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Ms Fortuna

Tue 3 Oct 2006 In: Performance

Ms Fortuna The Australian star of burlesque performance is heading to Auckland to present two of her cheekiest shows as part of our NZ Festival of Dance. Wendy McPhee, AKA Ms Fortuna encourages us to sit back, relax and enjoy. You've got two shows on in Auckland. What can audiences expect from your performances? They're two very different shows. ‘Private Dancer' is a genre all of it's own, but if you wanted to place it into a ‘box', then you'd probably say it was a mixture of cabaret, erotica, and burlesque show. ‘The Naked Truth' is a performed lecture, but if you think of a karaoke evening, mixed with an RSL, mixed with a drag show, you've got the atmosphere we're trying to create. What we're interested in doing is creating an atmosphere that is different to a normal theatre show, in that it takes into account the elements of cabaret. It's not theatre seating, you don't sit in the dark. There isn't a ‘black hole' between the performer and the audience. There's a bar that's open throughout the show so you can get a drink. The shows we are interested in making are ones where the performer and the audience have an interaction. The audience becomes part of the show, and that's the fun of it. We've got door prizes and raffles too. I think a lot of different audiences will be attracted to the show, be they gay, straight, bent, upside-down, whatever. If you sit back, relax and take it all in, you'll really enjoy it. When you say ‘interactive', do you mean audience participation? Yikes! It's interactive, but not participatory in that sense – people get really scared of audience participation! They can interact with us if they want to. But if they don't want to, it's fine. The shows are comedies, so through laughter one can then introduce a whole heap of things you normally can't do. Things that are not normally talked about or accepted. The taboo parts of our society. It's like a Carnival. You can go along and become someone else. And you can take that experience away from you and learn something. It's a scripted show, but depending on the audience, it can change. If the audience just sits back and expects a show what I call ‘spoon fed' to them, it'll be just as it was scripted. That works fine, but it works so much better when the audience gets into the show a bit more and interacts. How did you get started with burlesque performance? I came from a very traditional background - The Australian Ballet School, where I studied classical through to contemporary dance. I felt restricted, so I explored other areas. I then descended to what they call the ‘low life', and now I work primarily in the sex industry. I started working as a stripper a long time ago now, to supplement my meager income. Through that, I've tried to combine to two industries together – the performance industry and my work in the adult clubs. One difference is money. You get paid zero in the performance industry, but you get paid quite well in the sex industry! It's ridiculous spending your life training to be an elite artist, getting paid absolutely zero for it, when you can make a lot of money working in what they call the ‘low arts'. Strippers are often seen as seedy, bonged-out people, but in actual fact, strippers I've worked with in the sex industry have been articulate and know exactly what they're doing. Burlesque dance is getting a modern-day makeover in Paris these days. Can you sum up what ‘Burlesque' means to you? To me, burlesque is a form that turns a status around. It deals with reversal of status. The way we're working with burlesque is in parody, but traditionally, burlesque takes something that is high status and reverses it, making it low. Or the opposite – taking something low status, and making it high. Through elements that again are normally not accepted in our society. So burlesque isn't really what people think it is – what we call the American style of burlesque. That came a bit later, in the 18th Century. To ‘burlesque' something means to reverse its status. Through parody, mock epic, travesty, and another one using rhyme. For example, we recently did a show called ‘Going Greek', where we took anal sex and we elevated it to a high status. So that's what it means to ‘burlesque' something. So what you do think is the secret to a good striptease? Knowing your sexuality. Lots of people think it's just taking your clothes off and wiggling your arse around. You don't actually have to take everything off, or anything off. It's all about knowing your own sexuality first. Then you know what you can do. It's confidence also. If you're not confident, everyone will know that. It's about tease. It's the art of erotica. Experience Ms Fortuna at Auckland's Galatos (17 Galatos St, off K' Road) as part of the NZ Festival of Dance. Her show ‘Private Dancer' is on Wed 11 – Sat 14 October, and ‘The Naked Truth' is on Fri 13 October 2006. Matt Akersten - 3rd October 2006    

Credit: Matt Akersten

First published: Tuesday, 3rd October 2006 - 12:00pm

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