Dance Dance Revolution
(page 4 of 7)
Zola Bruce ’99 is the founder and executive director of a nonprofit that works with underserved, international communities, combining public health and the arts. She balances her intense professional life with pursuing her own art—she’s a sculptor—and approached burlesque as “a mixed media challenge.” Bruce created a burlesque doppleganger called $$$Royale (“the dollar signs are silent,” she quips), a fierce, injustice-battling femme fatale. “She does things I can’t do in real life,” Bruce says. “I’m an executive director, so I can’t be cutthroat. I have to incorporate the board of directors’ suggestions and be a good leader. $$$Royale is a fantasy—she takes things to the extreme.”
Every show would have a theme, the group decided; the first would feature all Jimi Hendrix songs. Already this was a departure from conventional burlesque, which tends to focus on jazz standards and retro bump-and-grind tunes. The fact that BGB members were starting from scratch gave them a fresh perspective on the genre, although it also meant that everything they did took a long time. Crandell, who describes herself as “a person who struggles with being a reformed egomaniac,” wanted the group to function as a collective, so decision-making was laborious. And there were a lot of decisions to be made. In addition to devising costumes and workshopping one another’s choreography (“It was very Sarah Lawrence,” says Crandell, who studied dance at SLC), the group spent long hours discussing image and appropriation and empowerment so that every aspect of their show would mesh with their ideals. “Nothing was gratuitous—everything we did was toward this bigger idea,” Vargas says. The first show took six months to put together.