This was an email I wrote to a community of techie-activists that I’m a part of (called Web Of Change), thought I’d re-post:
I just wanted to share a moment of insurgence within insurgence that I experienced last week. As many of you know, I produced a burlesque show about body politics and personal stories about bodies last night. It was a truly unique moment. the burlesque community, and live entertainment community as a whole, was incredibly receptive to it.
Burlesque is an art form rooted in subversiveness. Owning your body, sharing it, seeing the beauty in all kinds of bodies, genders, races, abilities, etc. is a rebellious act in a world where we are all constantly being told that we are not enough. This is one of the many reasons I love it as a medium. However, despite all this, we often fall into trappings of conventional beauty, or archetypes, or tropes. It’s easy to play it safe, be cute or sexy, and still feel really good about what you’re putting on stage. I have no problem with cute or sexy, but my little rabble-rousing heart wanted more.
Producing a show in which folks actually got to expose themselves, not just physically, but from the heart, was my little insurgence. I made myself vulnerable by asking people to go deep, and the response (about 40 submissions!) told me that i was not alone. It was such an incredible experience to realize that I could ask for more from my community and be met with matching enthusiasm.
In all of our work, there’s the bigger picture ‘why’ of what we’re doing, and then there’s ‘why’ we, personally, do it. The two can look very similar, but WOC (the techie-activist community) really forced me to examine the latter this year. I realized that I am compelled to make art because it heals me, and in my healing I open up space for others to heal as well. This is my insurgence.
What does it mean to politicize an art form? To confront a scene so steeped in its own comfort of liberation that it overlooks the struggle it perpetuates in its undercurrents? Struggle is endless, but so is joy. I want to keep the struggle visible and witnessed, and the joy alive and felt. I am compelled to make art that allows me to connect with others. I am compelled to hold space for both strength and vulnerability, beauty and flaws, connection and isolation, celebration and mourning.
The icing on the cake was that my mother, who (lovingly, ugh) has given me shit about my body all my life, came to the show! and she loved it. and we had a really amazing conversation about body positivity a few days later. It’s something that has been a struggle for generations of women in our family, and it almost brings me to tears that my mom is proud of me for calling it out and doing something about it.
Shout out to Heather and Julian for coming to my show, and to Mariana Ruiz Firmat for leading the discussion on seeking insurgencies within insurgencies <3
So honored to have been a part of this production. I honestly didn’t realize how much I, and the rest of the cast, had to say until given a platform. Thank you.
thanks Shelly! <3 <3