Dubstep dance music and burlesque performance don't usually go together. Not until now, that is. Sapphira of Sapphira's Showgirls, burlesque teacher and former bellydancer, is also a singer/songwriter and is about to release a music video, Tease, showcasing her passions for performance and song. “They were never together in my head at the start,” says Sapphira. “But when I started performing burlesque in London eight years ago, I noticed few dancers were using original music. I wondered how I could combine my original music with performance.”
Tease, about to be released on Sapphira's own label, Domina Records, is a culmination of four years of work, the highly finished burlesque/electronica fusion bringing together, among others, international music producers Black Dogs and video director Mark Bakaitis. Tease is a song she wrote ten years ago, about someone she fancied. “I realised I couldn't do it justice without the video,” Sapphira notes. “I hadn't intended launching a whole career around myself. But now I have my own music label, which is also a platform for other artists, and I've been travelling the world meeting record producers, making contacts for video distributors; I have total control over it. Various friends and networks are helping me to promote it.” The Tease video, an opulent and velvety concoction, features underwear by fashion label Agent Provocateur and make-up by London brand Illamasqua, as well as masks by Andrea Agosta, corsetry by Marquis de Sade and hosiery by Leg Avenue. Sapphira has also involved some of her burlesque students in the production. “Everyone loves a good performance and being on stage is so powerful.”
The first glimmers of what is now Tease happened in a London nightclub where old-school glamour reigned. “It was so cool, like stepping backwards into another era. The venue was an old dance hall from yesteryear, with a lovely energy about it. There were gorgeous exotic creatures doing all these different things.”
Sapphira's background in marketing has given her an eye for opportunity and she quickly realised she could use burlesque to promote her own music. “I started to notice burlesque being used in branding and marketing across a range of brands – underwear, alcohol ... It gave me the idea that burlesque was a hot angle, and that I should use burlesque performance with my original music. Most burlesque dancers use old music. I wanted to incoporate new music like electro, breakbeat and drum and bass into burlesque. I fell in love with dance music at the age of 19,” Sapphira remembers. I used to go to the Imperial in Melbourne and just loved being on the dance floor. It was so amazing listening to five or six different DJs. I'd play the music in my car.” At that time Sapphira was singing jazz but wondering how she could get her voice into dance music. She was also writing for this very paper and used to interview DJs and and get advice on how to break into the music industry. “I'd interview them then send them my demo tapes,” she says. “Sasha, Meat Katie, Goldfrapp and Hybrid all gave me advice.”
Things started to come together in London when she made contacts with music producers and artists who were able to create the sounds she wanted. “I found a production company in Bristol. They could write the sounds I'd dreamed of hearing my voice over.” Four years of working with the man who is now her fiance has resulted, not only in love, but in seeing her dream music project come to life.
“Since the age of eight I've known I wanted to be a singer/songwriter “ recalls Sapphira, who started piano lessons when she was five. I've been lucky to have that,” she says, referring to her early classical music training, although at times her creative spirit rebelled. “I didn't enjoy learning it. You had to play the music the way a particular person wrote it.” Needless to say, Sapphira's now grateful for having been forced to practice. “Although I was at a disadvantage when it came to learning to play jazz,” she admits. “I always needed sheet music. It took me years to learn how to play freely.” There are more songs to come. “I've got this album of over 14 songs. But the first thing is to get Tease out there and make my mark.”
'Dream big' is clearly Sapphira's motto, and she has high hopes for Tease. “This video is just one ingredient,” she says. “It will open the door. I want someone with a big budget to get behind it now: I want it to be part of a big Cirque de Soleil type stage show – a casino type show, with operatic features and my music. I can see a chorus line, the carousel, me swinging from a moon, in somewhere big, like Wembley Stadium or Albert Hall!” In Sapphira's mind she's made it big already: “This is something I've dreamed about all my life. It's pulled me in all sorts of directions: I've gone all over the world; I enjoy watching it unfold. Now if other people enjoy it, I can go home and be happy.“
BY LIZA DEZFOULI
Sapphira's Tease is out Monday August 19 via Domina records and various video channels. You can register at dominarecords.com for a sneak peak of the video.