Interview with Calamity Chang
VienneMilano is excited to take part in the ninth annual Asian Burlesque Fest - the one and only burlesque show in the US which features Asian American performers. Get to know Calamity Chang, the starlet, and co-producer of this fabulous performance.
Tell us about yourself; how did you get into burlesque dancing?
I've always been drawn to rebellious women, which is probably what drew me to stripping. It felt more acceptable than robbing a bank to take down the system or hacking into evil corporations' mainframe computers. Both are real interests. Not joking. I also did improv comedy in college which is also the main component of burlesque. The tease comes from improvisation; too much choreographed dance is not "teaseful" to me.
How long have you been performing?
I made my burlesque debut in April 2009 at the world-famous Slipper Room in the Lower East Side. It was part of the NY School of Burlesque Student Showcase. I performed to Iggy Pop's "China Girl" dressed in a set of red pajamas from Pearl River and a straw hat. I guess I've always wanted to subvert, revert, challenge stereotypes about Asian women even back then!
What are some common misconceptions about burlesque dancing?
1. We make a lot of money. Ironically, dancers at a strip club make 100x more money than we do. Our costumes can cost thousands of dollars, and overall pay rates across the US have barely inched upward in the last decade.
2. The other misconception is that going to a burlesque show is like going to a strip club. That is 100% not true. Even though there is stripping involved in both scenarios, burlesque takes away the money transaction part of the experience, thus rendering what we do more theatrical in a performative sense vs. performing desirability for a certain patron for the ultimate goal of getting their money.
What do you enjoy most about burlesque dancing?
The moment when costume design/fit, music choice, and the right mood collide. It is the best thrill and high. It lasts for days.
How often do you wear thigh highs in your performance?I have quite a few costumes that have a garter belt with thigh highs. Taking off thigh highs, or as we call it, 'stocking peel' in burlesque is a very popular move. It is very exciting to watch if you've never seen it done before. I have not done a stocking peel in a routine yet cause I really like the feeling of garter belt clips and the pull they have on a pair of silk stockings.
How does it make you feel when you wear thigh highs on stage?
I wear thigh highs in my burlesque routines, but I also wear thigh highs in my daily life! It feels like a special secret I have on underneath a dress. It's a very sexy, delicious feeling, kind of like wearing a very expensive piece of jewelry in a casual setting. Plus, I like the feeling of restriction under my clothes. It makes me sit up and walk straighter.
About the show
What can we expect from this year's show? How will it be different from previous shows?
ow will it be different from previous shows? This year's show is a big homecoming for us, especially since I've moved away from NYC back in November to the Poconos region in Pennsylvania. Though I am only 1.5 hours away, I can't wait to see our regular fans and new supporters and allies. Asian people all over the world have been targeted by hate crimes this past year and continue to be so, America is having a real reckoning with her own racist past & present that continue to divide people of color, so this event to me is a chance to celebrate our Asianness and our allies that support unity. The amazing Perle Noir and I have always supported each other's visions for our folx through my event and her Noire Pageant event. Perle was scheduled to be our guest appearance in this event, but she had to withdraw due to an unforeseen health issue. But I'm also excited for this year's show because I will be hosting both nights and performing on Friday! I really want to take this moment to reconnect with all our supporters.
How long have you’ve been preparing for the event?
My co-producer and I prepared for this event about six months out, getting the logistics down such as venue, cast selection, vendors, sponsorships, etc. It's a lot of emailing and networking! On the personal front, I create a new act every year just for this event, so I start ideating at the start of the year.
Who are the performers for this year’s lineup?
Thursday night Opening Party will be a pop-up show featuring Bessie Snow, Evelyn Vinyl, and Phoenix Ablaze. This night is at Crystal Lake bar in Williamsburg Brookly, a more casual setting to give our fans a chance to meet and greet some cast members. Friday night will feature the whole cast with the aforementioned and also Cheeky Lane, Agent Wednesday, Miso Honey (Philly), Evelyn Vinyl (Nashville), Adam Rei Siegel (NYC), Lady Mabuhay (NYC), Jasmine Rice (NYC), and myself.