Photographer: UPortraits photography
When I pondered upon providing interviews for our Beloved Burlesque Community (BBC) I wanted to bring together all of the community; I wanted it to be inclusive of all of our brothers and sisters – conjointly with some international Starr’s.
Locally, the solidarity was to extend from the tip of the North Island to bottom of the South Island, and embrace all in between.
With that in mind, I interviewed Lunar Eclipse a red-haired beauty located in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Like a true eclipse, this lady is beautiful and could be described as an Absolute Cosmic Blaze. It was a total pleasure getting to know her.
Photographer: Kelvin Aird PhotographyBS: Lunar Eclipse. Tell me a little bit about yourself, because I’m all the way up in Auckland, and you’re in the south island?
LE: Yes! That’s correct, I live in Dunedin
BS: And how long have you been doing burlesque for?
LE: I’ve been doing burlesque for coming up five years now.
BS: And what got you involved in burlesque, and why did you start to do burlesque?
LE: I had actually just seen the first of classes advertised in here in Dunedin, for a beginners class and thought how much I would like to give it a go, I loved the Burlesque related movies so thought why not! and it all just started from there!.
BS: Right. And you’ve been teaching as well?
LE: I do! I run the classes here in Dunedin, and I’ve been ‘teaching’ for about 2 years now. I like to more see it as passing on everything I’ve learned throughout my own Burlesque journey, since I’ve not been doing it for too long a time myself! And I am always still learning. I’ve had my my own studio space to do so since August last year.
BS: Very cool. And how often do you do your teachings? So how many times do you teach in a year? In a year?
LE: So every Tuesday and Wednesday nights is the group classes, and then everything going on in-between, so, hold on, now we’re involving Math! [laughter]–
BS; You would say, do a set of classes, and then, so do that set maybe three or four times a year, or is it how you work it?
LE: So actually there is a bit of an option available…When I started up the classes I had a range of experience interested in the classes! So currently there is two groups, I’ve got beginners and intermediate was the best way of kind of separating it, Although the girls now have their own group names that they are known as, The Moonlight Rebelles & The Sirens of Mayhem. These names were selected by the ladies themselves. We also six-week block courses. What we do is the block courses just keep running, that way if somebody just wants to just try it once, so that they say they’ve done it, cool! They get their one off Burlesque Experience that they were looking for. They are more than welcome to attend as many block courses as they like, as it runs through all your Burlesque basics, but if they are really interested and want to keep going with it, they’re more than welcome to join one of the groups, who work towards group routines, solo acts, host our own shows and work tocitieswards all sorts of fun things- hopefully work with some other performers in shows from other cities!
BS: Okay. So the block courses, they have a showcase?
LE: No showcase no, but they do receive a certificate for completing their block course.
BS: Cool. And that’s what a lot of people actually just need to be able to build up their confidence as well and to build a sisterhood.
LE: Yes, Confidence is the key! And helping to build up another women’s confidence is so rewarding.
BS: And I detect a non-Kiwi accent there. Whereabouts are you from?
LE: Scotland [laughter].
BS: Scotland? And you came over as a adult or as a child?
LE: I was 14 when I moved here..11 years ago.
BS: Wow. You look incredibly young . So how did your name evolve?
LE: Why thank you !! It wasn’t my original name. The first name that I came up with for the very first Burlesque production was kind of almost handpicked for me a little bit and we rolled with it. It was Bonnie Rage. So Bonnie came from, obviously, not being a Kiwi. There was an older chap who was always in and out of the studio we practiced in, and he always referred to me as a “Bonny Lass” So that’s where that came from! Rage, I do believe is to do with the very stereotypical “Scottish attitude” [laughter] But it wasn’t really my thing. After I started getting approached for solo shows or to take part in other shows I thought I need to come up with something better if I’m going to get this opportunity to do it by myself, I need something that suited me better than “Bonnie Rage” So I started pondering on it, and it took ages. My own personal style is actually quite dark, I’m a bit of a rock chick, so for solo stuff I do a lot of neo-burlesque. I had actually also just started dying my hair red, so my hair got from dark red to bright red over a certain amount of time, during which, The Blood moon kept appearing everywhere! I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” And I think I watched a movie one night and the blood moon was up on the front of that and I was like, “That’s it. That’s it. Bingo. That was it.” And the name went from there. I’m very well known for my stand out red hair, It definitely suits my performer name, and my own style! So, that’s also why my logo these days, my actual class logo is the blood moon with Lunar Eclipse Burlesque on
BS: That’s a very impressive logo too. I really like it.
LE: Yeah. It’s quite nifty, isn’t it? It’s very exciting, I’ve just had it designed for my business cards and posters. But I had to have it redone again, because I hooked up a sponsor. So all of my girls that are in the two classes now have hoodies, T-shirts, and singlets with the logo on the front and their performer name on the back. They look Fantastic!
BS: Yes. Very Nice. So why did you start doing burlesque?
LEl I was doing it for a confidence booster myself. When I started, I had not long had my son, roughly 7-8 months after he was born was when I started. I was a single mum, I had put on a lot of weight while I was pregnant. And actually, I’ve got fibromyalgia. So I fight that on a daily basis, and it was at its worst after I’d had my son. I needed something to kind of just pick me back up again. So between the weight gain, having such bad health issues, natural stresses with a newborn baby, juggling being a new mum and still working, I really needed a pick me up for me, so thought bugger it we’ll give it a go.”.
BS: And I can totally relate to that, to be honest. I really can. So what inspires you the most about performing now? You were saying that your performance is more dark or darker. What inspires you to do that sort of performance, that mode of burlesque, that style?
LE: When doing my own solo performances it’s the neo stuff that seems to connect with me first, yet, 9 times out of 10 when you’re teaching, it ends up being classical stuff. So it’s a real mix but I feel it connects with me far more personally than what a classical song does. I can listen to one of my rock playlists in the car, or workshop, hear a certain song, and be like, “Oh, that would be wicked actually.” It just automatically clicks with me. Yeah. It fits me basically. It’s just kind of my style
BS: And so what inspires you with your acts, aside from listening to music, do you have any other inspiration? Do you have anybody within the industry that you look up to and you kind of go, “Well, I actually really like this style, and I really like what they’ve done there”? Do you get inspired by other performers?
LE: Knowing how much I am inspiring others is what Inspires me. And the confidence that you see grow in other people, just from something as simple as watching you perform, and gaining that massive boost within themselves to get up on the stage and rock it! That’s why I love teaching! It’s very rewarding.
The one person that I do look up to a lot, Is Ruby Ruin it’s her own beautiful, unique style of Burlesque, and was one of the first performers I started to follow in the NZ Burlesque Industry Unfortunately, Ruby struggles with the same condition that I do, So I look up to her quite a bit, seeing her struggle the same way that I have and pull through and keep doing what she does because she has such a great name behind her, and she just keeps going. So even if she’s not performing as much anymore, she’s still got so much going for her. She is such an inspiration to the industry!
BS: And did you hear, she just won an award at the New Zealand Burlesque Festival held in Auckland?
LE: YES! I was very happy for her, something she totally deserved.
Photographer; Andy Thompson photography
BS: If you had somebody starting burlesque today, what would be your best advice do you think that you could give them?
LE: Best advice? You can do it. I say to them all the time, “It doesn’t matter what shape, what size, what age or what experience you have, you CAN do it!” It is a real shame how many women can lack confidence in this day in age, and that’s what I want to help change.I’ve got girls that when they started, they were in the corner of the room, They were right up back [laughter] head down and very shy, but they’re there to take part because they want to, there is a bit of confidence hiding in them waiting to blossom! Some of these very same girls,are doing a their very first solo performance in July at our show!. You just need to work through stages just with them, as everybody’s different but everyone will get there! I always offer one-on-ones or half an hour early before class or something like it if somebody’s a wee bit unsure on something, doesn’t want to speak up and ask about it, something as simple as that can always help.
BS: Definitely. And it also gives a real boost when somebody says, “I really like that.” And if you’re stuck, and they say, “Well, you could do this, this or this,” it is really good to be able to play it out with somebody.
LE: I’ve got a friend that’s in Dunedin, and it’s always her that I go to. It’s always her that I end up turning around middle of a role. “I’m stuck here.” Because it happens to absolutely everybody
BS: It happens to the best of everybody. So, reflecting back on when you did your very, very first performance, how do you think you have changed from that very first performance to what you are today when you hop up on a stage?
Photographer: Davine Mercer
LE: A lot. I was very self-conscious, as I said, I had not long had a child! I was worried about what people would say. Was I too fat to be doing it? what would people say? Would people laugh at me?? Was i going to make a huge mistake on stage?? So I was absolutely nerve-wracked the first time that I stepped on that stage, whereas now it’s just a case of, “Nope. I’ve got this.” I’m proud of how far I have come, and to have so many people looking up to me as well I think just pushes me even more. And now I know what I can do and what I can’t do with my condition.. Whereas before, again, I was worried about something as simple as falling over because one of my legs was going numb or something like it, that would be quite embarrassing. I have learnt my boundaries.
BS: I think that’s really important with any performer. It doesn’t matter if you’re somebody like Ellie May Marshall, who’s a real contortionist, to somebody like me or somebody that’s a beginner who has to establish the boundaries. As time goes on, that’s really important to get those boundaries defined because it helps your confidence, and really that’s what it’s all about.
LE: I know there’s certain things that I just can’t do anymore. Like I’m not very flexible anymore, whereas I used to be. I do have Fibromyalgia quite bad for my age so it’s just something I need to accept and deal with in my own way. I did announce that the Burlesque Rumble, here in Dunedin in March this year was going to my last solo performance for a while, it ended with a bang and I managed to take out the award of Crowd Favourite-Total Knockout 2018. So I was very happy to finish up like that. I am taking the step back from solo performing so I can focus on the classes and upcoming show, as I know that I can’t do everything in full force at the one time because my body just can’t keep up with it.
BS: I think good on you because you have to look after yourself first. If you don’t look after yourself first, it all falls down.
LE: Exactly–with a young family too. I like to joke around that I’m unfortunately, not wonder woman anymore!
BS: Yeah. Especially with a young family, too, because those two boys need to be looked after as well.
LE: They keep me on my toes that’s for sure!
BS: So since you’ve been doing burlesque you said for, what, five years? Is that right or is that just coming up five years.
LE: Yeah coming up 5 years now, my youngest is about to turn 5! And he’s the wee one that I had just had when I seen the class advertisements !
Photographer; Black Kat PhotographyBS: Okay. So in the local scene that you’re in now, how has it changed in your burlesque career since you started?
LE: It is very different compared to when I started, but Dunedin is definitely making its mark on the map these days. It’s good. Between myself and a couple of other hard-working performers, Dunedin’s name’s out there, whereas it used to be a lot quieter. There are alot of ladies up -coming in the Burlesque scene here in Dunedin too! They are all very excited to have their big mid-winter showcase, coming up in July. A total of 18 women who have attended classes with me.
BS: Wow, That’s a lot.
LE: It is very exciting, we have a total of 24 performers for the evening, including some guest performers from Christchurch and Queenstown. We have been lucky to have such awesome connections and friendships with the lovely ladies of Christchurch over the years, but this is a first to have guest performers from Queenstown here in Dunedin.
BS: And have you had anybody from Auckland perform down in Dunedin or Auckland and Wellington, from those two areas, as well?
LE: Yes! The Winner of the Burlesque Rumble was Wellington’s own Blue Virtue! He’s just lovely! We have been lucky to meet quite a few other performers but usually when we head up the island, to Christchurch! Christchurch seems to be the main meeting point in the South Island, they have a fantastic community up there!
BS: Yeah. And it’s quite some distance from Dunedin.
LE: Yeah. Well, because it was so quiet in here in Dunedin a few years back, I have done that road so many times now it’s not funny [laughter], so many times, and it’s just straight, maybe two bends on the road in the whole 4 hour trip laughter]
BS: You said before that people’s’ confidence and the boost and everything that you get is what inspires you, so seeing people grow before your eyes pretty much for your classes. Confidence aside, is there anything else that actually gets you up on stage?
LE: Yes there is… To prove to myself that I can do it. That I CAN still do it. Fibromyalgia is a real struggle sometimes, and I do very often need to put on a brave face for all of it. I’m always scared that if I stop or give up, that would be it, my body would stop! So, apart from all the eyes of people watching you about to get on stage, yeah, it is quite personal for me too.
BS: So I do have a couple of the quirky questions, and people either cringe or they just laugh whenever I ask them these quicky questions [laughter]. And one of them is, if you were a crayon in a crayon box, what color would you be and why
LE: Again, we’ll go back to the darker side of me, [laughter] I have also in fact, been told twice now that I was a witch in a past life! Maybe that’s where the natural darkness comes from. But if I had to be a color in a crayon box, it would end up being a metallically red that blends with a metallic black…We’ll go with that– We’ll call it Lunar!
BS: For sure. For sure. And if there was a movie made about your life, who would play the lead role and why?
LE: Oh, what’s her name? I’ve got the name in mind [laughter]. Is it Melissa McCarthy? Is that the right one? Yeah. Yeah. I would probably say her because she’s probably as mad as me [laughter], so I’m going to say her
BS: You think she’s as mad as you? I am rocking the boat!! Okay. I’ve got one more for you, and it’s only brief. Actually, no, it’s not. It’s not that brief. I’m going to change it. If you were on an island and you could only take three things with you and you’re on an island for, say, six months, what would those three things be?
LE: Okay. Food is one, survival gear, music, and a blanket because I have a thing for having my blanket. I have a blanket with me anywhere. If I’m sitting in the car for traveling, I’ve got a blanket, on the couch, I’ve got a blanket, not like a baby’s blanket, but I just have this thing for being covered. Even when I sleep I have to the blanket pulled up over my face [laughter] yes it’s weird, but It’s just my thing, so it would be a blanket, music, and food, water!
BS: So all the normal, sensible things. So it shows that you’re actually really quite sensible, right [laughter]?
LE: Oh Gosh, Maybe! I’d actually be quite happy on an island by myself with my blanket, food and music!
BS: So you’re not that crazy. And that actually concludes our interview.
Thank you Lunar Eclipse – this was totally my pleasure.