It is my honour to host this guest post from Aimee Nichols tonight. I met Aimee at a conference when she complimented me on my tights, and I complimented her on her dress. I mentioned that I was a fledgling fat activist… and we had one of those OMGSQUEE! moments that one has when one finds someone else who thinks outside the mainstream cultural paradigm.
Aimee told me about Va Va Boombah a while back and I’ve watched it growing with some envy – I wish I was in Melbourne so I could go along to the debut show that Aimee tells us about below. I hope that Va Va Boombah are so successful that they are able to tour the production sometime in the future, so I can go along.
Without any further ado, here is Aimee telling us about Va Va Boombah!
I’m thrilled to be writing a guest post for one of my favourite blogs, which is authored by one of my favourite people – thanks for having me, Kath!
My name is Aimee, and I’m proud to be one of the co-producers of Melbourne’s first fat burlesque night – one of the first such events in Australia. I’ve long been inspired by fat burlesque troupes in the United States, so having the opportunity to make such an event happen in my hometown has been a dream come true.
Va Va Boombah, like so many things these days, was conceived via Twitter, and has been gestated by a love of performance and fat positivity. I’ve been amazed and humbled by the amazing performers we’ve been able to bring together, and by the support from the fat acceptance and burlesque communities alike.
My own background is that of a lifelong struggle with body positivity and size acceptance. From an early age, I was taught that physical endeavors were not for me; my body was a separate being from my brain, and not really part of my ‘self’. I was discouraged from taking part in things like dance and gymnastics by well-meaning adults who thought my size would make me stand out and be a target for ridicule by smaller people. In reality, this had the effect of instilling a sense of self-consciousness that was not there previously; I learned that I was not supposed to be visible, and that I shouldn’t draw attention to myself by engaging with my love of performing.
Burlesque was a specific turning point for me. I’d long had an interest in it, and in pin-up culture, and as I slowly started to see more diverse bodies being represented, I slowly started to feel a little more acceptance of myself. Taking burlesque classes has been one of the major things I have done for myself in terms of developing my self-esteem and acceptance of my body. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
So, what are we hoping to achieve with Va Va Boombah? One of our primary goals is to create a space for awesomeness to happen. We don’t put restrictions or specific guidelines on what our performers can do, which has lead to developing a very diverse show. I’m hoping that in future shows, we’ll see an even greater range of acts from an even greater range of performers. We’re not just about proving that fat people can be sexy, although that’s certainly a worthwhile goal. We want to show that fat performers have a lot to contribute, and that we are active subjects in how we perform, not passive objects in a society where we are either reviled or fetishized, depending on who is doing the looking. Our performers look back, inviting the audience to take part in the act they are creating with a smile and a wink.
Visual representation of fat bodies helps to normalise us; in a world that others us, being a deliberately visible presence, demanding space and refusing to accept invisibility, is a political act. Artistic endeavors like the amazing Adipositivity Project help normalise us, and they also help normalise the idea that fat bodies are sensual and sexual bodies, in the same way that thinner bodies are accepted to be so.
Audiences at our debut show can expect a range of performances, from the sublime to the decidedly ridiculous, that are smart, funny, beautiful, challenging, political and, above all, entertaining. I hope to see you there, if you can make it.
Va Va Boombah’s debut show is on Friday 1st June at Revolt Melbourne Artspace, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington. Tickets are available through http://www.revoltproductions.com, or at the door. $25 full, $20 concession, $17 group (5 or more). Doors from 7pm, show at 8pm.
Aimee Nichols is a writer and burlesque performer, and one of the co-producers of Va Va Boombah. She can be found on Twitter at @wordsandsequins.