Undine La Verve has dazzled crowds worldwide on burlesque’s grandest stages, while also
teaching, mentoring, acting, modelling, singing, and producing her own performances. As the frontrunner for burlesque locally, Undine’s commitment to her artform is unparalleled – she’s been active on the scene for 8 years and has no plans of slowing down. Martin Calleja Urry finds out more.

WHAT HAS BURLESQUE DONE FOR YOU ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?

Burlesque is a creative outlet that changed my life, and has become my main motivation and purpose. It taught me to love myself, my body, and my flaws. It taught me who I truly am, giving me opportunities to meet amazing creatives and experience different cultures and new stages. I have learnt the art of seduction, but also the art of understanding people. I love having the opportunity to empower and inspire other women. Burlesque has made me the woman I am today.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BURLESQUE?

People think it’s indecent or inappropriate but usually that’s because they’ve never seen a single show. Burlesque is a  multidisciplinary art form – it’s storytelling through dancing, acting, singing, comedy, and more. Some think it’s a show for men, but the female following is actually bigger – ladies love to see strong women on stage who aren’t perfect but are proud and confident! Prejudice is a huge shortcoming of all humanity. I say experience the art first, then judge.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR STAGE PERSONA ‘UNDINE LAVERVE.’

I feel that I’m my ‘true self’ on stage because I’m completely free to be myself without holding back. I can play up my emotions, have fun, and feel empowered because I know the stage time and creative processes are all mine. In some social situations, we water ourselves down to fit in or be accepted, but burlesque lets me live my true nature, my femininity, my sensuality – I take it back from the patriarchy and I own it! So, burlesque allows my personality to shine through and live up to its full potential, rather than allowing me to create a persona. On stage, I can act a certain way according to my character, but
deeper than that I am more myself than ever.

HOW DO YOU GET MENTALLY PREPARED FOR A SHOW?

Many performers have specific pre-show rituals, mine is preparing hair and make-up. When I put my show make-up on, that’s my trigger to get into the mood. Then there is a moment, right before I go up on stage, when I pause, and in those few seconds I gather myself and I’m ready to go!

HOW MUCH DID HAVING A MENTOR IN THE EARLY STAGES OF YOUR CAREER HELP YOU?

My mentor, Liv Yorsten, helped me immensely and I was lucky that she was in Malta when I was starting up in 2009. I currently have 2 mentees of my own. It’s important for older performers to teach the younger generation about the history of the art, and the performers that paved the way for us. Combine that with sharing experiences and knowledge about choreography, costuming, different styles and moves, and a mentor’s work is never really over.

DESCRIBE YOUR MOST CHALLENGING MOMENTS IN BURLESQUE.

The challenges began when my mentor left Malta, because I was still a burlesque newbie finding my way. It was difficult on my own, but I went to New York to watch shows and study the art. I worked on my acts and met a lot of amazing performers that welcomed me into the community. We’re far apart now, but I still feel surrounded by their love. Another challenging issue has been past relationships. I’ve had partners who supported me at first, but then had a complete change of heart, expecting me to stop performing and even threatening abuse. I once took a break for over 6 months, but afterwards realised that Burlesque is my passion, my ‘raison d’etre.’ From now on I will never let anyone, or anything stand in my way! Some people can’t handle me and that’s fine, I’m even more motivated now.

HIGHLIGHT 3 ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES EVERY GREAT BURLESQUE PERFORMER MUST HAVE.

There are no specific attributes a burlesque performer must have, but creativity and charisma certainly help. You don’t have to be a particular shape, age, gender, colour or height. Bring something interesting or unique to the table and burlesque will accept you. I wanted to be a dancer but was never tall or slim enough. Our community features strong, independent men & women as well as gender-fluid & differently abled persons. The beauty of it is that you can be yourself and the diversity is inspiring.

HAVE CROWD REACTIONS CHANGED AT ALL SINCE BURLESQUE WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO MALTA?

Yes, they definitely have – when I started doing burlesque in Malta 8 years ago nobody knew what it was. Being the only performer on the Island, it was an uphill battle. Initially, I
focused on performing abroad to represent Malta, but in early 2015 I started producing shows, and in 2016 I produced my first burlesque theater production ‘MalTease.’ By showing the beauty, versatility and satire of burlesque along with the foreign performers who join me, we have been educating the nation together!

HOW WILL YOU CONTINUE TO PUSH THE ENVELOPE FOR BURLESQUE IN MALTA?

By preparing shows that feature more variety and different artists who have a unique take on the art, both for my monthly and annual shows. I want to break down boundaries by
presenting different body types, styles and concepts. Also, by teaching girls at my classes, nurturing Maltese talent and continuing to empower women to be whoever they want to be.
We’ve come far, and I’ve got lots in store for my little island!

BESIDES DANCING, TELL US ABOUT ANY OTHER CURRENT AND FUTURE PROJECTS

I’ve just finished two very exciting productions – Apocalesque and Steve Hili’s Adult Panto. I’m currently working on a single with DJ Mykill, and planning to produce a special burlesque show in August. In September, we’ll resume the regular monthly shows. Next year, ‘MalTease’ will be back for its 3rd annual show, and I’ll have other shows abroad too.

© 2018 – VIDA Magazine – Martin Calleja Urry