Kool Kitten of the Week: One Gorgeous Gamble: Roula Roulette Puts Theater Back Into Tease in PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL and Beyond

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2014 By:

Roula Roulette. Photo credit: Ginger Snaps Photography. Hair and make-up by Roula Roulette.

At PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL this Saturday Aug. 2 at  11:30 p.m. at the New American Shakespeare Tavern, audiences will have the opportunity to worship the female body through the lens of a divine Retro art form. The show is the first production from Hearts Ablaze Entertainment, a collaboration between two of the Atlanta burlesque scene’s most notorious stars, Talloolah Love and Persephone Phoenix (read their own Kool Kat profiles here and here). The line-up also includes Kool Kats Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Queen of 2013 Lola LeSoleil (check out her Kool Kat here) and Ursula Undress, headmistress of the Atlanta School of Burlesque (Kool Kat here), and Roula Roulette, this week’s Kool Kitten. Yes, so much happening this weekend in ATLRetro that we couldn’t resist double trouble in Kool Katland!

Roula is a great example of the new talent graduating from The Atlanta School of Burlesque. But she’s no stranger to live performance. Prior to moving to Atlanta in 2013, she earned an MA in theatrical production and traveled the East Coast working behind the scenes at well known Opera houses and theater festivals. Her burlesque resume already includes acts for Kool Kat Katherine Lashe‘s Syrens of the South Productions, Glittering Moon Productions and Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, as well as teaching at the Atlanta School of Burlesque. And she also will be gracing the stages of the Syrens’ 7th Anniversary Show on Sunday Aug. 3 at 7 Stages and at DragonCon this year!

ATLRetro caught up with her recently to find out more about her own passion for burlesque, as well as what she has planned for PASSIONS and beyond!

ATLRetro: What’s your secret origin story and how did you get your name?

Roula Roulette: I’ve always been involved in the theater community and what is burlesque if not theater? I traveled a lot after I got out of grad school, so when I moved to Atlanta I really wanted to create but on my own terms. I work, so joining a theater and doing live shows was not something that I wanted to commit my time to. I remember telling my friends that I was really interested in trying to get into burlesque. Then a few weeks later the school opened literally across the street from me. It was kismet!

My name is really a conglomeration. I’ve always loved alliteration, and I also wanted to be cognizant of picking a name that defined me without labeling me. Roulette was perfect for obvious reasons, it gives me the freedom to explore all facets of my art, it’s a game of chance for my audiences. Roula is akin to Mary, which was my mother’s name and so it holds a special place for me. Depending on the translation, it can also mean rebellious. And we’re all here to defy the norm, right?

Who are three burlesque performers, legends and/or contemporary, who inspire you and why?

Historically I was always enamored of Gypsy Rose Lee and Lydia Thompson. Both were women who were pioneers of their own right in the theatrical arena, and I knew and loved them long before I understood burlesque in such a personal sense. But it’s hard to really label any particular legend a single inspiration as they all inspire me to some degree with their innovation, class and relentless drive to make art. Locally I find myself inspired by the women that I teach with at the Atlanta School of Burlesque. There is such a diverse community that they each inspire me in their own way. I know I cheated that question a little bit.

Photo credit: LegsUp! Pinup, Winston Jeffrey, with hair and make-up by Roula Roulette

That’s so hard! But I think up to this date my favorite performances have been the birthday parties of our local performers. Never have I felt so safe to explore my art than I do when we are doing a private party for another sparkle sister/brother. There is so much love and support in the room, it’s intoxicating!! It really provides a safe environment to really explore who you are and to give your sparkle family a glimpse at your vulnerability.

Can you tell us a little about PASSIONS this weekend and why are you personally excited to be performing in it?

The show this weekend is packed with some of the best talent that Atlanta has to offer. These women inspire me everyday to think bigger, be better and try harder. For me, a lot of  it has to do with the venue. I feel like burlesque is going back to its roots. The Shakespeare Tavern is as close as we’re going to get to what it was like to be a burlesque or variety performer in the formative years when there was still a vaudeville feel . So to be doing our art in a space that can be viewed as historical to our art is really very exciting.

What can you tease us about your own performance?

For most of the show I’ll be backstage running operations, but you will see me onstage at the end of the show. All I can say about that is that I’m so fortunate to be sharing the stage with some of the most beautiful women I know. It’s also very musical theateresque, which I LOVE. So you really don’t want to miss it. Ursula Undress is an amazing choreographer.

The burlesque revival really seems to have come of age, and there’s a very vibrant scene in Atlanta. Do you find it an dynamic and energizing time to be performing? What excites you the most?

I do! I know I’ve said it so much through this, but I am really so inspired by the creativity of my fellow artists. They push me to be a better, more expressive performer. I think what excites me the most are all the newcomers to the art. I love seeing these new girls come through the school that are so excited about the art and so expressive of their sexuality. It’s really wonderful for them and for me to be in a community where we accept women of all ages, shapes, sizes and  sexuality. But there is also something really satisfying about helping women embrace their sensual side and showing them that it’s okay to be sexy, [that] everyone can be sexy.

Where would you like to see the burlesque revival and the scene in Atlanta go in the future?

I would really love to see more male performers in Atlanta and I’d love to see more performers take advantage of the school and the collaborative advantages it has. You can never stop learning, you know? I find that some of my best work comes after I’ve immersed myself in classes for weeks at a time. It opens your vocabulary as a dancer and choreographer. I’d also love to see more love for our burlesque community in the press! We will always be fighting for the best show nights. I’d love to see more regular burlesque shows on prime weekend spots. Soon, hopefully! With every show and every fan we get, we’re that much closer to having the ability to book bigger venues and better times.

Photo credit: Pin Up Girl Cosmetics, with hair and make-up by Kellyn Wiley.

What do you do when you are not performing? I understand you also are a pin-up model?

I am! I have been dipping my toes in the modeling world for a few years now. I’m actually hoping to get published soon; you’ll have to check out my Facebook for more information on that! Outside the sparkle world, I’m in the lighting entertainment industry. I work with theaters, event spaces, schools and television production companies on their lighting. I’m all around immersed in the entertainment industry, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way!

What’s next for Roula Roulette?

There are some exciting things on the horizon for me in my burlesque life. I really can’t say too much about a lot of it right now, but I’m hoping that it comes to fruition soon. I think burlesque in Atlanta is on the cusp of something big, that can be a game changer for us as a community. But for now I’d love to see you at PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL at the Shakespeare Tavern on Saturday. I’ll also be performing at 7 Stages on Sunday for the Syrens of the South Anniversary Show. And of course you can find me almost every evening at the Atlanta School of Burlesque teaching women to love their bodies and explore their sensuality!

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ATLRetro Preview: The Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Will Tease and Thrill March 20-23, 2014!

Posted on: Mar 11th, 2014 By:

Feathers and fringe and rhinestones, oh my! Founded and presented by Syrens of the South Productions, The Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival brings the best performers from all over the world to Atlanta Thurs. March 20-Sun. March 23 for a weekend full of burlesque classes, panels and performances  at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria.

This year, the festival kicks off with the Just Hatched Newcomers Showcase Thursday night highlighting newer performers like Melody Magpie, May Hemmer, Duchess Dakini, as well as local Atlanta performers Roula Roulette, Nina Charrise, and some student group performances from classes at The Atlanta School of Burlesque.

Friday Night brings The Free Range Burlesque International Showcase, featuring performances by Burlesque Legend Penny Starr Sr. and her granddaughter Penny Starr Jr., and headlined by Queen of Burlesque 2008, Angie Pontani, and King of Burlesque 2013 Ray Gunn, as well as other amazing performers from all over the world!

Saturday night, get ready for the main event: The Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant has performers competing for Best Group, Variety, and the Southern Fried Burlesque King and Queen!  The Pageant will also include a farewell performance by the 3rd Southern Fried Burlesque Queen, Lola Le Soleil!

After the awards ceremony Saturday night, let your hair down at the Southern Scorcher Showcase with performers from all over the Southeast, like Robotica and the Professor, Dee Flowered, Violet Vixxxen, and headlined by Ursula Undress!

The Southern Fried Burlesque Festival also features lectures, events and classes Friday through Sunday for all interest and skill levels. Whether you are a history buff, into crafting costumes, want to learn the basics, or finetune your performance, this festival will have activities for all levels and aspects of burlesque. Learn entirely from seasoned burlesque performers, teachers, and legends, and leave the festival with all the tools you need to be the next Burlesque Aficionado! Don’t worry guys – all genders are welcome to attend classes!

Burlesque is the art of the striptease, with a focus on the tease.  Performers occasionally strip to pasties, but there is no nudity in any festival productions. This festival is dedicated to the preservation of an art form that has become an international movement.

For advance tickets to Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival events or the whole weekend, click here

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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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