One of the many faces of the Burlesque world, Zora Von Pavonine, is one of the stars in the film “Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe. Coming from a background of dance, she found herself performing and loving Burlesque dance. We talked with her about the film, how she got involved, and why the fans are going to love this movie.
KRISTIN: You have an interesting and unique career. Tell us how you got into doing Burlesque.
ZORA: Quite by accident! Hip Hop was my primary dance format, and I kind of stumbled into burlesque. When I started in 2006, I had already been teaching and performing hip hop for the better part of five years and at the time, I figured it was a great opportunity to be on stage! Funny how something can come into your life and present as just another outlet to explore passion and turn into something that redefines life!
KRISTIN: You are featured in the film “Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe”. How did you get involved in this project?
ZORA: I met Julie (co-producer) through dance, she was a student of mine. She was taking classes from quite a few of the instructors at the studio, and many of whom, at the time, were part of an in-house burlesque troupe, putting on regular shows. Julie had come to a few of the shows and mentioned to Jon (husband/producer) that there really was something magic going on and he needed to come see. They came to a few shows together and from there the idea was born. They came with full lighting and cameras and filmed a show, that was in 2009. After that, there was a bit of a hiatus because the troupe somewhat disbanded and there really wasn’t a whole lot of burlesque locally at the time – maybe 10 performers or so, so the access to content wasn’t there. Then, around 2012, Jon came to me and said that he wanted to pick things up and was I still interested in being part of the journey. By then, I had embarked on my solo career and the Portland scene was blossoming… I remember the call when he shared his ideas about the what and how and my answer was “FUCK YES!”
KRISTIN: What do you hope the viewers learn from watching this film?
ZORA: AWARENESS! FEELINGS! I see a whole lot of misunderstanding about what burlesque is and encounter a devastating number of people who have never been to a show yet think they already know what it is. There seems to be this lurking and murky pocket of perception out there regarding burlesque that I tend to forget about until someone comes to a show for the first time and then says: I HAD NO IDEA.
None of us in the film are trying to define burlesque, simply share what it does for us personally. Burlesque is very magical for me (and for many of us) in that way, and to define it is a great disservice, not only to the range and depths to which the individual performing can take it, but devastatingly limiting to the viewing audience. You never want to say, of any art form: this is what it is, this is how to see it, this is how to feel it. You want your audience to bring their life experiences and their emotional availability forward and define it for themselves within the realm of what’s relevant to them, how it melds with their experiences and speaks to them creatively. My hope/goal for our documentary audience is the same as I have for my live show audience: to feel. Whether that’s excitement, connection, expansion, awareness, excitement, so on, I want them to feel… what it is they feel is entirely up to them based on who they are and what they bring in with them when they walk through the door… but the experience of feeling is one I want to give/share/receive with them.
KRISTIN: Burlesque is growing in popularity. What is the biggest misconception about burlesque or the performers?
ZORA: The one I run into the most is largely around the work put in and how glamorous it is. YES, glamour is involved, especially while on stage, but for every three, five, seven minutes spent on stage, that is hundreds and/or thousands of dollars/hours/E6000 sessions/hot glue gun burns/sewing needles broken/hours on the internet researching all of everything to find that one perfect thing/time on materials, costume making, accessories, classes, rehearsal hours, costuming hours, the list goes on. Burlesque, like any art form, is generally at it’s best when you don’t see the effort, you just see the results of the effort. Because burlesque is so presentational, and when performed well, appears so seamless, I find that there is this interesting streak of disillusion for the audience. Part of that is great, we are a believable character – oh what, this old 20lb, 5’ wide avant garde contraption that disappears off my body in 3 seconds? I wear this to the grocery store, silly! – and there is a thought that this is how it is every day all the time – again, not a bad thing! So when that awareness sets it that what they see on stage is a fraction of the effort put in in order TO BE ON STAGE, people generally seem very shocked…
KRISTIN: Why do you think Burlesque is growing in popularity so much now as it use to be very popular a long time ago?
ZORA: Like any industry, burlesque has its wax and wane moments and why or how something catches fire is always hard to locate with exactness, however, my decade of teaching and performing informs that it has largely to do with women owning their bodies, loving who they are right now, today – not 10, 20 whatever pounds less from now, right the fuck now. Women deciding to arrive to themselves…. unapologetically embodying themselves, stepping into love and working to undo all the bullshit conditioning society has been laying on us as women since we were born. There is such a drive for women to be less: less weight, less body hair, less wrinkles… the list goes on… women are taught that in order to be valuable they have to take up less space, be smaller, dimmer, and be aesthetically pleasing to contribute to the vanity landscape for the pleasure of the male gaze. Much of burlesque says fuck that noise. Many of the women who come to my classes have had their magic and sexuality snuffed out by the daily responsibilities of life be it work, family, parenthood, partnerships…incessant chatter from culture and society about all the ways we are not beautiful, not special, all the work we ‘have’ to do to be desirable, to be loveable, to be ‘successful’ in our careers, whether at the office or at the home… women are force fed a diet of ‘what do I have to do today to be more palatable?’ Burlesque invites women (and all genders, but for these purposes, I am speaking about women and the conditioning they face from birth, being female identified to society) to step into themselves and to love themselves as they are RIGHT now, embrace everything they bring with them on that exact day and every day forward. The emphasis of self-love, self-definition, self-embrace is truly what sets it apart. The foundation of my burlesque classes is that each student owns themselves fully and in that, must really dig to unearth what their definition of ‘sexy’ is, what their definition of ‘desire’ is, overthrow and unlearn the rest. Women get totally demolished through the conditioning that social acceptability comes only by adhering to the pre-determined standards of beauty/attractiveness, so on. It’s all of this and more that I attribute to burlesque’s popularity. It’s a channel and a platform to depart from all that and to practice self-definition.
KRISTIN: You worked with a few other performers and director Jon Manning. Did you have a lot of conversations or say in how the viewpoint of this film played out?
ZORA: [Not sure is this is known, so: Noting here that I am the associate producer which gave me a very different access and visibility to the process than the other performers who were interviewed and participated, which is what informs this next answer.] There was a lot of conversation about the shape the film was taking after each interview, what we learned, what we were seeing, how the original idea and concept of the film, which initially focused on humor/how sexy and funny were such a seductive combination, was really not where the heart was… you have to go in with some idea, some starting point of course, but large credits to Jon and Julie and the first layer of team who really saw the vibrancy of the stories and knew that there was something more, deeper there… I would say that none of us really ‘said’ how it would play out, we let the content and the people who knit the fiber of this documentary do that. Jon, Julie, the production team did a stunning job of handing over the reins to that content and letting it lead us, our job was simply to provide a framework wherein the stories could live!
KRISTIN: Where can we see this film?
ZORA: The film is premiering across the country currently and will be on VOD/iTunes starting 3/7. You can go to glittertribethemovie.com for details and please find and like us on socials!
KRISTIN: Do you keep a social media presence that we can keep up with your career and projects?
So excited for this film. Check it out at a theater near you and follow Zora on all of her above listed social media accounts. Let us know what you think of the film when you see it.