as well as how she got into hooping, how hooping has transformed her life and what it’s like to live la vida hoop dance.

ATLRetro: Hula hoops seemed to be less popular for a while, but now are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts not just with girls but grown-ups, too. Why do you think it’s back in vogue?

Rebecca DeShon: Hoop dance and hula hooping have really exploded into so many scenes. What was once thought of as just a fad in the underground club scene has really blossomed into a tool for dance, self expression, fitness, meditation and so much more. In my opinion, we are only just beginning to see this full immersion of society in hula hooping. Some hoopers like to call it a “Revolution,” if you will. I think part of the reason it is becoming so much more popular is the development of hand-crafted hula hoops which open up hooping to people of all ages and fitness levels. Besides, it just feels like a lot of fun, which is more than you can say about a lot of other fitness routines. Who doesn’t want that?

For the uninitiated, what’s the difference between hula-hooping and hoop dance

Modern hoop dance has come such a long way since the stereotypical image most people think of from hula hooping in the ‘50s. People are now completely expressing themselves in dance both inside the hoop and using the hoop as a prop to tell a story through dance. We are repurposing an object that was only to be flung around the waist in endless rotation or simply rolled on the ground into what is now a vast array of styles and forms of hooping or hoop dance. Today we see hoopers not just simply flinging dozens of hoops around their waist like you see in the circus, but truly dancing in and with the hula hoop as a dance partner. It is now such an extraordinary companion for artistic self expression.

Hoop dance just means that we are actually dancing with our hoops and at times incorporating many different “tricks.”  Hooping has expanded so far between styles that we are actually seeing entire “genres” of hoop dance styles. It is an incredible art form! With the proper hand-crafted hoop, patience, practice and determination, I know that anyone can be a hoop dancer. I, for one, have no professional dance training, so I can assure you that you don’t have to be a “dancer” to become a hoop dancer.

I understand fans from all of the Southeast are coming to Atlanta for the screening. What’s so special about THE HOOPING LIFE as a movie?

We are thrilled to report that we have fans and performers coming from all over the US for this event! They are coming from as far away as CA, NYC and Texas! Chicago, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and all over the state of GA. THE HOOPING LIFE is a feature-length film that has been six years in the making. It is a labor of love in the form of a documentary film which has not been released for public screenings until Jan 2012. We have been waiting for this event for so long and are so super thrilled to see its final release. THE HOOPING LIFE documentary is important not just for hoopers but for those who don’t know its amazing life-changing benefits. The film has been shot all over the world by the hoopers themselves. This film covers eight story lines from eight very different aspects of just how dynamic hooping can be. It is the first film of its kind!

Will any of the filmmakers be there?

Currently the filmmakers are super busy working on the music video for “Hooping Life”, the original music by Basement Jaxx which was created just for this amazing film. While nothing has been set in stone, we have heard rumors of interest in them making the trip. Honestly, with an event like this, you really just never know who might show up! Surprise guests will be there and you just need to be present to see exactly who!

Rebecca DeShon hoop dances with fire at Hellbilly Family Reunion (Elliott Street Pub 2011). Photo credit: Erick Jara.

What else is happening Friday night at 7 Stages in addition to the screening?

We have a spectacular evening of entertainment planned for our guests!! Doors open at 8 with live entertainment right from the start! We will have hooping gifts, hoops and merchandise for your shopping pleasure, a “red carpet” photo session for guests, HUGE prize giveaways, a carnival-like atmosphere with jugglers/stilt walkers/hoopers and that is just the pre-show!! At 9 p.m., the stage shows begin with live performers for your pleasure Maria Valentin from NYC, Lunatrix Performance & Circus Arts (SC), Ashly Connor (Imperial Opa Circus), Emerald Dove on aerial silks (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret), Gesche Annelesia (Musee du Coeur) and many more performances. After the live performances, we have the Atlanta Premiere of THE HOOPING LIFE film. Directly following the film, we will invite all guests to come up on stage and give the hoop a twirl themselves for a huge hooper dance party. We also have visuals being projected on the screen from start to finish. This is going to be an incredible evening like no other in Atlanta.

How did you first discover that you loved to hula hoop?

I was actually gifted my first ever adult hand-crafted hula hoop in 2008 from a friend, Beki Bear, as a going away gift before embarking on a journey to New York for a while. That first northern winter, I found myself stuck indoors buried under snow and very cold with nothing but my hula hoop. I picked up my hoop, began playing with it and really found myself embracing it. I was so surprised at how much I was enjoying playing with the hoop. I felt great about learning a new skill and have always loved dancing so I was hooked right away, head over heels. I began searching online, hungry to learn more about hooping. At the time there were very few resources to learn from and, unless you lived in California or were willing to travel many miles, not many instructors around. I found a great resource called Hooping.org which I like to call “the holy grail of Hooping.” You can find endless information about hooping from this site. I didn’t realize then that I would use the hoop as a tool for self-empowerment or use it to help others to do the same.

How did you start performing professionally and what’s your favorite gig so far?

I guess you could say I just stumbled into performing during my hooping development. As a hoop dancer beginning my journey inRochester,NY, performing came pretty naturally for me. Hoop dance was so unique that people couldn’t help but stop and watch. I love what I do and want to inspire others to try it out and experience the joy, so performing just came with the part. My first gig was just a couple of months after beginning my hoop dance journey. I got to perform as part of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY. At first I was terrified, but I really enjoyed the crowd’s response and the adrenaline rush of performing so after that first gig I was instantly hooked. I have been blessed with a lot of really fun gigs.

Rebecca DeShon performs at The High for College Night with Dance Truck. Photo Credit: Matt Gilbert.

Many of my gigs are corporate events, which gives me the opportunity to perform in some really exciting venues. Last year I was hired to perform at The Georgia Aquarium dressed up as a mermaid. I also loved hooping at The High Museum of Art a couple weeks ago for College Night. Next month I am particularly looking forward to a gig at Chateau Elan for Verizon Wireless (we are conducting an LED Circus of sorts). I also participate in a lot of smaller gigs in club style settings as well as my work with charity organizations such as East Atlanta Kids Club, Atlanta Streets Alive and Atlanta Women’s Foundation.

On March 3, I will be performing and doing class demos for Atlanta Dance Marathon at Zoo Atlanta – which is a benefit for Atlanta Children’s Network Hospitals. I really love community-based work and feel hooping can be used as a tool for outreach on so many levels. It is simply a joy to share what I do! I dedicate a lot of time and energy into my practice, sometimes at the cost of sleep. It brings me so much joy to share the experience of hooping that I really find it is worth the effort.

You’ve said that hula hooping has changed your life. Can you talk just a bit about how and what is it about hula-hooping that you personally find so special?

Hooping or hoop dance has changed my life in dramatic ways and I continue to grow daily through what I learn inside the hoop. Initially I saw the physical benefits of hooping right away. My body is more fit and trim with great muscle tone – all from what I once thought of as just a simple child’s toy. Later, I noticed my stress being melted away from hooping, anxiety being relieved, and, of course, exercising produces endorphins that helped to naturally chase away any blues or depression.

Rebecca DeShon. Body paint & photo by Stephanie Anderson (Neon Armour).

Hooping gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, even when I am not performing for others. It is nice to feel good about yourself and what you are doing. Hooping has led me to make some of the most incredible friends and expanded into what is today a global community of hoop dancers. My life suddenly had direction and purpose once I began hooping. I found myself thinking and living more positively and healthier. The list goes on and on… I could speak for days about how hooping has changed my life: from the most simple things to complexities even I find hard to believe at times. Hoop dance has literally caused a chain reaction of positivity and prosperity in my life.

The hoop has a way of changing your attitude. Once you get the hang of hooping and get past the initial learning curve – this only takes a few minutes with the proper hoop and instruction – it is so unbelievably difficult to not be happy and giggle while hooping. You will find that if you are in the presence of hoopers, we are generally pretty happy and positive. I feel most of us work hard to spread that love to others. I am so fortunate to have found an outlet in hooping that lets me get past the miseries and frustrations that life puts in our way, and focus that energy towards something positive for myself and for those around me.

How did hula hooping grow from a hobby into you founding Hoopessence? 

Hooping began as a hobby that I discovered I just couldn’t keep to myself. I wanted to share the love and joy with everyone I met. So I learned how to hand-craft hoops and began teaching everyone who would listen. I found it is not hard to get others excited about hooping once they see you hoop and hear/see the magical benefits of it all; they want to try it too. I found that hooping and sharing the benefits was a calling for me. I became a certified hoop dance instructor within my first year of hooping and since then have built my own teaching style.

Now, my own HoopEssence teacher trainings are in the works. I just want to share the love with as many people as possible. So it comes pretty easy for me. Turning any hobby into a business is very challenging however. What you once did for fun can feel forced and unnatural once you try to earn a living from your hobby. It is a very delicate balance. I love what I do so much that I am willing to work hard and make sacrifices to do what I do. I am also really fortunate to be married to an amazingly supportive man who assists in any way he can with my business. He is constantly empowering me to excel and grow. For that I am thankful. If it was just me on my own, I’m not sure could not make a living from hooping; a business needs the support of a great team.

Rebecca DeShon. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

What types of classes do you offer at HoopEssence?

I offer classes in all things hoop at HoopEssence. Beginner basics, intermediate hooping, specialty hooping classes (i.e. minis, isolations, multiple hoops), workshops, hoop crafting workshops, private lessons, dancing in and out of your hoop, children classes and community jams. You name it, I hoop it! If you are just getting into hooping, I teach you all the basics of this great hobby in my Hooping 101 Series. Hooping 101 is four Sunday classes from 1-2:30pm with my next series starting March 4. You may find all the info about my next Hooping 101 series here.

I am also teaching intermediate and advance hoop dance classes at various locations throughout the Metro Atlanta area. You may find all the information and more through my website www.hoopessence.com. I am always looking out for new venues and private lesson students as well. If you would like to book a lesson or want to see hoop dance in your neighborhood, drop me a line and say hello. I am always here to help. With the upcoming spring and summer months, I have a lot of free outdoor events (called Hoop Jams) where I bring hoops, tunes and people can come join in on the fun with no obligations.

Any secrets to buying a great hula hoop?

A great hula hoop is a hand-crafted adult hula hoop. The hoops that you find in the dollar store just don’t cut it and can leave you feeling hopeless as a hooper. You can find hoops of all sizes and all the colors of the rainbow through my website  www.hoopessence.com/products-page. I hand-craft each hoop and fancy myself as somewhat of a “hoop sizing expert”. If you find yourself in the market for a new hoop or are just simply curious to what its all about, please feel free to call or drop a line with your questions. I would be more than happy to assist you in choosing. It can be a bit overwhelming for the beginner with all the options available from sizes, weight, colors, material, LED and even fire hoops. Check out my website and also be sure to sign up for my email newsletter where I send out coupons for deep discounts on all things hoop!

Tickets for THE HOOPING LIFE are just $15 when purchased online in advance before midnight on Feb. 21.  Any remaining tickets will be available at the door only for $20 each, but be warned, at press time, there were only 50 seats left so we highly recommend purchasing in advance here.

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Weekend Update, Aug. 12-14, 2011

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2011 By:

Friday, August 12

Hear some great garage rock and rockabilly, pose with a pin-up girl, see burlesque acts, win raffle prizes and support a great animal charity at Little Darling’s Pinups for Pitbulls Presents: Dog Days of Summer! starting at 8 p.m. at The Basement beneath Graveyard Tavern. Check out our first-ever Kool Kitten interview with April 2001 Pinups for Pitbulls Calendar model Brook Bolen here. Performers include ’60s girl group revivalists The F’n Heartbreaks (of which Brook is a bandmember) and The Hot Rod Walt Trio (read our Kool Kat interview with Hot Rod Walt here); local burlesque stars Talloolah Love, Barbalicious and Sadie Hawkins of Blast-Off Burlesque, and Pinups for Pitbulls charity-founder Little Darling herself!

It’s another honky tonk rockabilly Friday at Star Bar with Caroline & the RamblersVillain Family and The Serenaders. It’s also always good news to hear about a too-rare Subsonics show, so we’re happy to report Buffi Aguero & Co. will be garage-rockin’ it out at The Earl tonight with Carnivores and Howlies. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers are at Classic Chastain. Swing to jazz, earthy blues and a little rock n roll by vocalist Gwen Hughes and her band The Retro Jazz Kats at Callanwolde Jazz on the Lawn tonight. Catch an IMAX movie and dance to blues, jazz and a slight bit of funk courtesy of Derryl Rivers & the Flying Circus at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.  Recent Kool Kat Julea Thomerson and the BareKnuckle Betties plays The Five Spot with Midnight Revival and Silent Coyote. And CineProv pokes good-natured fun at THE ROCKETEER at Relapse Theatre.

Saturday August 13

Yet another clone-worthy day and night in Retro Atlanta. It’s almost impossible to pick just one of the vintage wonderland of activities tonight. First, the good news is a couple of things are in the afternoon. Kids and their parents are in for tricks and treats as the Silver Scream Spookshow‘s Professor Morte teaches a Monster Make-Up Class at Main Street School of Art at 1 p.m. Learn how to turn your kid and you into a werewolf or zombie using classic monster movie make-up techniques from realistic bruises and oozing wounds to deathly ghoulish faces and how to apply latex and hair.

Meanwhile over at The Plaza Theatre, see Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood classic Western THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. as it was meant to be seen in glorious widescreen 35 mm. The movie is the last and best part of Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy, which the Plaza has been screening throughout the summer. Hurray for AM1690 for sponsoring! Be sure to hang around, come early or just stop by The Plaza at 6:35 p.m., too, for COMING SOON TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU!, 35 min. of rare 35 mm trailers from Plaza Manager Ben Ruder‘s private collection. Admission for the latter is free, but donations to support the nonprofit theatre are encouraged.

The Derby Strikes Back as the Atlanta Rollergirls‘ four teams face-off in their annual play-offs. The Apocalypstix battle the Toxic Shocks at 5 p.m. while theDenim Demons get one more shot against the undefeated Sake Tukas at 7:30 p.m. Both bouts, as always, are at the Yaarab Shrine Center on Ponce, and advance tickets are recommended for these sure-to-sell-out matches. Arrive early to browse the cool vendors.

The King may have passed away from this earth on Aug. 16, 1977, but oh, does his spirit live on in ELVIS ROYALE, an annual Vegas-style multimedia extravaganza staged by KingSized and the Dames Aflame at Variety Playhouse. Hear the one-and-only Big Mike Geier sing songs from every point in Elvis’s career and experience the glittery Cavalcade of Elvis during the fabulous finale. Read our Kool Kat exclusive interview with Big Mike here.

BURLESQUE WITH A HITCH, the latest in Mon Cherie‘s Va-Va-Voom series at Masquerade, celebrates the genius of film director Alfred Hitchcock with each act based on a different film by the master. Alabaster JuJu stars, with master of suspense and mystery Miss Mason hosting, and the all-star line-up of performers includes Sadie HawkinsRebecca DeShon (Hoop Essence)Stormy Knight, Fonda Lingue, Evil Sarah, The Chameleon Queen, magician Chad SanbornKatarina Laveaux (Birmingham, AL), Nicolette Tesla (Charlotte, NC), and Peachz de Vine (Greensboro, NC). Before and after, DJ 313 spins alternative dance, Allison Kellar offers body-painting, and there’s also a RAWKIN’ RAFFLE with lots of vintage-inspired vendors donating prizes. Cover is a bargain 5 bucks, and doors open at 9 p.m. In suspense about what’s happening? Click here for a sneak preview of this Spellbound affair from Chad Sanborn.

It’s Man Day at Twain’s starting with first-come-first-serve manly tattoos at noon, but the main event gets rolling at 5 p.m. with a night of live music, manly competitions (examples include Handyman Challenge and Best Beer Gut), aerial dance performances by Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, boob cupcakes by Sugar Dolls, the Wheel of Destiny and much more.

And that’s not to mention Big Bad Voodoo Daddy swinging with theAtlanta Symphony Orchestra at Verizon Wireless AmphitheatrePsycho

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

DeVilles rockabilly it up at the world-famous Dixie Tavern in Marietta. Little Joey’s Big Band is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Blues pianist extraordinaire Ike Stubblefield plays Northside Tavern. And of course, DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno late into the wee hours.

Sunday August 14

Chickens and Pigs plays blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The EarlThe Whiskey Gentry bring their misfit country-to-punk twang to the Park Tavern Unplugged in the Park series at Piedmont Park. Tony Bryant reps four generations of Georgia blues at Fat Matt’s. And the Michael Hutchence-less INXS brings back the ’80s at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

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One Spellbound Evening: Chad Sanborn Conjures Film Noir Magic for Mon Cherie’s Burlesque with a Hitch

Posted on: Aug 11th, 2011 By:

Magician Chad Sanborn is one of the many talented local and regional performers in BURLESQUE WITH A HITCH Sat. Aug. 13 at Masquerade. Photo courtesy of Chad Sanborn.

Legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock has been dubbed the “Master of Suspense,” but suspense also is the key ingredient to a great burlesque act – the tantalizing tease which has you wondering when she’s going to take it off. Leave it to Mon Cherie to have the genius to put the two together for one of the more innovative burlesque pairings in the local scene this year. In BURLESQUE WITH A HITCH, the latest in her Va-Va-Voom series at Masquerade this Sat. Aug. 13 (doors at 9 p.m.), each act will be based on a different Hitchcock film. Alabaster JuJu stars, with master of suspense and mystery Miss Mason hosting, and the line-up of top local and regional performers includes aerialist extraordinaire Sadie Hawkins (Blast-Off Burlesque)Rebecca DeShon (Hoop Essence)Stormy Knight, Fonda Lingue, Evil Sarah, The Chameleon Queen, Katarina Laveaux (Birmingham, AL), Nicolette Tesla (Charlotte, NC), and Peachz de Vine (Greensboro, NC). Before and after, DJ 313 spins alternative dance, Allison Kellar offers body-painting, and there’s also the usual RAWKIN’ RAFFLE with lots of vintage-inspired vendors donating prizes. Cover is a bargain 5 bucks, and doors open at 9 p.m., with all proceeding helping cancer patient Shawn Brown.

Of course, suspense is also the key to a successful magic trick, and all great burlesque and vaudeville shows have to have a magician. For BURLESQUE WITH A HITCH, we think Mon Cherie couldn’t have picked less of a “Wrong Man” than Chad Sanborn, who, outfitted like a ’40s noir detective complete with fedora, sets up his tricks like a crime to be solved. ATLRetro caught up with Chad to find out why he adopted his signature style, as well as gather a few clues about his Sat. night act and his other projects, including movie and TV roles and HOUDINI: DOG MAGICIAN commercials for The Cartoon Network. And Just Added: Chad sent us a short rehearsal clip for his Saturday night trick. Watch it here.

ATLRetro: How old were you when you started performing magic, and is there any fun story about that?

Chad Sanborn: I started performing, if you could call it that back then, when I was just a kid. I’d say about 8 years old. David Copperfield would do a yearly television special. Those have inspired me greatly. When you are starting in magic, your family and friends are your guinea pigs. Mostly they are cordial and say “that’s nice,” whether you fooled them or not. Then there is my grandmother…ugh. She would tell me the truth. And it hurt. “It’s in the other hand,” “there is a string on it,” etc. What’s worse is that she would holler it out right in the middle of the show! I hated that. Mostly because she was right. Now I see that honest criticism as a good thing. It lets me know what works and what doesn’t. Positive feedback is good for the ego, but honest feedback is good for the show. It’s been tough, but I have learned to set my ego aside and do what’s best for the magic.

Photo courtesy of Chad Sanborn.

You’ve adopted a noir ‘30s/’40s Humphrey Bogart/James Cagney look instead of the top hat, tux and cape that magicians traditionally have worn. How did that come about?

Well I learned magic from old books I got from the library. They would preach about bringing your own personality into each trick. Are you funny, clever, sexy, goofy? Whatever you were, they said you should inject that into the presentation of the tricks. So who was I? That’s tough to answer at 8 years old. Heck, its tough to answer at 38 years old. As I got older, I realized that I liked vintage things -1900s-1950s clothing, music, vaudeville, etc. Everything. So it was only natural to bring those elements into the magic. I emulated Bogart because he was tops in his field. So now I wear a vintage suit and tie with a fedora and spectator shoes, instead of a tux, top hat and cape. Though I do own a tux made in 1942!

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