The women of Metropolitan Studios have taken their love for movement, body positivity and LGBTQ storytelling, and turned it into much more than just a dance studio with classes, a cool East Atlanta event space, or queer burlesque troupes like the Candybox Revue in shows around Atlanta.

“Through identifying theimportance of artistic self-expression, representation of marginalized communities and the need for an inclusive and safe space for women, Metropolitan Studios was born,” says Roula Roulette, this week’s Q cover model and one of the six troupe members in this week’s photo essay. 

Metropolitan member Talloolah Love agrees that the studio has become an artistic haven for makers of all kinds and any allied community that needs a space to create.

“When we created this space, it was because we needed a safe space for women to come together to learn burlesque, but it’s so much more than that now,” she says. “We want people who come into Metropolitan to feel supported, inspired, and liberated.”

One of those people is the troupe member channeling Josephine Baker in this feature, known on stage as Coco Rose.

“Burlesque has been my outlet and activism for women, women of color and queer identifying women,” Coco tells Q. “Although some have dismissed burlesque as little more than glorified stripping, neo-burlesque is about reclaiming society’s objectification of women.”

“With every performance, my goal is to leave the audience knowing that I am not just a (POC), sex worker or marketing gimmick,” she adds, “but a black woman that has a story to tell who has embraced her sexuality, curves and taken her power back.”

Can we get an amen! But what is it about burlesque that’s so liberating?

“Unlike many theatrical arts where performance is filtered by scripts, directors, producers and just people in power (typically white cis straight males), burlesque gives performers autonomy,” explains Talloolah. “It’s raw performance art limited only by the performer’s imagination. … grassroots burlesque is about the politics of our naked (or almost naked) bodies telling our stories without that placated filter of the masses.”

Another of the Metropolitan lovelies, who serves Betty Page Realness for Q here, is known as Ursula Undress. She tells us that the studio and the burlesque troupe complement each other and go hand-in-hand. 

“As a troupe, we strive to be better performers as a whole and as individuals, we recognize the need for inclusivity and representation in our community and we work diligently to bring it to the stage,” she says. “The studio is about having this safe space to liberate individuals from societal constructs, and allow them to use their own voice. 

“Here we challenge ideas they may have had about themselves for years,” she continues. “The troupe takes that a step further by uplifting marginalized voices and celebrating them on the stage for everyone to see — hopefully changing the narrative around those stories with different projects and shows. Luckily, both of those things are also fun.”

Mixing the fun and sexy with the deep and meaningful is personal for all the members, they say.

Bubble Bordeaux, rocking a red wig and blue boa in this photo essay, says that it’s hard to put into words “how meaningful it is to have found this community of vibrant, incredible, supportive queer women."

"They challenge me to be my best self and keep growing while accepting me and loving me for who I am in any given moment," Bubble says. "To know we are working together to make the world a kinder, better place for queer women of all kinds, including queer femmes like me, is just so wonderful and powerful.”

The troupe had a lot to say, so we've added their full, unedited interviews under their portraits below by Q contributing photographer, queer Atlanta's own James L. Hicks. 

Photos: James L. Hicks Hair/Wigs: Talloolah Love Makeup: Kellyn Wiley

Visit Metropolitan Studios at 1259 Metropolitan Ave. SE and at metrostudioseav.com.

Coco Rose

Roula Roulette

Annette Coquette

Ursula Undress

Bubble Bordeaux

Margot Moon

 

What is Metropolitan Studios?

ROULA ROULETTE: Through identifying theimportance of artistic self-expression, representation of marginalized communities, and the need for an inclusive and safe space for women; Metropolitan Studios was born. Celebrating diverse artists and makers, Metropolitan Studios is so much more than just a studio - it is an artistic haven.

TALLOOLAH LOVE: We think of this space as a haven for artists and visionaries of all walks of life to come together to grow as artists. When we created this space, it was because we needed a safe space for women to come together to learn burlesque. But it’s so much more than that now. We want people who come into Metropolitan to feel supported, inspired, and liberated.

Tell us about the power of reclaiming burlesque for queer women in a traditionally patriarchal genre.

TALLOOLAH LOVE: Unlike many theatrical arts where performance is filtered by scripts, directors, producers and just people in power (typically white cis straight males). Burlesque gives one the autonomy to choose their song, wear what they want to wear, express what they want to express. Perform how they want to perform. It’s raw performance art limited only by the performer’s imagination. There’s corporate burlesque, just like there’s corporate drag. But the grassroots of burlesque is about the politics of our naked (or almost naked) bodies telling our stories without that placated filter of the masses. 

COCO ROSE: Burlesque has been my outlet and activism for women, women of color and queer identifying women. Although some have dismissed burlesque as little more than glorified stripping, neo-burlesque is about reclaiming society’s objectification of women. With every performance my goal is to leave the audience knowing that I am not just a (POC), sex worker or marketing gimmick but a black woman that has a story to tell who has embraced her sexuality, curves and taken her power back.

What's are the differences between the burlesque shows and the studio?

URSULA UNDRESS: The troupe is really a product of what the studio was doing in its first stages. The burlesque classes made it easy to find like-minded people who wanted to raise the bar for what was being put onstage at the time, but at the same time wanting to collaborate and participate with other performers in group numbers. Our missions are different, but the premise is the same. As a troupe, we strive to be better performers as a whole and as individuals - we recognize the need for inclusivity and representation in our community and we work diligently to bring it to the stage. 

The studio is about having this safe space to liberate individuals from societal constructs, and allow them to use their own voice. Here we challenge ideas they may have had about themselves for years. The troupe takes that a step further by uplifting marginalized voices and celebrating them on the stage for everyone to see - hopefully changing the narrative around those stories with different projects and shows. Luckily, both of those things are also FUN.

What does it mean to you personally to be part of the troupe?

URSULA UNDRESS: To me it means a lifetime of work around dispelling the notion that women can’t be true friends, colleagues, can’t be trusted, or that I can’t work with or be close to them. It has changed the way I communicate, and has fueled my feminist fire to stand up for other women. It also means a lot to me that I can be uplifted by their words, touched by their stories, and also be trusted by them in return. There is power in numbers, and burlesque is full of powerful women ready to share and expand that energy.

BUBBLE BORDEAUX: It is hard to put into words how meaningful it is to have found this community of vibrant, incredible, supportive queer women. They challenge me to be my best self and keep growing will accepting me and loving me for who I am in any given moment. To know we are working together to make the world a kinder, better place for queer women of all kinds, including queer femmes like me, is just so wonderful and powerful.

How can people become a part of what you do?

URSULA UNDRESS: Currently, with over 30 people in our troupe, we do not have any open auditions planned. We do accept written communication from those looking to work with us, however. Most new performers get their feet wet with classes to see if they can even handle the stress of shows, rehearsals and all that goes with it.

ROULA ROULETTE: Additionally, when we bring in new troupe members we are always trying to see what else they can bring to the table other than performance. As a troupe it is important to have folks who also enjoy things that aren’t directly on stage. We always need stage managers, paperwork gurus, and artistic crafty folks who can help with costumes, choreography, social outings and more!

Anything else that you'd like to say to Queer Atlanta?

URSULA UNDRESS: I feel that it is important to know that we have your backs, for they are also our backs. The majority of our troupe identify as queer in some form, and we feel that our stories are your stories. We hope that we are doing Queer Atlanta right with the way we represent the population, and the way we represent those stories...and we look forward to many years of continuing to do it.

ROULA ROULETTE: We are here! We welcome you to come and be a part of our mission to create diversity and representation. It doesn’t have to just be on stage, it takes all types and we want you! We want to amplify your voice, tell your story and welcome you into the community of amazing individuals! Come see our space and see how perfect we are for you, or your next event!

A version of this feature originally ran in Q magazine. Read the latest issue below for even more.

 

 

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