An Interview with Gigi Holliday on ‘La Boum’ at The L’Enfant Café

Gigi Holliday is one busy lady! From running a burlesque academy, to producing a regular show for performers of color to running three different shows at L’Enfant Café the only chance we had to chat with her was between La Boum performances, her weekend burlesque brunch show at L’Enfant.

Gigi @ the Howard. Photo courtesy of GiGi Holiday.
Gigi @ the Howard. Photo courtesy of GiGi Holliday.

Since this is our first time chatting let’s cover the basics – name, tagline and when and why did you get into burlesque.

Name: GiGi Holliday tagline: D.C. Legitimate Love child; Chocolate City Tittie; the chocolate that melts your heart. I got into burlesque in 2007 thanks to Trixie Little Burlesque Boot Camp in Baltimore. I wanted to try something different. My life was so boring. I went to work then came home and sat on the couch. That’s not living. So I took off my bra May 1st and never looked back.

And now besides performing, you’re teaching and producing

I perform, host, teach and produce. It’s…a lot

Tell us about the upcoming Chocolate Lounge at Songbyrd. You have a special guest …

Chocolate Lounge is happening March 18th at Songbyrd which is a new and exciting venue. We were going to have Sydni Devereaux, but unfortunately due to a scheduling snafu she will return for another date. We still have wonderful talent from Richmond, DC, and Maryland — Venessa Chevelle from Richmond, Carlita Caliente from DC, Dainty Dandridge and my right hand show girl Indianas Jewels.

And for folks who may not be familiar with Chocolate Lounge, it’s a burlesque/variety show for performers of color. Why do you think it’s important for there to be a show specifically for performers of color?

Gigi H. Photo courtesy of GiGi Holiday.
Gigi H. Photo courtesy of GiGi Holiday.

When people think of burlesque they think of Tempest Storm, Gypsy Rose Lee, and currently Dita von Tease. They have no knowledge that burlesque is more than just skinny caucasian women. They don’t know performers of color names such a Lottie the Body and Toni Elling both of whom I had the pleasure of meeting. They don’t know that a good number of the moves that they see the stereotypical burlesque dancer do were taken from shake dancers of yesterday. There were venues in San Francisco that were specifically for Asian performers. The chitlin circuit for black performers and so on. So Chocolate Lounge is educational as well as entertaining

How do you work that education into the show? And for my own education, what’s a shake dancer?

Before each act or as I host I give information about Performers of  Color. Tidbits. People walk away saying “I never knew that” or “that brings new light to things.” A shake dancer is associated with African American dancers in the 1920-50s as a burlesque type entertainment. They were also chorus girls in big shows for musicians. Rose Hardaway was a famous shake dancer. She was the last burlesque dancer at Howard Theater. Then I broke. I was the first in 60 years!

Awesome! See? You’re a natural teacher. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Studio Holliday.

It comes with being a nerd. Lol. I just like learning things and sharing it with the world. I never thought I would be teaching what I do in a million years.

And yet …

I have run two budding burlesque beauties which have graduated 18 amazing ladies. We started a new session of classes on March 6th. We are only going to do one budding burlesque beauties this year in the fall. We have a lot of other things we want to teach.

Such as …

Create and communicate: A positive alternative to the stitch and bitch. Wig care and maintenance. Fans, chairs and we are rolling out our dance for burlesque series. Hip hop for burlesque, ballet for burlesque, modern for burlesque and jazz for burlesque. An ASL interpreted burlesque class. And just so much more. I’m excited about our monthly peer reviews.

Oh awesome! Are there deaf performers on the scene?

There is not, YET. But we have a ton of deaf fans that would love to come to more shows.

Perfect! How long has Studio Holliday been around?

Since October 2014 in Anacostia. I started roving around from bar to homes and stores in June 2014.

And you have plans to do a boylesque class?

Yes I do. I have had male friends and wonderful audience members that want to shimmy and shake. They see Mr. Gorgeous and Ray Gunn and want to do what they do. Magic Mike also helped. Lol. It will be called Budding Boylesque Beaus. Date is TBA.

If folks want to enroll in Studio Holliday they should …

They can go to our website www.studioholliday.com  or email us at studioholliday@gmail.com.

So we’re catching you right now between La Boum shows.

Correct. We have three shows now at L’Enfant Cafe. La Boum brunches 10am and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. La Boum Boum Room on Saturday nights and our new event La Boum Platinum which is a Friday night dinner party that starts March 25th

Shazam! What’s the difference between the three?

The difference is energy. La Boum brunches are for the 20 something who wants to not have just mimosas. La Boum Boum room is taking nightlife and hanging them from their toes. You gave burlesque, games, go go dancers and a trapeze artist. La Boum Platinum is not your mom’s dinner party with screen dancers, intimate dinner and you get your desert from a woman – it’s on her!  It’s a tantric dinner experience.

Is there a trapeze rig at L’Enfant? Who does aerial work there?

chocolate lounge posterThere is a static trapeze and a net. We have three gentlemen. Miche, Pepe von Culo, and Luke. Miche and Pepe do trapeze and Luke does net.

I think I’ve covered everything that I was going to ask, anything else you want to get in?

I’m co-producer of the Capital City Burlesque and Vaudeville Festival. Coming soon! I think that’s it. I work really hard to put our scene as in D.C. on the map. I’m born and raised here so this is my home. I live, work and most of all make art here.  I just want everyone to see it and love it.

Chocolate Lounge Burlesque plays this Friday, March 18, 2016 at Songbyrd Café – 2477 18th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Doors at 8:30 pm show at 9:30 pm.Tickets $12 in advance online, $17 at the door. This show is 21 and over.

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Lucrezia Blozia
Lucrezia Blozia has been part of the local alternative performance scene since the early ‘90s (she started when she was 6). She was the leading, ahem, lady at notorious pervpunk theatre company Cherry Red where she honed her skills in plays like “Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack” and “Poona the F*ckdog and Other Plays for Children”. She was part of girl group Eva Brontosaurus in both New York and LA where the trio opened for Margaret Cho’s monthly burlesque show, The Sensuous Woman. She’s proud to have originated roles in all five years of Hope Operas and played everything from a flipper derby girl to a were-squirrel to a Pam Greer-type cop/barista. She’s a regular collaborator with Landless and Borealis Theatre Companies and Astro Pop Entertainment. She loves you and is surprisingly easy to work with for someone so simultaneously humble and exquisitely beautiful (oh and talented). You should hire her.