Interview with Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe star Angelique DeVil
by Bobby Blakey
These days there have been documentaries on pretty much every subject you can think of. IT is more about the way it is executed than the subject to help it stand out. The latest, Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe takes viewers inside the world of burlesque focusing on the performers both on and off the stage. I had the chance to sit down with performer Angelique DeVil to discuss the film and her life as a burlesque performer.
Bobby: How did Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe come about?
Angelique: Zora von Pavonine is the creative director of our Burlesque troop French Benefits and she used to be a part of another troop that John had initially approached years and years ago. The movie took a bit of a pause then, but when it started back up again she was now a part of this troop and I was one of the performers. She and I are very close and she introduced me to John. It is really just about being able to tell the story, having a good conversation with the director and clicking with their vision. I loved spending time with them, their goals and intention with this movie and BLAM! here I am.
Bobby: When you guys are preparing your performances, do you create it all yourself and then have to pitch it to the troop or do you just do your own thing?
Angelique: Generally speaking we all create our own numbers. Inspiration comes from various factors and most of the time we just get an idea and we do it all from beginning to end. We do the choreography ourselves, create the costumes ourselves and then a producer will invite us to be a part of a show or perhaps we will ask to be a part of the show. Sometimes the producer wants to know the number and other times they just trust you to put together something appropriate. There are some of the bigger shows where a lot of times the producer will seek out numbers by certain performers or people will go on YouTube and look for a certain theme and then request that specific performance from that performer. It really just depends, I think back in the day you just brought your own thing, but now there are so many other performance opportunities and niches there are a few different pathways to get on that stage that is sometimes producer motivated and sometimes performer motivated.
Bobby: When dealing with various properties like Star Wars do you try to keep them pretty generic due to copyrights or does that not really become an issue with this sort of performance art?
Angelique: It really just depends on the performer. If you want to make a Star Wars show then you are going to make a Star Wars show and it will be fabulous. If someone wants to put it on stage then great if they don’t then you will find another one. There are so many different performers and it really just depends on what your priority is. If you want to perform on more often or travel more then sometimes you have to make a more generic number that can be adjusted with different types of music or different costumes so that it is a little bit more flexible and you will get more use out it and it is certainly be more cost effective. If you create sometime too specific then you will only have the opportunity to perform at these certain shows. You also have to do it to the point of not worrying about making your money back. (laughs)
Bobby: Knowing what goes into this and obviously not being about the money, what drives you to spend all that time and money to bring these moments to the stage?
Angelique: I am dance performance driven. I have been a dance performer my whole life. Once you reach adulthood there are just not a lot of opportunities to be able to perform and while you could join a dance company, that is still someone else’s vision. For me, the opportunity to continue to do dance performance is the best part, but love all of the other aspects of it being a theater nerd. I love costumes and the ingenuity and creativity on how you are going to try and get your narrative across. I love performing. Put me on a stage and I am ready to do it. There is a rush that goes along with that and the applause. The combination of being able to fulfill a creative vision and then have somebody clap for it, heck yeah, I hope I can keep doing this until 103.
Bobby: One of the misconceptions of Burlesque is that it is porn or that the performers are strippers. How hard is it to deal with people and make them understand that this part of your life is art?
Angelique: It took me a really long time to be publicly ok with being known as a burlesque performer. Growing up in a pretty conservative and religious household in the Midwest Bible belt in the beginning it felt very much like a hush, hush naughty pastime. At this point if somebody is going to judge me on that misconception it’s on them. I would always encourage people to go to a show or if it is something they are not comfortable with maybe checking out a documentary. (Laughs) Just get out there and really see what the full story is about because there are so many different factors to it. I do try and open up the conversations about it because it is just like theater with music, dance and story. Whatever you want to do this is your opportunity to say it and perform it. Aside from just the entertainment factor I also try and express all of the things that burlesque has brought to my life which I think the film does a really well. The friendships I’ve formed and that comradery, its brought so many positive factors to my life and if somebody is going to make a negative judgement about that there is nothing I can do about it, but it has truly made me a better and happier person.
Bobby: I know there are a lot of troops out there and over the years with my experience of seeing burlesque shows I have noticed some of the same performers performing with different troops. Are there any issues or animosity towards each other when people leave or just perform with other troops?
Angelique: There are so many shows and performers and I am sure there have been an example of that somewhere, but my personal experience was that there was always encouragement to perform in these other shows. That is not to say there isn’t drama in circles, but that is going to happen in any sort of performance art form. You get a bunch of creative people in a tight space with different priorities and visions drama is bound to happen. In my experience though, everywhere I have gone has been like finding extended family. We have the kind of communication that a performer is coming to town and they need a place to say they call them up and give them one. It’s very much trusting community and it’s very rare that you find that kind of trust and attitude. I haven’t had anything but positive experiences.
Bobby: That’s good to hear. In this day and age with all the hate and craziness going on I think this film has a great message outside of just burlesque of acceptance and expression that I think is important right now and applaud you for being a part of it.
Angelique: Thank you so much. I agree, there is just so much going on in the world and we just want to bring joy and happiness to the stage.
Bobby: I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and wish you all the luck with the film and your career.
Angelique: Thank you so much.
Check out Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe available now in select theaters, VOD and iTunes.