Lots of Risk, Great Reward: Tristan Risk
Whether she is on a stage taking off her clothes or under the big top hanging by her hair, Tristan Risk is a performer for the ages. As Little Miss Risk in Vancouver's Sweet Soul Burlesque troupe and multi-disciplined talent in Sex at the Circus, Tristan is well-known and much admired for her diverse and wild performances.
Sexlife Canada discussed all things stage and performance with this treasure of temptation.
SLC: How did you get into burlesque?
TR: It's funny, actually, Lot's of girls now are getting into burlesque as sort of a personal development project in order to explore their sexuality, or work out some inner issues or simply experiment with the stage. I got into burlesque strictly as a joke at first. A friend of mine was having a birthday party for her boyfriend and asked if I, knowing had a theatre background, would be interested in doing a take-off in the vein of Marilyn Monroe's 'Happy Birthday.' Of course I was game, I did and it proved popular (naked comedy is always a win/win situation). This fellow had a band and later approached me about opening for them the following weekend. One things led to another and here I sit now.
SLC: Who are your burlesque/performing inspirations?
TR: When I initially started burlesque I had two major influences: Dita Von Teese and Alice Cooper. Now, as I have grown and changed I still count them at the forefront but that list has also now encompassed Satan's Angel (fire tasseler), Dusty Summers (first nude magician), David Williamson (great magician), Jim Henson, Lady Gaga...the list goes on. There are lots of inspirations that all play facets in the influence of ideas and numbers...it's just grown beyond what my initial classic showgirl/horror concepts were.
SLC: How would you describe your style of performance: classic, modern, mix of both or something entirely different?
TR: There's two styles that I do fairly frequently: gorelesque and cyberlesque. Both are subgenres of the burlesque movement, the former being more horror-based with a 'splatter' element, and the latter being more sci-fi/electronica based. I like to do an equal mix and try to have a strong costume/prop, good choreo, and at least one trick that people weren't expecting. This is the holy trinity in a strong burletta, I feel. Bonus points if I can combine all these factors and manage to incorporate any two different genres in the same piece.
SLC: What is your favourite routine to perform?
TR: I have one I've been doing for a while now...I call it the 'magic pearls.' I cut off my string of pearls, place one in a champagne glass, pour champagne over it, then swallow the pearl. I place my giant fur stole over myself and when I remove it my dress has completely disappeared (hurrah for magic) and underneath I'm wearing strings of pearls, Japanese rope bondage-style. I then pull a string of pearls a yard in length out of my lady parts, place them in the glass and pour the remaining champagne over them and drink from the glass. It's been very popular with the fetish set, I also have the pleasure of using a Vancouver-based band Fake Shark-Real Zombie! track, which is perfect for the mood and tone of the piece.
SLC: If you could have just one special person in the audience for that routine, who would that person be?
TR: Just one? Hmm...I'd love an opportunity to perform that for a number of people, but I'd love to do the number live for the friend that put me onto that song in the first place, which is what inspired me to do the number.
SLC: Do you think burlesque has gone mainstream, and if so, is that a bad thing?
TR: I do think it has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years. With films like Burlesque, which had little or nothing to do with the art form itself and everything to do with capitalizing on the word. With Legs Avenue's lines of 'Burlesque' costumes, it's hard to ignore that it's been creeping more and more into most people's daily life through pop culture mediums. This is very much a watered down version of what we do. My close friend, cohort, and strip-hop artist Crystal Precious phrased it well: "The film Burlesque with Xtina and Cher and likening it to real burlesque is like doing a film called 'Dubstep' and having it feature Chris Brown and Akon." But there is the hope that even with this weak distortion of what we do, it will influence people to seek it out and pursue it and maybe appreciate the real deal. I don't think that it's a bad thing because it helps shine some light on what we do, which is still very much an underground art form.
SLC: How did you get into circus performing and what do you do?
TR: I have always been interested in circus performances, but it was Callio P. Cock who heads Sex At The Circus who showed me this amazing marriage of burlesque and circus stunts together. She has always had a huge passion for the circus and all things circus-related. I had performed my magic act in one of her shows and then she approached me with the idea of doing more and more, such as the hair hang. I'm used to doing sleight of hand and illusions where there is a trick or gimmick involved. With these acts like walking up a ladder of swords, jumping on broken glass or playing with fire, there is no trick, you're actually doing it and there is risk involved. But that's part of the allure is that there isn't a sneaky way to do it—you just practice your technique and take your craft seriously. No faking it here, folks!
When I started doing the hair hang I had just gone through a bad break up (with my former band). As you do when you have a major parting of ways, I was thinking of doing something extreme with my hair, which is rather long. Callio, as well as being a stellar performer, also has a beauty parlour called East Vanity and was doing my hair. Actually, what she was doing was feeling it up. While we were discussing what I was thinking of doing to it she said, "You know, you've got really nice, long hair..." This alone should have set off an alarm bell in my brain. But then she was explaining the hair-hang thing to me, and showed me some footage on YouTube and I was sold on it. So I started practicing. Suffice to say, I never did do the extreme cut and colour I was thinking of. But then again, that's what wigs are for! I've done fire for a number of years as part of the road show, eating, contact and spinning fire tassels, and I am part of the balancing act in the Strongwoman number. I also do my magic number as well so I have a few things I offer but primarily as a magician/suspension artist.
SLC: What advice would you give to an aspiring performer?
TR: Research and practice your craft. Love what you do. Respect yourself and other performers. Work hard, strive for originality. Have drive to bring the best performance you can to the stage for the people who come to see you. Take pride in what you do.
SLC: What projects do you have coming up?
TR: Musicals, and music festivals and fetish nights, oh my!
- Terror At Rock Out Beach the Strip-scial which will run from August 18th to August 27th at the Waterfront Theatre in Vancouver
- Hosting the 2nd Annual Dead On Film zombie film festival August 19th at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver
- Kicking off the new Restricted Fetish Night August 27th at Club 23 West in Vancouver
- Participating in Vancouver Fringe Festival in Night Of The B Movie at the Cultch in Vancouver Sept. 9th–17th
- Haunting you in Spectral Theatre's 'Night Of The Succubus" September 29th and run Thursday, Friday and Saturday until October 15th.
- and of course every Thursday night at the Keefer Bar in Chinatown for Sweet Sip Thursdays with fresh sets at 10PM, 11PM and midnight.
What can I say? Showgirl for life!