Blue Moon Burlesque

Jesse Gelaznik

Artist Jesse Gelaznik consecrates his woodland dome with a burlesque performance.

When you’re in the woods for a few weeks you feel your instincts guiding your actions more and more, especially when the reason you’re there—among the bugs and the trees—is to build a dome for a site-specific art installation.

A moose came up to my tent at 4 AM a few nights ago and scared the shit out of me. I just laid in my sleeping bag and clutched a machete, scared shitless. Long days of painting and nights of smoky campfire have turned me into a strangely primitive version of my former self. It’s been an intense month of creative work, and the dome is coming to fruition. 

It’s a blue moon tonight, and the time has come for something special: a burlesque performance by Dame CuchiFrita. 

The plan is to make a short film that I will sync with music when I get back to Brooklyn. I’ve been hoping to use the dome as a setting for photo shoots and art performances as well as guided meditations, so a burlesque performance is perfect for the space. George and I’in, who own the land, help set up some lights. I film the performance on a Super 8 camera while her husband Vishnu shoots some stills.

Dame CuchiFrita’s dance is amazing. She channels the energy of the nude goddess I painted on the inside of the dome. The look in the goddess’s eyes is not inviting, but rather deeply focused. So is Dame CuchiFrita’s. It’s as if she's stepped out of my painting to perform a dark, sensual dance. I couldn’t be happier: the painting is given life, consecrating the dome with an open sexual energy. The sigils that I drew on the floor, buried under wood stain and paint are charging with energy as Dame CuchiFrita performs atop them. 

I’ve always thought burlesque was more performance arty than stripper-ish. Before the performance, I spent the morning in a little country diner with Dame CuchiFrita and Vishnu getting a better understanding of burlesque and her other expertise in dance. When I heard that she’s also trained in Balinese dance, I got very excited. I have been interested in various forms of world music and dance like Kathakali, Butoh, and stuff like that. Dame CuchiFrita led me through a history of burlesque. She discussed its early Italian origin and the lineage that lead it to America in the early 20h century.

She feels that burlesque went through a dark period of objectification in the hands of mid-century pornographers like Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner. But it reinvented itself as an art form in the 90s. Now, burlesque is back to pushing the boundaries of performance, costume, movement, sex, and gender. It’s also bringing my woodland dome to life.

Photo by Vishnu Hoff

Photo by Vishnu Hoff

Photo by Vishnu Hoff