Miss Tosh | A Dance For All

Miss Tosh | A Dance For All

There are some things in life which are held with the esteem as performance art in its various forms. From ballet and jazz dance to puppetry and geisha fan dance. In these spaces there is an expectation to innovate or clasp onto tradition. Either way the sheer visceral experience of live performances has been ultimately halted amidst openings and closings of regions and the limitations of a 25% capacity. While we have to think of the safety of ourselves and others, we are creatures who need social exchange and the entertainment of beauty in all of its abstractions.

At a recent socially distance interaction I chatted with Miss Tosh, the world-renowned burlesque performer and designer, who holds a devotional clasp on the tradition of the craft. Her presence has been one which cultivated and champions the contemporary beauty of LGBTQIA+, body positive and POC figures, while shattering the institutional white hetero-gaze which has long been so deeply rooted int the craft’s identity.

Her latest presentation The Beauty of Burlesque, has been one which celebrates the glitz, glamour, and the precision of the art, which affirms that the dimensions of the performer do not fit rigidly in the parameters of yesterday’s performancer. One thing is clear, the corsets are always gonna cinch you in, the crystals will glimmer, and the dances will knock you off your feet. See our conversation below as we speak frankly about the state of burlesque, breaking the 4th wall, and maintaining curiosity in the midst of sheltering.

What inspired you to put this event together?

The lack of authentic diversity in the entertainment industry is was motivated me to create Beauty of Burlesque. This is variatease revue starring diverse artist from around the world. As the founder & producer of the show it was very important from day one that we shine the spotlight on artist that represents diversity in talent & identity, focusing on lgbtqai+, poc, differently abled, and body positivity. 

At the start of the Covid Pandemic theaters shut down and so did live entertainment. Artist didn’t have any where to performer and especially our POC Trans community was facing so much hardship we had to come together as a community and do something to keep the showbiz flame still burning! 

Our annual halloween event is something we all looked forward to, so I created a the first ever Drive-In Burlesque Theater & Virtual Streaming Platform. The first event was on Halloween this year. All the talent donated their performances and we were able to raise funds for the Marsha P. Johnson Institute!

Do you feel like working digitally has been a helpful medium to expand in or has it be stifling?

One of the most beautiful things about artists is that they are resilient! I am so joyfully overwhelmed by the creativity admits this madness. Producing and performing in the first ever feature length Burlesque film was no small feat and comes with its own challenges. But the most exciting part is seeing what new innovative ideas the performers have. We are now able to reach a global audience, which is really incredible! Beauty of Burlesque has really brought the global burlesque community closer together during this hard time.

How do you see the art of burlesque adapt and change with the culture of social distancing?

There is something so special about performing live. Being close to the Audience, and sharing that energy when on stage is something that cannot be replicated. But there is also something magical about film! To bring the traditional burlesque act to the big screen opens a whole new arena for creativity.

What are some mediums and or techniques you have been using to adapt to a digital performance?

I wear many hats in my life and one of them was film. I worked in art departments and behind the scenes, editing, post production ect. These skills I learned always felt like a past life once I began performing full time. Its exciting that I can now combine past experiences with my performance art. There is always a silver lining if we look for it. 

How do you see the art of burlesque adapt and change with the culture of social distancing?

There is something so special about performing live. Being close to the Audience, and sharing that energy when on stage is something that cannot be replicated. But there is also something magical about film! To bring the traditional burlesque act to the big screen opens a whole new arena for creativity.

What are some mediums and or techniques you have been using to adapt to a digital performance?

I wear many hats in my life and one of them was film. I worked in art departments and behind the scenes, editing, post production ect. These skills I learned always felt like a past life once I began performing full time. Its exciting that I can now combine past experiences with my performance art. There is always a silver lining if we look for it. 

In these times of isolation and self reflection what else have you been working on?

I also have a fashion label (MissTosh.com) During isolation I’ve been able to really focus on designing new pieces, sewing everything in my pink garage. I was very lucky to have just moved in with my love right before lockdown in March. We have been nesting and having fun building furniture, painting murals and decorating our home. Im always making something.

How have you been able to maintain and celebrate yourself and your mental health?

With so much uncertainty finding a ways to cope, process and heal can be really hard. I get anxiety, and have non epileptic seizures when I’m stressed or overwhelmed. Maintaining balance by just taking it day. Enjoying a bite of food, feeling the sun on my face, and trying too remain grounded and present. All we can do is try the best we can. 

Items available for sale at MissTosh.com Photographed by Eva Ziegfield

Items available for sale at MissTosh.com Photographed by Eva Ziegfield

Items available for sale at MissTosh.com Photographed by Eva Ziegfield

Do you have any luxuriant items that have kept you sane and well?

Luxury for me is a cup of tea, a cozy blanket with kitties and my girlfriend snuggled up by me. For the insomnia and deep stress moments I cannot express enough how much cbd/tch oils have changed my life. A few drops and its sweet dreams haha.

What is your next project?

I will continue to produce Drive-In Burlesque shows and virtual events at www.BeautyofBurlesque.com Be sure to tune into our Holiday show, “Merry Stripmas” and New Years Eve extravaganza. Creating safe and sexy ways to celebrate safely at home or at the Drive-In. You can also shop my fashion label at MissTosh.com We will be having a major Black Friday sale of our accessories, dress, and home goods. Everything is handmade by me here in Hollywood, CA. 

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Aliona Kononova | Masked in Fort Ross

Aliona Kononova | Masked in Fort Ross

Aliona Kononova has been a well cemented part of Los Angeles’ art and fashion scene. Frequently adorning the most avant garde of dressers around the various art openings and social happenings, is there anything more inspiring than to see Valerie Von Sobel in one of Kononova’s confections. When the pandemic hit, Kononova like the rest of the world slowed down. Focusing on fully envisioned one offs, pushing an endearing sense of more architectural engineered garments craft it out of the most rigid fabrics. It is with this strong and dynamic use of craftsmanship which she has applied into the process of her mask making. Having been anointed “Millinery‘s New Star” with the blessing of Stephen Jones, it is no wonder that her expertly crafted masks take on a whole life of their own.

A gorgeous and luxuriant product that transfers wearers to a place which almost makes one forget that it is a product of function, but rather a storied vision of art. In the time of quarantine and isolation the designer has also explored her adopted home of California. Producing shoots which showcase her designs against the alien backdrop of the many coastal towns along 655.8 miles of Cali coastline.

The pacing couldn’t have been better as she also highlighted the little known Russian homestead, Fort Ross. We got to chatting with Kononova about this project which ultimately matches her Californian dream and Slavic roots. she also provided a delectably addictive recipe for Syrniki, a cottage cheese based pancake which is dosed with just the right amount of sugar to be a tea time treat, snack or dessert.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJ Panda Bear: Where did you shoot these images they are completely astonishing and alien, you mentioned they were near San Francisco.

Aliona Kononova: The first part was in Sedona and around that area as well as around Vazquez Rocks. Second part was around San Francisco and Fort Ross. It was collaboration between me and my friend Yulia Kirillova who also modeled in the images.

BJPB: Yes and you mentioned there were parts that were Russian, was there a town there? I know Solvang is the one that’s all Danish.

AK: It’s really special so Fort Ross is a former Russian outpost in Sonoma county where 19th century Russians settled on the native Kashia Pomo territory. It’s not big but it’s such a nice place next to the ocean.

BJPB: How did you find out about it, I have hadn’t heard of it being from California.

AK: It was in the books In Russia we have always been curious to go and there was never an occasion. So when everything was locked down I think I saw more things than I saw in the seven years I’ve lived here. We just went to San Francisco then to Yosemite, June lake, and exploring all the things around. 30 hours of driving, but good.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJPB: How far was it all from each other?

AK: 2 hours from San Francisco. it was a very cool experience and it was crazy because in San Francisco in the mornings it is really cold and when we went to Fort Ross and it was crazy hot and we were trying to capture the pictures with no harsh sun which was pretty impossible. At some point you hear this church bell and I felt like I was fainting because it was too hot. There was not even one shadow it was all open so there was no shade while you’re shooting for three hours. You really get that heat I was trying to hide in the church but it was closed. We were looking for any shade with the bells it was a surreal experience.

BJPB: With the masks you have recently released they are really gorgeous what was the construction on these?

AK: I wanted something to cover your face but repeating the shape of the face that it would not squeeze your mouth as it is already so uncomfortable to wear these in general. I wanted them to be as comfortable as possible. The lining is so soft and you can adjust the ears. The whole thing can be adjusted to your face, the veil is detachable the little bird is detachable. It has three main inspired creatures: a bird a dragonfly and a butterfly.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

What is the significance of those animals to you and how they relate to the masks?

It all started with the bird, a bird can rise above the clouds and see what is going on in the bigger picture and get over it quicker in that sense. The dragonfly has this unique flight pattern which they adjust in certain situations and that’s kind of what was their inspiration. Of course the butterfly has its metamorphosis, so the idea of the transformation and to take all that moment as a personal growth, to take it towards a positive note I wanted to have these creatures on every mask.

They are so welcome crafted are they both feathers and millinery fabrics?

Depends the bird one is made of feathers, And the dragonfly is made of silk they are like little jewels.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

A little happiness for breakfast to start your day in the right direction, Aliona Kononova’s recipe for Syrniki

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 cup of farmers cheese or ricotta

3 tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup of flour (or almond flower for Keto)

a generous pour of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

coconut oil

1/2 a cup of blueberries (optional)

Your favorite maple syrup (optional)

Combine ingredients and portion into 5 or 6 servings, pan fry with the coconut oil and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

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QooA Pick | Spill Botanicals x Soji Nails: MANIfest CBD Cuticle Oil

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The LA based polymathic nail artist takes a cerebral approach to her work combing the worlds sublime natural peculiarities to that of experimental gastronomy to bring otherworldly nail creations that are also packed with a heavy dose of humor. As of late her esoteric nails can be seen on a host of edgy tastemakers from Kali Uchis, Kelsey Lu, Rina Sawayama, HANA, Lil Miquela, Tinashe, Sophie, Chloe and Halle, Princess Gollum, and most recently Kim Kardashian for her Skims campaign.

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Who Are You Without Social Media?

Who Are You Without Social Media?

Over the weekend my phone and Instagram app got disabled, it was a moment of sheer shock as well as complete disbelief. My existence was no longer there… Poof, who was I. I then found myself in an interesting predicament, here I was with a holiday looming with nowhere to post and no one to look at and in all honesty, I was fine with it. I had just found myself in the ultimate holiday circumstance, detached from the rest of the world on my own island. Initial shock subsided and now the wonderment of how well I took to being detached from social media set in. 

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I had been a person who worked in various technological industries cultivating a social experience for different brands of lifestyle, clothing, art, and everything in between. With my constant engagement with technology and social media I was always in the loop of what was relevant, but for me it was the fact that I was now shattered from having to perform an experience, which felt liberating. It was like I had finally been given a pass and allowed to press the restart button. Without social media I was finding myself free of having to deal with the societal pressures that came with interacting and submitting to these practices. All the various social nuances which I had constantly feared and interacted with were gone, those people I didn’t really want to follow but continue to out of social graces, the various cool kids that I had to pay attention to had disappeared.

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By the first morning of being liberated I found myself waking up to a grayscale, everything around me felt like I could see for the first time in a long time. I was given a pair of glasses that showed me textures and a truly great experience in which I was present to engage with the objects and people around me. I almost felt as if I was regaining consciousness, regaining an understanding of humanity. As I engaged with people I would see getting coffee or walking by with their pets my nerves felt raw of all these senses which had been robbed.

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By day 3 fully knowing the reality of having to slip back into the way the world works. I decided there that I would start a new account, one that was going to be on my own terms and did not contain a feed of toxic images or ideologies that would stifle the mental wellbeing that I was striving for. I wanted to not be bothered triggered and place into a position of losing this feeling of self-worth. My decision was to engage digitally as I would IRL, people I already speak to and people I would interact with would come and as they did so grew my interpersonal social media. The data dump was the only thing that mattered and I threw out the aesthetic dialog, I was on private.

On Colour… by Ian Whittlesea ($27.50) extends the theories of color harmony that Joahnnes Itten taught at the Bauhaus and describes how “through perfect control of breath and color one will eventually be able to generate a luminous cloud of such purity and intensity that it renders all inside it invisible.

I know fully well that this was a fleeting experience, that I would have to return to speaking to the world of my community but in the meantime I was finally able to let go, it was a freedom that was unexpected and an experience which brought back a sense of humanity. My deep sense of anxiety seem to be lifted from my head my crown felt lighter I’ve had no longer had to disengage with what it meant to live in modern society. My nights drifted off at a normal tense while my mornings felt rich and fulfilled. Knowing I was able to separate from the machine gave me enough insight to use it wisely.

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Catching up with the Burlesque dancer Miss Tosh as she takes her inclusive community of performers digitally into an immersive experience and beyond

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