Tag Archive | transcendence

A Fairytale, or Origin Myth of Clarissa Cupcake (AKA My First Burlesque Experience)

lick

So sweet you will go into diabetic shock!

Once Upon a Time,

There was a graduate student named Natasha Lee Q-T. She wanted to share the most beautiful revelation of her graduate school life with her peers and professors, so she wrote the following tale entitled:

Bringing Sexy Back: “Joining” in Cultural Experiences

Spring 2012 115

Do you want it? I don’t believe you.

I first arrive at the Boston Babydolls Dance Studio, soaking from the heavy rain pouring outside. With trembling hands, I clutch my purse tightly to my chest as a flock of nervously giggling girls in leggings and high heels emerge. Everyone appears giddy with anticipation. At 8pm, the door to room 208 opens, revealing a small, mirrored dance studio where the course instructor, Miss Mina, welcomes us into her domain.
“Which one of you is Natasha?” Miss Mina asks.
I raise my hand sheepishly and walk into the room. The door closes behind me. Having had a personal interest in burlesque and gender studies, I have chosen to observe this dance studio as an intern in the cultural psychoanalysis program, but my intention of merely “observing” begins to change as the prospect of joining the dancers becomes more enticing.
Miss Mina hands me an attendance sheet, and I nervously open the door and ask all of the other students their names. Miss Mina turns on some music, as I stand in the corner holding onto my notebook for dear life. I really want to be in this class – to dance with the other students – to learn burlesque. But that idea seems so far from reality that the mere concept makes me feel faint, and my heart flutters as Miss Mina approaches me.
She asks, “Natasha, would you like to participate in the class with the other students? Most of our interns like to participate in the beginning burlesque class.”
I feel myself blushing as I consider the prospect of dancing. I remind myself that I am here as a researcher, but then again, “joining” is utilized as a modern psychoanalytic approach… to the distaste of many contemporary academic disciplines! While the most respected researchers in anthropology, sociology, and “modern” psychology only ascribe value to data collected through detached, empirical, “objective” observation, psychoanalysts believe that participant observation is still a worthy pursuit. Although experts in various fields insist that subjective research methods like this are “archaic,” “naïve,” technologically “primitive,” and “biased” by participation, I began to wonder… Could one also be “biased” by lack of participation – especially because the concept of “objective” empirical research implies a hierarchical, superiority-based privileging of observation versus direct experience? It simply assumes that a researcher is the superior authority on culture – rather than those who live within it! Standing there lost in my thoughts I realize that in order to truly understand the psychological dynamics behind burlesque theater, I need to immerse myself in burlesque culture. And I am absolutely thrilled, and terrified.
With an electric shiver of excitement mixed with fear I stutter, “B-but… I… I don’t have any high heels or gloves. Are you sure I can be in your class?” Being a studious young lady, I had read the class description online before attending – and I knew that gloves and heeled shoes would be part of the lesson plan.
“It’s fine,” Mina replies. “I have some extra gloves you can borrow for now.”
A moment of panic washes over me. I have always loved performance art and dance, yet I have little experience as a dancer, and sometimes, I find myself to be a bit clumsy. My hand-eye coordination is weak, and I feel ill with trepidation…
Somehow I manage to gather enough courage to forget every insecurity I have about my body and my ability to dance. I forget that I am a chubby, short girl, and I feel a bizarre empowerment wash over me. So what if these other girls see me naked? No matter what, I’m seeing them naked… And some of them are even chubbier than I am! Besides, burlesque dancers never take off all of their clothes anyhow – it’s really just the equivalent of wearing a rather skimpy bikini…
Still reeling with panic, I manage to mumble, “Okay, I’ll join you.”
Standing there in front of the mirror, I become hyper-aware of my curves, my facial expression, my posture. A mirror can really intimidate a novice dancer by echoing each of your mistakes on its surface and revealing every false move to spectators. I cannot meet my own eyes in the mirror. Again, I am trembling violently, and as the music begins, the pounding of my heart becomes a roar in my ears.
Adrenaline fills my body, energizing me for a “fight or flight” response to this tremendously daunting task. As we begin warm-up exercises, I feel my face turning pink as I blush – I cannot help but giggle almost continuously – and a huge smile appears on my face in the mirror.
Am I actually enjoying this? Yes, very much! In fact, I feel as if a new sense of purpose and vitality is entering my body. Miss Mina’s voice interrupts my racing thoughts.
Miss Mina states, “The first important move you will learn in burlesque is the “bump.” Imagine yourself holding a big bag of groceries and exiting your car. How can you close the car door with your hands full? You can use your hip – like this!” Mina rapidly moves one hip up to the side, creating a sensuous curve with the side of her body. The entire class mimics her movements, and to my surprise I complete the maneuver with ease. Beaming with pride, I pretend I am balancing groceries on my hip while I close my imaginary car door – blowing an exaggerated kiss to myself in the mirror to thank myself for being such a good audience!
Mina continues, “The bump can be performed in four directions: right, left, forwards and backwards. The forward bump is similar to the “pelvic thrust” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It looks very suggestive – even lewd. But you will find that burlesque balances precariously between suggestive, erotic and sexual themes – as well as themes of innocence, coyness, and traditional female gender stereotypes. The perfect tease blend elements of both, hitting the “sweet spot” or harmony between two extremes. The result of this fusion is public display of female sexuality and eroticism that remains somehow veiled in a thin mist of propriety. Some of these dance moves – like the forward bump – are not what proper ladies do in public, but in burlesque they may be used sparingly to entice and insinuate. As women, we are told not to make such lewd gestures with our bodies, but I encourage you to overcome this social stigma to perform this dance move.”

{I am reminded of satyr plays… or satire. Burlesque, it turns out, is laced with the most addictive, decadent, rich and delicious satire – that I thought it only fitting to eventually name myself after my favorite sweet yet deadly desert… and Clarissa Cupcake was born. Unlike Venus, born of sea foam, I imagined myself born of frosting… and perhaps sprinkles! It was like an endless sugar rush without the cavities or health concerns}.
The “bump” move is easy for me to pick up, though the forward and backward versions of the maneuver were far more difficult to perform than the side-to-side motions. I laugh at myself in the mirror, realizing that I am effectively humping the air in front of me. It does not look particularly sexy to me, but my performance seems adequate. As we practice removing our gloves in various ways, I begin to feel more confident and poised, and I am amazed how well I can actually dance!
After the class, I glance in the mirror and find my own image smiling back at me. My cheeks glow with warmth, and I feel intoxicated with elation. As I look in the mirror I realize how long it has been since I have seen myself so confident and happy and wonder how I became so estranged from joy in my adult life. I feel alive, radiant, and absolutely ecstatic! Tired yet excited, I leave class with a renewed passion for gender studies and even more determination to expel gender prejudice through research.
Perhaps my experience offers the perfect example of the power behind “joining” as a psychological mechanism in group membership. If I had never allowed myself to join the burlesque fantasy, I would not have developed the strong relationship I now have with the Boston Babydolls. It just goes to show that even in the research world, you do not understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes… or rather, in their favorite pair of glittery high heels (should they happen to be a burlesque performer)!
It is through this process of shedding my clothes that I began to understand what psychoanalysts refer to as “dialectics”, and Buddhists refer to as “the middle way”, and thousands of philosophers, poets, etc. etc. pay homage to in their great works.Spring 2012 119
And from this greater understanding of this awe-inspiring place – the verge, horizon, cusp, crossroads, transition, and edge between worlds and concepts, where borders merge and the haze gives birth to new and strange things – that the Chain Reactions concept eventually emerged. No longer afraid of change or fluidity, I became an obsessed devotee of modular and hybrid design.

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Clarissa Cupcake Talk @ Teasecraft This Month!

Sugar & Spice…Naughty & Nice:
Burlesque-Inspired D.I.Y with Clarissa Cupcake

WHEN: March 21st, 7:30-9:30pm.

WHERE: Artisans Asylum (map) Multipurpose room.  Suggested donation $3-5.

Description~
Although rarely considered valid forms of technology – women’s contributions to fashion, jewelry, cosmetics, textiles, and the decorative arts serve as remarkable instances of innovation, technical prowess and skill – revealing the forgotten power of all seemingly trivial “decorative” techniques and practices.

Clarissa Cupcake will demonstrate the erotic potential of several surprising, unexpected genres – including scrapbooking, embroidery, beading and collage – and discuss the value of using feminine kitsche as a tool for psychological domination, power play, and humiliation. Fashion, jewelry, and cosmetics are explored as nuanced elements of erotic encounters, while themes of display, beauty and objectification are addressed. Emphasizing the role of gender as a powerful mental construct in erotic play, Clarissa will discuss how juxtaposing materials considered too cute, innocent and feminine for sex toys (e.g., lace, crystal, embroidery, ribbon, etc.) with more edgy, intimidating materials associated with masculine gender stereotypes (leather, metal, chain, etc.) can be used to elevate the experience of both dominance and submission. This effect is pronounced especially when stereotyped expectations do not match how an object or material is used – that is, when innocent materials inflict pain, and intimidating materials produce pleasure.

Examples from her burlesque costumes and props are used to visualize this tension between seemingly contradictory materials. She will show examples of her work as a visual artist and designer – along with her favorite tools and materials – finishing her talk with a short description of how color, texture and form can influence the power dynamic of any social interaction, concluding that erotic practices can enhance interactions in everyday social encounters, playing a key role in mental health and personal well being.

About~
Clarissa Cupcake is a cultural psychoanalyst, fashion/jewelry designer, inventor, and burlesque performance artist. She is the owner and founder of Lace Exoskeleton (lace-exoskeleton.com), and was recently awarded a provisional patent for her “Chain Reactions” modular jewelry and fashion design concept.

Lace Exoskeleton represents an artistic collective with the shared vision of empowering individuals to construct, enhance and assume artistic authorship over their identity and aesthetic persona. Specifically, Lace Exoskeleton encourages consumers to utilize sustainable, eco-friendly, and modular concepts to create their very own, personalized “exoskeleton” of collaged, appropriated, and collaborative fashion pieces that form a continuous artistic gesture we refer to as “identity”. By encouraging customers to think about body decoration as an art form, Clarissa hopes to empower people to see fashion as a deeply personal, meaningful collection of symbols, colors, textures and design details that capture the essence of deeply personal content – from actual memories and recollections to inner visions, fantasies, desires, and unrealized dreams. Through transforming everyday consumer choices into spiritually meaningful, artistic, and emotionally engaging collective experiences, she hopes to refocus consumer desire to favor sustainable, ethical, and artisan-made products and services. You can visit Clarissa Cupcake and her partner in crime, Pinkbeetle, in the following places:

Lace Exoskeleton Studios: The Artisans Asylum, Somerville, MAStudio #69 (no need for a
pneumonic device to remember this address!)

Website: Blog, D.I.Y. resource, upcoming events resource, & collective art
project: lace-exoskeleton.com

Facebook: Lace Exoskeleton, Clarissa Cupcake

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Merry Material World! Capitalist Distortions of Sacred Rituals, Sacrifice and Spiritual Celebrations

Is you holiday about getting the cheapest price, securing the rarest limited edition collectible items and competing with others to win the title of champion gift giver? The survival of the fittest mentality and pervasive sense of aggression, competition, ownership, possession, desperation, and impulsive consumption suggests that we need to re-evaluate our American Ideology, and ask ourselves whether our over-zealous, flashy, and often financially irresponsible “holiday spirit” truly reflects charity, or something more complex and far darker. The charitable spirit of the season reflects a time when humans traditionally faced very real scarcity of vital resources – food, shelter, warmth, water, fire, animals to hunt or slaughter, plants to forage or harvest – and they needed to collectively create an insurance network that would prevent dissent into chaos as more and more good families ran out of key resources, and began to revert to wild, fight or flight responses in desperation. Stealing, aggression, and violence emerged only when their needs were ignored, and those who still had stores kept the excess for themselves. This season is about sharing what we have to prevent one another from sliding into homelessness, poverty, starvation, deprivation, and scarcity. Gifts are used to recalibrate social and psychological balance between two individuals who can enhance one another’s wealth, prevent suffering or exchange one needed resource for another. Charity is about giving to those who need; but it is also about giving what is sustainable – not the excessive, unaffordable, financially reckless gestures that we feel pressured into performing because charity has been made into a competitive sport to increase profits. Think about your options, and choose gifts that enhance the stability, beauty, connectedness, and emotional bond in your relationships. Do not turn you into a frenzied, desperate consumer; Charity is not about suffering – true charitable acts feel good, and trade personal excess for affection, love, and a reciprocal promise to share with one another

The American spirit of competition pervades every facet of our lives, and in recent years an unhealthy, obsessive, unsustainable, and culturally destructive mentality has infiltrated even the most sacred aspects of human life. Ritualistic seasonal celebrations – like Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and Kwanza – emerged as a defense against the constant decent into primitive aggression and moral depravity created by the traumatic winter/drought season. The natural scarcity of food, water, heat, light, and many other life forms during these cyclical cleansing periods (which made room for new growth by shedding worn out, diseased, non-functional structures that would otherwise become destructive in their overgrown state) impeded human culture for thousands of years because humans could not understand the benevolent, merciful, healing qualities of annual death and rebirth cycles. Not perceiving that this cyclical redistribution of energy remains critical to ecological balance (much like a last resort defense against overpopulation) humans overlooked the very conceptual framework that could save them from their seasonal suffering. The winter/drought season (much like sleep and rest function in neural/physical healing processes) destroys mostly the broken, corrupt, excessive, unsustainable, suffocating, stagnant and overgrown/overpopulated manifestations of life energy that have become redundant, mutated, destructive or simply detrimental to harmony, balance, cooperative co-existence and function. Like an overgrown tree that blocks all light, and kills every seedling below it, humans can become resource sucking monsters, especially when they are overpopulated; however, our unique gift is that we can choose to share and redistribute energy before we become unbearably oppressive and detrimental to the system. The tree cannot prune its branches to let the light in; but we can give others what they need, and we do not. Thus, until humans could emulate this seasonal process by controlling their own excessive hoarding, and sharing surplus wealth, the annual dark age persisted each year. As various cultures replaced some exclusive/individual ownership codes with a higher ethical responsibility compelling generosity/sharing/charity with those who have contributed, but due to circumstance or chance did not reap the same rewards – they finally overcame the yearly dark age that stifled cultural advancement. Through communal stores of surplus wealth, food, and critical resources that could be shared over the coming months, everyone was ensured survival, security, and cultural stability, harmony, and reciprocity. The joy, cheer and warmth of the holidays reflect this interconnectedness and our interdependent nature as human beings. In the end, exclusive ownership of one’s harvest only seemed sensible to those whose crops were not affected by disease, natural disaster, or drought, but it remains painfully obvious that no one could predict, avoid, or circumvent the random hardships and deprivation/scarcity to come.

A dark age often polarizes the gap between rich and poor – but humans posses the “divine gifts” of various spiritual insights brought upon by the cyclical random suffering of seasonal scarcity. Suffering evokes transcendence, inner peace, compassion and eventually, human cultural/physical/spiritual evolution. Like sunrise follows darkness, dark ages can only precede enlightened ones. When humans have evoked or re-discovered this higher purpose (a greater good, a holistic approach to poverty and starvation, interconnectedness, oneness – sometimes personified as a deity or god/goddess), new technological/cultural advancements can be implemented. Our celebrations, though formatted as rituals and practices – are a reminder of our inner darkness and search for light. The holidays evoke symbiotic interconnectedness, and remind us to redistribute wealth/skills/knowledge/resources and share shelter, food, and material goods to fend off the fight or flight desperation and oppression that engender and sustain all evil on this earth.

Burlesque Performance ~ Jaded Fetish Party

Burlesque Performance ~ Jaded Fetish Party

Clarissa Cupcake’s recent performance @ Jaded evokes the ecstatic transcendence of “head space”, erotic climax, and out of body experience – perhaps the frantic movement and elated glow of burlesque evoke sacred sexuality?