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nihongo o hanashimasu ka?

Posted 29th April, 2010 by

Minasan!  Konichiwa!  O genki desu ka?

In English that roughly translates to “Hello everyone!!!  How are you?”.  Why all the Japanese you ask?  Well I thought I’d share with you some little tidbits and (a sneak preview if you will) of a costume I am working on.
When I started performing with Sugar Blue, I knew I wanted to do a Geisha act.  I’ve always loved Japan, having gone there as an exchange student when I was 12 and again for 6 weeks 10 years later.  I wouldn’t suggest talking to me about it because I’ll go on forever about the magical land of the rising sun and you’ll have to make some sort of awkward excuse to get away from me regaling you with tales of zaru soba and kara age *droooolll*.  Ahem, anyway I played around with a few different costume designs, music tracks and practiced fan throwing (which I was bizarrely quite good at straight off the bat) but couldn’t think of a way to make Geisha work with burlesque without it being super tacky. Then a flash of inspiration came to me in the form of a terrible midday movie* (one in which Marilyn Brando, of all people, plays a Japanese man!!!).  The movie is called The Teahouse of the August Moon.  Here is the clip.
It was perfect!  The layered kimonos were genius!  I had my act!  My darling friend Cindy (side note: come home please Cindy!  Canada has had you long enough!!!) made me the three kimonos, I made a crazy, manga-esque geisha wig and I did the act, with the help of some geisha minions, and it all worked wonderfully.

Photo by Gregory Bruyer
(Please ignore my make-up!  It looked great on stage but horrifying in photos!!)

The only problem was, I couldn’t do it on my own.  I needed some hand maidens helping me out just like in the clip.  This was fine for big shows but not so much for small private performances. I could have used the white kimono but I was worried it wasn’t going to hold together as it is in two pieces.   I needed a spectacular single kimono costume.  I thought about making one but it was never going to be a lovely as the real shebang.  So instead of creating something new, I decided to buy a vintage kimono (which is in keeping with my New Years resolution).  There are actually heaps of websites out there selling vintage kimono so I was spoiled for choice.  I love the drama of the white kimono so I chose this one in the Furisode style.

My new beauty from Ichiroya

It’s a little bit damaged and stained (just some petina on the inside) but that’s okay because I won’t feel so bad about altering it a little with sequins and a new collar.  It’s going to be incredible.  I’m also planning on sprucing up the three piece kimono.  It’s plain cotton at the moment.  I’m thinking of embroidering it with cherry blossoms in metallic thread.  For the white one at least!  I’m still deciding what to do with the other layers (red and purple).  I am going to scour the internets for traditional japanese art for inspiration. Any ideas poppets?

Until next time!


*Midday movies have proven to be a great source of burlesque inspiration for me.  I have gotten at least 4 act ideas from old 40’s/50’s/60’s movies they play at midday, usually Saturday and Sunday.  So instead of cringing and changing the channel, watch these old classics and come up with some burlesque gold!

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