Interview: Spellbound Burlesque

Spellbound Burlesque is an intimate burlesque showcase in the heart of downtown Phoenix. The elegant Club Palazzo sets the perfect backdrop for a night of sultry, classic striptease in 360 degrees! In anticipation of their next show on March 28th, “The Long Strip Goodnight”, we interviewed co-producers Maxi Millions and Frankie. This is what they had to say…

1. In your opinion, how has the burlesque community in Arizona evolved over the years?
Maxi: What I see now is this incredible diversity between the variety of shows here in Arizona. The interest in performing has really piqued, and many people from all different backgrounds have found their place (or carved out their own!) in burlesque performance. Audiences are really starting to take notice of the variety available to them, and many of them are coming to understand what burlesque means. We’ve found incredible support from them.
Frankie: What I have seen is growth in leaps and bounds. It started several years ago with variety shows that included burlesque, and now we have burlesque-only shows and performers hungry to be a part of it. Like Maxi said, the variety of shows is really great to see, and there is something for everyone these days. I am proud to have been a part of it and excited to see where it goes from here. 
 
2. Can you give our readers some insight as to how Spellbound Productions got started?
Maxi: It was Frankie! I am so lucky to have such a supportive co-producer in the venture. She came to me and said “Hey, I think we can do this, and we can do something totally different!” And so Spellbound was born. Initially, we thought of only doing one show, but once we got started, we both found a home in producing six shows annually, with a unique take on burlesque.
Frankie: My personal burlesque journey only started in 2011, but I have been part of the Phoenix performance scene since 2006. I have been part of shows that range from well-oiled machines to loosely thrown-together sideshows. They ALL have their place, but I think because I have that insight and have seen how it can go right and sometimes go wrong, it made it an easy decision to start a show. I must admit, though, I had the knowledge, but without a great co-producer I may not have made that final leap. We really pushed each other.   
Frankie and Maxi.

 

3. Does your company gravitate toward any specific style of burlesque?
Maxi: Initially, we gravitated towards classic, high-glamour traditional burlesque, especially because that is the dominant style here in Arizona, but I have found that there are so many wonderful performers out there, representing all different genres, that we now make it our mission to be inclusive of all different styles, so long as the act is dynamic, engaging, and, above all, entertaining.

 

4. What are the differences between your company and some of the other dance troupes in the area?
Maxi: When Spellbound was in its creation process, Frankie and I decided early on that we would not have any set themes for our show, thus being able to welcome in many different kinds of acts! Our show is also presented in the round: The audience surrounds the stage in 360 degrees, which makes for a unique viewing experience and gives the performers the ability to walk right up to audience members,  giving the show an intimate feeling. Additionally, we strive to bring burlesque talent into Arizona from all over the US! There is definitely a regular “Burlesque Audience” crowd here in Phoenix, and we want to treat them to performers they wouldn’t typically see in the Valley.
Frankie: In addition to the view that you don’t get to see anywhere else, we are providing an atmosphere. The fantastic backdrop of Club Palazzo really sets the mood for this intimate event. With performers coming in from all over Arizona and the US, our lineup is constantly changing, so you really get to see a show that is unique.  
 5. What are the typical expectations that you have of your dancers, in terms of daily practice, rehearsals, etc?
Frankie: The performers in our show are responsible for their own creative output, and they are not ‘our’ dancers. We are just holding a space for them to shine. If you are newer to our show and are a local performer, we do ask for one rehearsal about a week before the show. The reason for that is it can be a bit dizzying dancing in the round, so we want them to make sure they understand the space. 

Maxi: We want to showcase the best selection of talent we can, and just as Frankie said, we do ask for one short rehearsal prior to the production date. Otherwise, the performers are practicing on their own. It takes a lot of discipline to work on something alone, and I’m always pleased to see the night of a show just how much effort the performers put into refining their craft.

6. We noticed that you bring in some of the best dancers from all over the region and country. How do you manage this?
Maxi: I’m really fortunate to have traveled all over the U.S .as a performer, and I have made some fantastic connections in the process. The national and international burlesque communities have been so welcoming to this Phoenician, and I want to, in turn, be able to welcome them to the Valley, if I can. I am so used to hearing the same question when I travel: “There’s burlesque in Phoenix?!” YES!! There is, and there’s a huge variety of it, and it’s a community I’m proud to be a part of! I like showing them what Arizona has to offer!
Frankie: We ask them. There really is a big pool of performers that want to get out of their city and show a whole new audience what they have to offer. It is exciting and new and we have yet to come across anyone we ask who says they don’t want to. The hard part comes in when we have to figure out a cost-effective way to get them here and not break our budget. 
Maxi: Thankfully, we have two fabulous sponsors, Kitten Retro Glamour & Vox Curvy Couture who have partnered with us, and they really believe in our mission to bring great talent to this city! We are thankful to work with two locally owned business, run by some fantastic ladies!
 7. What is your process for deciding which dances make it into the show?
Frankie: We have an audition process where we take video submissions. From there, we have a few people selected to review and score them in several categories like musicality, polish, etc… Once we have all the scores, we start putting together our lineup. 
Maxi: Exactly what Frankie said. As producers, we need to be able to see an act so we know where to best put it in the lineup, and if it will be a good fit for our show. We’ve had everything from Depeche Mode to Frank Sinatra to old-school punk hit the stage, and they’ve all been a hit. It’s really about how the performer marries music, movement and costume. 
8. What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
Maxi: I would say that my job is 99% making people happy: the audience, the performers, the venue. As long as they feel taken care of, I say that’s a good accomplishment! But as far as the really big stuff..stay tuned! We have some international talent making their way to Phoenix for our May 30th production. We are thrilled to be able to bring these professionals to our hometown, and we can’t wait to unveil them soon!
 
Frankie: I think selling out our January show is our biggest accomplishment so far! We jumped into this with both eyes open and really tried to make it a wonderful event, and I think that selling out our second show really made that a reality, in my mind. I am super excited about our upcoming shows, too. As the word spreads, we seem to be attracting more and more performers who want to come to Phoenix. 
9. Do you have any insight or tips for new dancers who are looking to get more involved?
Maxi: Yes! Burlesque is welcoming to all genres: classic glamour, performance art, abstract/avant garde, goth… but no matter what your background i s in performing, no matter what you want to do, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take classes. There are basic elements to striptease in burlesque style that every performer should have under their belt before pursuing their own journey into it. Frankie and I both came from VaVaVoom! Burlesque Studio, led by Lucy Morals, who has raised many performers in the Phoenix area.
 
Frankie: YES! Classes! And I would also recommend from a variety of teachers. Even if you love the teacher you currently have, going to someone else can really open your eyes to a different way of thinking about a movement or a theory. I don’t plan on ever being done learning. 
10. Can you give our readers a sneak preview of what they can expect from your next show “The Long Strip Goodnight” on March 28th?
Maxi: Hmm. Let’s see. Mix some Motorhead, an 80’s classic, some elegant showgirls, a dash of Vogue, sensual aerial striptease, and, well… you will just have to come to experience the variety!

Maxi: Continuing to create a fantastic, intimate showcase is our number one priority! But we do have a few tricks up our sleeves coming to you this summer! Make sure to like us on Facebook to stay in the loop!

12. Are there any links you would like us to share?

Tickets to The Long Strip Goodnight can be found here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1331007
Follw us on Instagram: @spellbound_burlesque
The Long Strip Goodnight Flyer