Miss Burlesque Melbourne 2018 | Wildcard feature – Miss Maple Rose
What do you get when you combine imported prime cut bacon and Canadian maple syrup – Miss Maple Rose is one glazed flavour explosion known as “Australia’s Classiest Piece of Bacon.” She embodies a perfect blend of old Hollywood and good old fashioned parody. With her trademark burnished auburn hair and bright eyes the self-pronounced ambassador for the True North is the newly sashed Miss Burlesque Melbourne and she’s heading West with one of the coveted wildcard spots at the 2018 Miss Burlesque Australia Grand Final.
Maple began her performing career as a ballerina, giving her the unfalteringly impeccable dance technique that could only come from years of training. As a fresh faced 18-year-old, Maple moved from Canada to Australia where she gave up her ballet career, however, she didn’t stray far from the stage. She took up working just behind the curtains as an independent production designer in the Sydney theatre scene.
Bursting onto Sydney’s burlesque scene in 2011, Maple performed on the infamous stages of 34B, The Peel, Mr Falcon’s and was a resident performer at Sydney’s longest running weekly burlesque night at Dome Bar. Her professional experience as a costume and set designer has given rise to her glamorously vibrant and unique creations that blend texture, shapely silhouettes and a grand architectural aesthetics reminiscent of tableau vivant brought to life.
In 2015 Maple and her partner moved to Stockholm where she began a performance residency at Sweden’s one only burlesque bar – Melt Bar & Restaurang. From Canada to Australia to Sweden and back, Maple has graced stages across four continents.
No newcomer to a competition, Maple competed in the 2014 State Final of Miss Burlesque NSW and in the same year won first runner up at Burlesque Idol Sydney. Her festival performance appearances include an international roll-call of some of the best in the biz including the Australian Burlesque Festival (2014, 2015 and 2017), the Perth International Burlesque Festival (2015), the London Burlesque Festival (2016), the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2016), and a bumper 2017 where she performed at The Melbourne Fringe Festival, Congress on Undress and the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
Alyssa Kitt caught up with Maple to chat about drinking smooth whiskey next to roaring fires, long walks on the banks of Lake Ontario and what makes her Australia’s classiest piece of bacon!
You’re an established performer and this is your second time competing in Miss Burlesque Australia – what made you want to enter in 2018?
At the end of 2017, I was feeling pretty flat and becoming desperate to wet my creative juices again. For a while now I’ve been focusing on producing and doing more behind the scenes, which in the end wasn’t as fulfilling as my performance art. I knew I needed to throw myself out there to showcase my unique talents, and there is no better way to do it Australia wide than to enter the largest national competition we have in our art form. Miss Burlesque Australia gives you the rare opportunity to create acts for large stages. It was my prerogative to create the biggest and loudest acts I could for this competition, both of which have actually been idling for 4 years in boxes in my parent’s basement.
You’ve been in burlesque for a number of years – how long have you been performing? What was your first experience of burlesque? You’re an amazing trained ballerina as well, tell us about your dance upbringing.
For years I worked as an independent production designer (set and costume) in the Sydney theatre scene, and during production of my first show out on my own I met the remarkable Lauren LaRouge. She was casted as a chanteuse in “The Schelling Point” at the Old Fitz Theatre back in 2010 and we hit it off immediately. I went to watch a few of her burlesque shows and slowly wiggled my way into the scene by making corsets and costumes. After almost a year of knowing her, she finally convinced me to grace the stage at her amateur open night called “The Peel” at the Slide Bar on Oxford Street. I debuted my “sassy tailor” act, which was a parody of my costume designer career. It was shaky, and pretty raw, but little did I know that this act would stick with me and become my ‘unique’ act that I am bringing to the Miss Burlesque Australia Grand Final in Perth 8 years later!
I moved from Canada to Australia when I was 18, and with that gave up my career as a ballerina. For 12 years I performed in the annual production of The Nutcracker at Christmas, and in a small young dance company called YMI dancing. It’s common to give up dancing once you start university, and for the 3 years of my study I craved a physical creative outlet. I lived in residence and with that was offered the opportunity to choreograph, direct and produce our college’s musical and cabaret productions.
Describe your burlesque character/persona in three words.
I had an old regular from Melt Bar describe me as ‘elegant, energising and effervescent.’ He repeatedly, and drunkenly, kept on insisting I was effervescent. It became a bit of an inside joke at the venue. Lucky I like champagne.
What do you think is your most identifiable aspect to you as a performer? What is Maple Rose famous for?
Maple Rose has been described as the ‘unwanted love-child of Tempest Storm and Lucille Ball.’ I’ve always been inspired by the glory of old hollywood and the glamour of showgirls. I remember watching “The Ziegfeld Follies” on repeat as a child. Even when I was 8, I had my mother explain that I could audition to become a Blue Bell Girl at the Folies Bergere in Paris if I was ever tall enough (turns out I’m a shorty pants, and shamefully the Folies Bergere only houses musicals now). So when I started burlesque I knew I’d focus primarily on the classic style. I dabbled with a few neo acts in my early days, but always reverted back to classic. Even my “unique” act is done in a classic swing-charleston dance style.
Through my years of experimenting with the classic style, the core roots of burlesque being the “art of parody” has became a primary focus. So many girls take themselves seriously when they perform in the classic style, but I believe it’s imperative to remember where ‘burlesque’ came from. It’s origins are in comedy! The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘burlesque’ is “an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody,” with it’s second definition being ‘a variety show, typically including striptease.’ So my art form focuses on combining slapstick humour with classic showgirl elements. It’s been a lifetime of work to get to this point in my art – work I never even knew I was doing!
You’ve recently been busy with your work as a teacher and producer in Melbourne. Tell me more!
Yes, for about a year and a half I have been producing events here in Melbourne. I co-founded Highway Robbery Productions with Bettie Bombshell which produces the After Hours Cabaret Club and Red Light Confidential here in Melbourne, however in January this year I decided to step away to focus more on creating my art. I still produce a small show at my fiancé’s pub, Burlesque at the Woodlands Hotel, which is run bimonthly in their beautiful upstairs dining room. We recently sold out our last show on June 30th, with the next booked for August 18th.
As for teaching, I teach beginners sewing at Maison Burlesque to help students gain the skills they need to make their own costumes for their routines. I’m absolutely adoring watching all of my students excel at a skill that is not usually taught in our traditional “burlesque schools.” The course is split into two 4-week modules with the intent on finishing a full classic burlesque costume from the g-string to the panel skirt, and a robe to match! It’s a lot to learn in 8 weeks, but the skills you learn in this sewing course are the basis for sewing all costume pieces. You learn how to handle stretch materials in Module A, and then learn how to draft a basic pattern for yourself in Module B. We’re currently halfway through term 3, with Module B starting on July 14th. Term 4 will begin on Monday nights on August 12th.
You were living and performing in Europe for some time what are some of the highlights of your career so far?
Yes, for 2015-2016 my fiancé and I spent a year living in Stockholm where I was a resident performer at the one and only burlesque bar in Sweden, Melt Bar & Restaurang . It was an amazing experience performing nightly in a really fast paced environment. It taught me who I was as a performer, and forced me to refine my character to be entertaining for ALL audiences. The Swedes are renowned to be incredibly quiet and polite, so it was a shock at first to be performing to “clinically dead” audiences. However they always came up after the performance to tell me that it was one of the best acts they’ve ever seen. That experience was life-changing. The beauty of working at Melt with an amazing team of performers was also tutoring the newer performers in their art form. I felt a bit like a mumma bear and I believe that my work (alongside my burlesque wifey – Delta Daggers) really changed the caliber of performance at the venue.
While in Europe I did get to tour a bit and performed at the London Burlesque Festival and spent a few weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Both were amazing experiences – especially meeting performers from around the world and diving into the fringe arts world. That whole year threw me into the fringe artist lifestyle. I felt in love and have stuck with it full time since!
How did you prepare for the competition? What was your game plan/ goals?
To be quite honest, I’ve been prepping for this competition since the last time I competed back in 2014! My poor traditional gown was cut out of it’s pattern back in 2014 then stored in my parents basement for 3.5 years, just waiting to be pulled out and sewn together. And my waterfall fans have been shoved in a box since Miss Burlesque NSW 2014! In January this year when the competition was announced, I knew that this was the year to bring my all. I’ve grown so much as a performer in the past 4 years that I felt ready to take on this huge endeavour, and to revive these 2 acts that have been sitting idle for so long! I started rehearsing even before I applied – choosing the music for my traditional and piecing together inspiration. The next huge step was obtaining all of my amazing feathery goods for my traditional, and friends like Sina King came to the rescue and made my custom ‘cloud’ King Size Boa, and sold me extra white ostrich boas so my waterfall fans could get a boost!
For my unique, I pulled together an amazing team to help me get through. Of course my dance partner Chris Politis and my assistant Haven Noir are primary participants in this ridiculous act, but there were many other people behind the scenes helping me create this masterpiece. My amazingly engineered costume was created by Asphyxia Couture. We began working on the inspiration to figure out how to magically split a dress on command way back in January. I’m so happy with the outcome – Ivy is a genius and such a pleasure to work with, and the trick works seamlessly (pardon the pun!). I knew I was a bit over my head when it came to choreographing 3 people onstage, so I called on the amazing Zelia Rose to help me choreograph the swing/charleston routine. We rehearsed for about 2 months before the comp date to ensure our timing was correct, but most importantly that his dressing and my undressing were choreographed with care. The mirroring is so important to the theme of this piece, and it took a bit to ensure all pieces were in the right place!
My main prerogative was to get together an amazing team, ask for advice whenever I needed it, and ensure I don’t make my fiancé go insane!
Tell me about your routines:
My traditional act is a tribute to the burlesque stars of yesteryear. Think the poise of Gypsy Rose Lee, the coyness of Tempest Storm, the grace of Sally Rand, and the slapstick of Lucille Ball; all wrapped up into one tornado of sticky sweet goodness! The costume, made completely by me, is inspired by the mermaid gowns worn by burlesque stars in the 1950’s with a touch of fluffy goodness from the fashions of the early 1900s. The main prerogative of this act is to combine the striptease and fan dancing of mid-century burlesque with origins of burlesque as parody from vaudeville, the baroque period, and comedy acts up until the strip clubs opened!
My unique act was inspired by my career in costume design and tells quite a silly little story. I play the role of one of Australia’s most “iconic” fashion designers who has finally branched out into men’s tailoring. Her suits are bright and obnoxious, with a pleasantly classic aesthetic – just like my performance style. But what happens when everything begins to unravel? With charleston kicks and a small trick up my sleeve, this act is just pure entertainment.
What was the first thing that came into your head when you were offered the Wild Card spot for the Grand Final?
I was ecstatic! I was a little bit heartbroken to have my journey end at the State Final as I had put so much time, effort and money into the competition. I was honoured to know that the producers of MBA thought my work was of a high enough caliber to move onto the next round. I did initially think, “SHIT! HOW AM I GOING TO PAY FOR THIS?” but this competition does mean a lot to me so I knew I’d make it work. I’ve run fundraiser workshops at Maison Burlesque, and put pedal to the medal saying yes to as many gigs as I can before the competition, and sold some of my vintage clothing to raise the funds to fly us all over. I’m so stoked to be going to Perth to compete with the winners of each state. I don’t think they know what’s coming!
Did you enjoy your 2018 Miss Burlesque experience and would you recommend entering this State Final?
Oh yes! If you want to push yourself to your limit as an artist, sign up and compete! You just never understand your limits as a performer until you’re put under that pressure. You also get to create large acts and perform them on a big stage! That’s such a rarity in our art form and it’s great to push yourself to create such a big piece. It forces you to showcase your best. Plus getting amazing photos, footage and publicity pushes your career forward in such a positive and supportive light.
Follow Maple Rose’s journey to the Miss Burlesque Australia Grand Final in Perth: