First published on 3 Apr 2013. Updated on 27 May 2013.
Former showgirl Cassandra Jane made a move into burlesque four years ago and has since become the owner of Miss Burlesque Australia, with a custom costume company, Show Girl Couture. Her slogan, “bring back the showgirl”, represents her mission to combine modern-day showgirl and stripper routines with tasteful burlesque and Parisian cabaret, to create something new and decidedly glittering. Make sure you catch the Grand Final on May 25.
Can you tell us about your first ever burlesque performance and how you felt?
It was four years ago at Red Bennies. I performed my puppet show, which is a crowd pleaser and side-stitchingly funny. I had been performing it as a showgirl for eight years and was over the moon when I was able to turn it into a burlesque routine. My first time performing a classic burlesque act was only two years ago, on the stage of the Eros Shine Awards (the adult industry awards). It was important that I prove to the burlesque community that I was worthy of the Miss Burlesque World title I had won in the USA last year.
How does our scene compare to the US scene?
I think the best burlesque is performed by the legends who have been doing it since the ’60s and ’70s. They know how to work a crowd and how to get your blood pumping. Over the past four years Miss Burlesque Australia has been pushing our performers to perform better and invest money in their costumes and props, along with attending more professional classes. This has made our Aussie performers stand out from the rest and I believe, after seeing this year’s Miss Burlesque state finals, we have some of the best performers in the world. Our very own Imogen Kelly won Miss Exotic World 2012 at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas last year. This year, our 2011 Miss Burlesque Australia winner, Sina King and our Miss Burlesque Queensland 2013 have been accepted into competing in this same competition. This makes me very proud of what Miss Burlesque Australia has done for the Australian burlesque community in terms of international acknowledgement.
Which country or city really knocks you for six?
I love Paris. Their shows don’t feature the modern form of burlesque, but Parisian Cabaret is amazing. The Lido was jaw dropping.
Who do you think has what it takes to be Miss Burlesque World 2013?
Oh, I have a favourite but I’m not saying! There are a couple of black sheep in amongst the white. The standard is very, very high this year and really, it can be anyone’s crown. The contestants are so amazing and polished – not a bump or shake gets missed or overlooked. If you haven’t seen burlesque before, or have and didn’t think much of it, this is the year to come along, as the contestants are all five-star performers.
These days burlesque has lots of offshoots. Are you a purist, or do you enjoy things like gorelesque?
No, I don’t enjoy gorelesque and I don’t really allow it in the competition. It has a very small cult following and the general public are not normally too impressed. Miss Burlesque is for the masses, not a small minority.
So which Melbourne venues and performers do you think have stayed true to the values of burlesque?
Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of bad burlesque and wannabes out there, but I would have to say Red Bennies, the Spiegeltent and a few individual producers really know their stuff and how to put on a great show. Artists like Becky Lou, the Strawberry Siren, Bella de Jac, Gypsy Wood – just to name a few – are worth their weight in gold.
In addition to your talents on stage you are also the owner and head designer of your own custom-made costume outlet, Show Girl Couture.
I have been sewing since I can remember. I was taught by my mother and went on to create what would become known as masterpieces within the showgirl adult industry. I really only make for my own shows now and for my personal wardrobe, as I don’t have to much time to spend sewing with all this performing and producing going on. I do love it as it relaxes me. I have one piece that I have made in the competition this year, which is worn by the Strawberry Siren in her Tinkerbell act.
As a mother and a professional entertainer, you must be busy. Does your daughter enjoy seeing you dress up?
Yes, that is an understatement! She has always had costumes and sewing around her, big headpieces, etc. After I make something for someone or myself it is a tradition for her to pop it on and I take a photo. She knows mummy does burlesque but she thinks it’s like the movie – as she loves the movies. For her, it’s more like sexy jazz dancing. I don’t allow her to be a part of any of it. She will watch the clips I make up of the competition, if I know it’s not telling an adult story, but at the end of the day what the classic burlesque performers do is no worse than what is shown on music clips on the TV or in fashion magazines.
Last year you stole the show at the Australian Burlesque Festival’s premier event, ‘The Big Tease’. What can we expect for ABF 2013 in June?
I wouldn’t say I stole the show. I messed it up with my corset getting stuck so my whole routine was made up on the spot! I’m not the producer of this event and I won’t be performing in it this year as I’ll be overseas competing, but I can tell you that the costumes and props are breathtaking. Australian Burlesque Festival is lucky to have Miss Burlesque around to push these girls to their limits and to create three new routines they can pick to use.