Updated: May 16, 2020
OH HONEY! Do I have a treat for you today! Malta's Sinsational Siren (hey sister *wink wink*) Undine Laverve is here to talk to us about herself as a burlesque performer, instructor and artist! I personally know Undine and she is super interesting (that is why I chose her, DUH!). So keep on reading to get to know who this dazzling feather-flutterring star is!
How did you discover burlesque?
That’s actually a funny story, a couple friends of mine told me there was a Canadina woman teaching a Burlesque course while in Malta some odd 11 years ago when I was barely of legal age and that I should join! “Me? Take Burlesque classes?” said I, barely knowing what it was, “as if!”. Unmistakably, a week later, there I was learning the basics. It only took a few weeks to realize that Burlesque was what I wanted to do, and it is what I’ve been doing ever since. Pyra Teknix became my mentor during her time in Malta but she soon left and I continued on my own.
What got you into burlesque?
Pyra Teknix’ classes and realizing what Burlesque actually was - a strong way of expressing myself and exposing myself to the audience, always on my own terms. It’s an art that encompasses dance, acting, sensuality and teasing (which I loooove) and tons of glamour, glitz, feathers, corsets and rhinestones! I never stood a chance - I was seduced by Burlesque! I mean...how could I resist?!
Who is your icon when it comes to burlesque?
Everyone always mentions Dita… I like Dita, but she’s not my favourite. I’ve watched her and she’s great but not what I aspire to be. I was always very inspired by the New York Burlesque scene which is very sexy / fierce / performance artsy and American Burlesque in general. In the early 1900s Burlesque was more about satire and comedy back in the UK...then it moved to the US and that is where it became the sexy art we know, back in the 20s and 30s… I am obviously also inspired by the Burlesque performers of the 20-30s, then the first revival in the 50s-60s (some of those legends are still alive and kicking ass), the bump and grind era. This revival of Burlesque started in the 90s and is now peaking! I’ve been doing Burlesque for 10 years but know performers who have been dancing for 20, even 30 years. I am inspired by all my beautiful friends too, and my mentees keep me pushing myself to be better. Inspiration is everywhere but no icons.
What was your proudest moment in burlesque?
I’ve had many proud moments over the years… but I guess producing MalTease - my big theater show that happens at the theater at Spazju Kreativ, St James Cavalier in Valletta. Producing the first ever MalTease - I couldn’t believe what I had managed to pull off. And every consecutive one is so amazing and unique and well received...it fills me with incredible joy and pride every single time and I always cry of joy on the last night. I also cried of joy and pride after performing at the Pride concert 2019!
Ever had an accident or distasteful experience that happened to you while performing?
In 2013 I was taking part in a Burlesque dance off in Miss Burlesque competition in Moscow and I remember the sensation and realization that I was falling (flat of my face type of fall) while dancing and somehow, no idea how, I managed to land into a split! I was gobsmacked! And once in Rome, in a club I watched a drunk guy put my tutu on his head after I had just taken it off and watched it bob through the crowd and out of the club on his head while I was still on stage. Sad day. Needless to say, he owes me a tutu.
What do you think about the local scene, do you feel like burlesque in Malta is underrated? When I started out there was nothing and it was hard. I did little things here and focused on making a name abroad and when people would ask about the Maltese scene, I would say “I am the scene”. I learnt a lot about performing and producing from travelling while here most of the time people were just confused and very few understood what I actually did. Then in 2015 I decided to put my gained knowledge and experience to the test, I produced the first show in Malta, cause I realised that if I don’t do it, no one else will. I never looked back. Now I teach, my mentees are starting performers too, under my guidance. I produce various shows on the island. Burlesque has been accepted and is loved, I won the uphill battle and I couldn’t be prouder. This is my legacy!
Tell us a bit about the behind the scenes that goes on before the time to perform comes around. It takes about 3 hours to get ready for a 5 minute performance and that’s just hair and make up on a given day. This is something people don’t see and therefore don’t realize. I’d love to say “I woke up like this” but let’s be real. Not to mention making the costumes, hours of rhinestoning I put in weekly, choreography, cutting the music, managing my productions, my mentees, my website, social media, my tours and travel… I do everything myself. I am my own manager. It’s a lifestyle and 5 full time jobs and I freaking love it. Oh, the glamour of it all.
You run your own burlesque classes, tell us your story about how it started and what it entails. I run BAM - the Burlesque Academy of Malta. It’s all inclusive and all welcoming. I have Beginner and Advanced classes. My Advanced showgirls and showboys are my mentees and we are basically a family, they are my Burlesque children! I started back in 2014 when I felt I had sufficient experience with 4 years of Burlesquing under my belt. At first I had students come and go, I had women who wanted to learn to dance sexy for their partner, which is fair and fun but I wanted more. I wanted what I have now - both students who do it for fun but also students who want to become performers. I am growing my scene and it means everything to me. And I also do a lot of work with female and human empowerment, I give lectures and teach workshops. Burlesque is body positive, it boosts confidence, it is fun and flirty and helps get in touch with the sensual self, I think everyone should try it once and feel that surge of power, confidence and happiness.
You had your successful show called MalTease - what is MalTease and what can the audience expect?
MalTease is my dream show and my baby! MalTease brings local talent and International foreign Burlesque stars together on one stage in Malta for the audience to enjoy. You never know what you’re going to get but all I can say is that you’re in for a funny, sexy, shocking, new experience. MalTease is all about variety - all shapes and sizes, colours and races, genders and orientations., and styles of Burlesque are represented. We break down stereotypes and ideas of who deserves to be on stage. I book great performers from all around the world. Last year, for example, I had a Swiss-Indian performer Misty Lotus who staplered herself on stage after doing a beautiful feather fan dance. I also had a Performer from New Zealand - Chris Oh, who is a beautiful, shredded Adonis of a man and danced ballet-boylesque on pointe to Lana Del Ray, he is also Mr Gay World 2013, won the title of Most dazzling at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Vegas and is currenty the Number 1 performer in Europe… So... Come see for yourself next time!
How has Covid-19 affected you as a performer and a mentor? I had a busy busy year ahead… you know those “this will be my year” memes? I approach every year this way but I really did have some amazing plans this year which have all been cancelled or postponed. First my tour in March/ April, all Spring and Summer shows. However, I am working on costumes, acts and future shows. I try to work out and stay motivated. I teach online and we are learning new group choreography, I host online crafting sessions and video call my mentees a lot!
Any future plans after this whole pandemic is over?
Planning to come back with a bang! I know Burlesque will survive this and I am already planning the next MalTease, however it is clear that entertainment and gathering will be re-introduced slowly. I am ready to get back on stage and first host BAM students’ showcase and then start producing shows again, but we will do so when it is safe, for everyone’s sake. Until then sending everyone virtual hugs! It’s great to be productive now but if you need some lazy days, go for it! Keep the sparkle in your hearts, I’ll be back to thrill and tease you again soon!
Thank you Undine for lending me your time to get to know you even better as an artist and I can honestly say I am a super proud friend! Keep glittering my stunning little tease! Hope you, the reader enjoyed my little interview and hope to see you next Saturday right here on my blog! You can also find Undine Laverve across all social media platforms by typing in her name - follow her, support her and give her some mermaid loving!
Sandy hugs and salty kisses,