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Interview with the Chameleon of Burlesque - Silla Black

While tough lockdown restrictions continue in Melbourne, I thought I'd reach out to some more performers to talk about their journey into the live entertainment world. This time, I chat with Silla Black, a matriarch in the dance, pole, burlesque and competition worlds. She tells all from her beginning in dance, how the performing industry has changed over time, judging competitions and what the future holds for her. Plus she gives some great tips for performers, so make sure you read all the way to the end!



1. You have been a part of the performing arts industry for a while, when did you start performing? And what prompted you to begin? I'm like an old bottle of wine now. I am not sure if you get better with age but you do get wiser! I started in my early 20s. I was at University and I met an amazing older student who asked if I was a dancer. That simple question started me on a very interesting path from dancing in men's clubs to becoming a dance mum or madam to a showgirl and then into burlesque. I've been part of the community for just shy of 20 years and in burlesque for a decade. I worked in Kings Cross at the time when the clubs were owned by the underworld. We got changed in dark dingy public bathrooms and I was exposed to many sides of the industry. Things I would not want my daughter to see at that age. It was a very interesting time and thankfully a lot has changed since then. Thanks to some amazing Australian burlesque performers, legends, that took on the owners and demanded standards. I look back on my time within the community and sometimes it is like my life belonged to someone else. I was brave. Wild. Strong. Independent. Those traits kept me safe and ensured I survived and thrived! 2. That sounds like such a magical, crazy, wonderful experience you have had so far! You have the tag line 'Chameleon of Burlesque' - was this bestowed upon you or did you choose it? The 1st time I was called a chameleon was at the start of my modelling career. I was never the prettiest girl. But I had a gift that most do not have, I can be changed to look like anyone. From red, blonde to black hair, with makeup and designer clothes or kmart bargains, to op shop purchases; I can fit in and look like I belong. A very good friend of mine, calls me "the spy" due to my constant changes in looks throughout my 20s. When I arrived in Adelaide in 2010, I was nicknamed the Chameleon by Corri Fett, a local event photographer. This stuck and I was introduced that way at each monthly Dr Sketchy's by the owner Miss Direction. I spent over 1 year as their principle performer. It was a fantastic time. I truly love Adelaide! So, what do you think is a good way to get a tag line? The best tag lines I've seen are ones that truly belong to the performer. That highlight something about them that is unique. Those tag lines are memorable. No one wants to be just another tassel twirler or fire artist, we want to be recognised due to our distinctive skill set. 3. I totally agree with you, you have to find your niche, what makes you unique as a performer. You said you have been in the industry for 20 years, how has it changed since you began performing? Its strange really. The industry has and has not changed. Its more like a circular motion. We return to a place similar to where we were before yet as performers have come and gone, we rarely learn from previous experiences. The biggest thing I notice is the competitive nature of the industry. In some cases, there is no competitive recruitment process, like in standard business, producers hire mates. That leads to seeing the same performers on stage each and every month. It results in a click. A group that work a lot and the rest, those that aren't part of the click. I watch performers link together not from friendship but bitterness. I sit in venues as myself not in character and I hear the natter, the gossip and the nasty side of the industry. Its very sad that after 20 years this has not improved. Our worse trait is ourselves. Yet there is the good side. Over 20 years I have seen so much innovation. Props have been developed that never existed. Acts have come to stage combining the genres from magic to other forms of dance. It is mind blowing and this is the reason I attend shows. To watch performers bring a part of their mind to the stage. For a few minutes you get a small glimpse into the way a performer thinks, what they think about and what moves them.  4. Glad to hear it's not all bad! What styles of performance do you do? Which is your favourite to perform? I'm known for taking taboo subjects and pushing them onto the audience to generate discussion. My most favourite acts include Lilith, which is directly