First Runner Up, Anna Fur Laxis discusses her BHoF 2011 experience, and one of the most talked about performances of the weekend…
Congratulations Anna! Are you happy with the result?
Thank you! It was wonderful, and the feedback and responses I have had, both from the live performance and from the video have been incredible!
It’s abundantly clear that a lot of work and practice went into your act – can you tell us a little about the process and conception?
The concept for this act was conceived on a visit to L.A’s Magic Castle two years ago – I decided I wanted make my clothes vanish. It has been far and away my most ambitious and technically elaborate number to date and took eighteen months of engineering, flamenco lessons, rehearsals and costuming. There were many times when I thought that what I wanted to achieve couldn’t be done, and many, many places along the way that the whole house of cards could have come tumbling down, but I’m thrilled to have accomplished what I set out to do.
That first quick change had the crowd roaring – it must have made all that hard work seem worthwhile…
From a technical point of view, I knew early on that the entire number would stand or fall on the execution of that single moment, and yes, that was just the reaction I was aiming for!
Did you deliberately choose to do something less ‘safe’ or predictable, in keeping with your own personal style? Was there ever a temptation to veer more towards what some would think of as a more straightforward, ‘classic striptease’ format, that other performers often choose?
I believe that my number ‘The Prestige’ is a classic number. The costume is very classic (and includes items made by American burlesque legends Kiva and Catherine D’Lish!), there are classic elements in the movement, and the inclusion of magic in burlesque is certainly not new. However, I strongly believe in always moving forward, and although I am very keen to respect and give homage to the history of burlesque in my numbers, pushing boundaries and innovation is, to me, ultimately the most important and inspiring thing.
I guess I knew that in sticking to my own personal style and not producing a ‘classic American’ striptease could reduce my chances of winning the title of Reigning Queen/Miss Exotic World; I’m aware that my personal style is not conventional in the classic American sense, but I wanted to surprise and entertain, and I believe I did that.
Your pageant success aside, what were the highlights of the weekend for you?
Time spent with my heroes; the past and present legends of the genre. There are men and women who attend the weekend who are a huge inspiration, and spending even a short amount of time in their company is priceless. I was especially anxious to hear Holiday O’Hara and Dusty Summers’ feelings about my number, as their work and opinions have been a particular inspiration to me over the last couple of years. Their kind words and encouragement had me in tears! I only wish Kiva – Queen of the Fans could have been there – she made the beaded bra and panties for ‘The Prestige’ and I would have loved for her to have been at the weekend, but sadly illness prevented her ability to attend.
“…although I am very keen to respect and give homage to the history of burlesque in my numbers, pushing boundaries and innovation is, to me, ultimately the most important and inspiring thing.”
Are you keen to return next year and compete again? Do you enjoy competition?
I’m currently in talks regarding an overseas tour that would mean being away for the whole of June next year – very exciting, but it would mean that BHoF 2012 would be out for me. Plus I can’t even begin to imagine what I’d need to do to surprise people next! I don’t enjoy competition, but I felt that I owed myself the chance to apply to compete.
Do you feel that this win will have a real affect on your career or growth as a performer, and how you are regarded?
I have learned a great deal in the process of putting together my number, applying for, and competing in BHoF 2011 and those lessons will strengthen and inform me both as a person and a performer. In terms of my career, performing (and placing!) at such a high profile and prestigious event is absolutely a career high point and has already lead to some exciting opportunities.
Do you think a UK performer making an impression and performing so well at BHoF is significant? Do you hope more UK performers will aspire to this level of performance and competition?
I think that having two UK performers competing in the pageant, plus British burlesque fans and artistes attending and performing during the weekend, raised the profile of BHoF here in the UK, particularly in the run-up to and the time following the event. Certainly, I have noticed since the 2011 line-up was announced that I’m being asked lots more questions at shows and events about the nature of BHoF, and what it means.
I received a very lovely email from a fellow performer telling me how she had noted a real spirit of coming-together and a sense of community support for myself and Vicky Butterfly in the weeks before the pageant, and how she felt that people viewed my placing in the contest as a win for the UK community as a whole. That was incredible to hear!
We have some amazing performers in the UK and Europe who aren’t necessarily known in the USA. I have noticed that the culture is quite different – in the UK and Europe, burlesque performers often perform as their main or only source of income, and it’s a difficult decision to invest the time and finances to take a big trip across the pond. However, whether watching online or live in Vegas, BHoF is a wonderful source of inspiration and I think that it’s fantastic that so many of the BHoF 2011 performances are available online for people to watch who couldn’t be there during the weekend.
Anna Fur Laxis interviewed by Holli-Mae Johnson.