Magic and Performance: An interview with Shana Leilani
1) So lets start off with a bit of background about yourself
Who am I? I am a self proclaimed psychic, ghost busting witch by day and a burlesque dancer by night. I am proud to be one of the resident readers and witches at The Green Man Store where I spend my days giving readings, crafting spells and teaching classes. By night I produce and perform in burlesque shows and have been lucky enough to find a way of taking both of these art forms and blending them together to create a power house of seductive magic.
2) When did you decide to combine your skill with magic with your passion for performance?
I kind of came into performing in a very accidental and magical way. In all honesty I’m pretty sure my guides were like, “Dude, here! Right here!” while jumping up and down and pointing at the dance studio. I was at a point in my life where I felt very restless, not feeling strong in myself but knowing that I had a lot more power than I gave myself credit for. After trying to find ways to harness it; books, classes, toying with different magical paths, and falling short it became really frustrating and I just felt like it was time to try something super random. I knew I needed to throw myself into a situation that my ego would NEVER go for…and I found myself taking a burlesque class. SUPER out of my element and comfort zone! But that’s where growth starts right?
Taking this class gave me a sense of empowerment and confidence that I had never felt. I truly was able to connect with my Venus energy and proudly let her shine! Burlesque opened a door for me to use my divine feminine in the mundane world and use my sensuality and body as a source of power. Once I started developing my own dance routines and acts it became a great way to express myself and add in magical elements through either song, costume or props. Each act was developed with a certain intention behind it and I’ve began to use them as spells.
3) So how do you do it?
Honestly the trick is to not over think it. If you are trying to create a magical performance piece, you need to approach it just like you would any other spell construction. Pick your intent, and in the case of magical art what kind of mood you want to create. Treat your props as magical tools and let yourself go wild! I have dances where part of the costume is sigils that I have painted on my body. Your dance is a spell that you weave on stage that you embody and your audience feels! Its like a ritual, performed by you and spread to everyone present.
4) How has your new approach to both things impacted others?
One fateful day I booked a private dance lesson with a well known belly dancer and burlesque performer, Pleasant Gehman. By the end of the session we were amazed at how many bizarre things we had in common and our relationship began to bloom. Over the course of a few months we conceived an idea for a show that would combine all of our favorite things; seduction, dance and witchcraft. And thus our burlesque show Belle, Book & Candle was born! The show is has an occult theme and all of the performers are witches. We wanted to make the show a place where pagans of all paths could come together and let their hair down to just have fun and enjoy our culture and spiritual practice in a fun, night clubly kind of way. All of the performances give nods to magic, deities, dark art nod to top it off we host an onstage ritual at each show that is presented by different practitioners in the Los Angeles area. Pleasant and I wanted to make sure that everyone in our audience has a magical experience as well as an sensual one. We also have readers and local artists at each event to help boost community awareness of the talent and practitioners around us.
Belle, Book & Candle has been a way for my co producer and I to bring magic to the public and let everyone experience it in a very unique way. I’d like to think that through the show we have inspired people to not just be body positive and bold, but to realize that everyone can experience and harness witchcraft in their own way. I also hope that we have created a fun space for people to enjoy the witch “subculture” in a fun and edgy way that they can share with their “witch” friends and “normal” friends alike.
5) What exactly is magic expressed through art? How does it translate into some of the arenas you work in?
Magic can be expressed through art in so many different ways! As I mentioned earlier, I have gone as far as using sigils as a focal point of my costumes it make a very pointed and magical statement. I also have a few very special pieces of costume jewelry that were gifted to me from a friend. The jewelry actually belonged to her grandmother who was a very rebellious, flapper chick. Trust me, she defiantly enjoys being on stage! A side from the physical parts of the performance, you can weave magic into the dance, music or statement of your art. Select each element of your piece the same way you would when selecting herbs or oils for a candle spell.
6) How has your connection as a daughter of Venus shaped this new path for you?
Being a daughter of Venus was actually revealed to me after I started my career in burlesque! I guess it makes a lot of sense in hindsight Burlesque is so much more than wearing shiny jewelry and taking off your clothes. Its about seduction, female empowerment, creativity and fun! Its an art form that goes very under appreciated in ways that I feel Venus is under appreciated. She is about so much more than meets the eye. Does she embody love and beauty? Yes, but she is also about coming of age, respect, manners and harmony. Allowing my Mother to accompany me on stage is a way of giving her voice and impact in a world that so many of her faces are misunderstood or over looked and I feel like she helps me make a greater impact in my performances.
7) Tell me about your upcoming Venus dance performance at The Green Man Store?
I’m so excited for my Venus dance at The Green Man Store! I don’t really want to call it a ritual because it isn’t a ritual in the traditional sense. We will be gathering to get to know Venus more and pay her tribute. I have learned to communicate with her by honoring and loving my own body and I want to share that experience with everyone. So I have put together what I like to call Dance Of The Goddess. I m going to share some of Venus’s stories and lore to help give a better understanding of who she is and how to work with her. But the exciting part of the night is when we pay homage and allow her to take up residency in us through dance! I’m going to lead everyone through slow, sexy and methodic m dance movement in a way that is empowering, personal and liberating. Its easy stuff, you don’t have to be a seasoned dancer to thrive in this practice. After all, the first time I did this I was about as graceful as a baby giraffe.