I have been extremely lucky to work with some of the best musicians in burlesque. I’ve been performing, or at least dancing, to live music all my life, including one glorious night with Spinal Tap, but most of the time I was just dancing along to the music.
In burlesque with live music, there’s real collaboration. The dancers rehearse their numbers with the bands, and the musicians watch the dancers to see if they need to give them a drum hit when a glove drops to the floor, if the music needs to be sped up or slowed down, or if they need to repeat a form until the dancer is ready to finish her number.
In New York, we have live music at the Slipper Room every Wednesday night with amazing musicians, including Brian Fisherman, with whom I’ve been performing for over 10 years. Le Scandal has featured The New York City Blues Devils and the Le Scandal Orchestra; Big Apple Burlesque features a live band every week.
Brian Newman produces a burlesque show with his trio at Duane Park, and there’s more, including pianist and arranger Albert Garzon, who seeks out old burlesque music and creates shows based on burlesque legends like Lydia Thompson, Georgia Sothern, and Gypsy Rose Lee.
We have a wealth of live music in our burlesque. Most cities that have a burlesque scene have a swing band or two that will collaborate with dancers in some burlesque shows, and more and more shows are working with their own bands.
In this city, we have long had a wealth of extremely talented and devoted musicians that are specifically interested in collaborating with burlesque shows and doing music intended specifically for burlesque dancers.
At the moment, we’re fortunate to have our own native son, Brooklyn-born Ronnie Magri, in his hometown. While living in New Orleans, he helped to create a scene that fostered dancers who would become The Atomic Bombshells of Seattle, who recently performed in Shanghai.
I know Ronnie from another life, when he was in a rock band called The Throbs. I also showed my photographs in a group show about burlesque with his amazing and beautiful wife, painter Charlene Lanzel.
More recently, I’ve had the privilege of using his music on my instructional DVDs produced by World Dance New York, and of discussing a long-term project I have in mind to promote appreciation of the music historically used in burlesque striptease and the musicians who choose to collaborate with burlesque dancers today.
Several months ago I interviewed him for this blog, and we decided to save the interview for the release of the DVD. So here it is, at long last, an interview with one of the legends of the burlesque revival!