The name “Calamity Chang” is inspired by the notorious frontierswoman
Calamity Jane, an outlaw who was known to be a daredevil and an
alcoholic. Calamity Chang may not be all those things (but she did
grow up in Texas), she does exemplify the same rebellious freedom
through the art form of burlesque.
Calamity Chang is one of the busiest burlesque performer AND producer
based in NYC with 2 longstanding weekly shows and 2 monthly shows; she
also co-produces the world’s only NEW YORK ASIAN BURLESQUE
EXTRAVAGANZA with Jen Gapay.
Named by The Huffington Post as one of the “20 Burlesque Stars To
Know” and by 21st Century Burlesque as one of the Top 100 Burlesque
Performers in the world, Calamity has performed for numerous esteemed
events such as Inked Magazine (Pinup Issue Release Party 2015), Design
Industries Foundation for Fighting Aids NYC, and celebrities such as
Brooke Shields and the cast of The Addams Family, Corey Miller of LA
Ink, and guest starred in Moby’s metal band DiamondSnake (“Woman,
Yea”). Calamity has also appeared in reality TV shows such as
“Oddities” (Science Channel) and “My Big Redneck Vacation” (Country
Music Television). You can also see her in the controversial NC-17
film of 2011 “Shame” by Steve McQueen starring Michael Fassbender as
“Late Night Lover #1”.
Calamity has a wide range of performance styles suitable for all kinds
of events. She is just as comfortable being a glamorous showgirl
teasing with feather fans and ostrich boas in classic showgirl-style
acts as she is performing neo-burlesque acts clad in shiny latex and
other fetish-inspired looks.
This “Asian Sexsation” has made a mark in the burlesque world with her
signature food-inspired (“foodlesque”) acts focusing on Asian culinary
icons in popular culture such as Sriracha hot sauce, sushi roll, and
cup o’ noodles. By fusing her love for food and her Chinese heritage
in playful and sexy striptease performances, Calamity brings
visibility to performers of color worldwide with a dash of whimsy and
a peppering of good humour.
She was in the “Best Debut” at Burlesque Hall of Fame, Las Vegas in
2012. She headlined Empire Burlesque Festival in Ithaca, NY (2016),
Edmonton Burlesque Festival (2016), Montreal Burlesque Festival
(2016), The Philadelphia Burlesque Festival (2018), The Freezing
Tassel Festival (Alaska) 2019, Metalesque Festival (2019), Discordia
Days Burlesque Festival (2019).
She has taught at the world’s only burlesque convention in Seattle
BurlyCon 2018 and is a NY School of Burlesque instructor. She is also
a three-time Golden Pasties Award winner (“The Hustler: the performer
who has hustle game”, “The Busy Bee: the performer who multi-tasks the
most backstage”, “The TMZ Award: the performer who has all the
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Calamity grew up in Bolivia (Santa Cruz),
Florida (Tampa), and various cities in Texas including Houston and
Dallas. Though she has lived in NYC for 20 years and counting, she
also considers Texas her home.
1 How did the idea for the act come to you
I’ve always been a foodie and I think it is fair to say that most Asian people are fodies. Food plays a critical role in Asian communities and families. After I created my Sriracha and Sushi acts,I pursued my dream of doing a noodle bath act. Similar to how everyone wants a martini glass act (a la Dita) but I didn’t want to be like
everyone else and wanted to put my own signature spin on it.
Originally, the bath container would be a traditional noodle bowl commonly found in all Chinese restaurants. I would be wearing a noodle-dress with long strands all over, climb in, disrobed, take a bath and make noodles. The soup spoon would be the ladder that I use
to climb in.
2 What issues did you have making the act.
The original noodle idea obviously had a lot of problems – STORAGE. In NYC, we don’t have cars, we don’t have garages, most of us have to rent out studio spaces to practice a new act. I spoke to Angie Pontani
about her Gin Bathtub act and how she dealt with storing it. I realised I did not have the financial ability to rent a storage unit just to keep a giant noodle bowl, plus the cost of renting a truck/van every time I perform it! On top of all that, very few venues in NYC even have a stage big enough to do an act of this scale. It just was
not a wise financial investment.
I met with Ms. Tickle (who also made my whole Sushi costume) to discuss an alternative option. I didn’t mind losing the noodle bowl tub part, I just wanted to make a fun, upbeat, food-inspired act.
Together we came up with a cup and kept the noodle dress and wig part.
I love working with Tickle. She was an NYC performer as well so she understands garment removal mechanics and also the logistics of traveling with big props in NYC.
3 What happened when you first started performing the act.
I was very happy with the audience reaction! You know when you work on a new act, it goes a certain way in your head. You can’t ever predict how it will resonate with a live audience. This is my favourite part about debuting a new act, its surprising to me what audiences respond
to. I play very close attention to them-its really the best feedback. I debuted February 2019 at a king/drag/burlesque show in Brooklyn so the campiness of this act went over REALLY well with this audience.
They appreciated several of the reveals. Here’s a clip of the audience reaction: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuUlZmyA4Bm/?igshid=ehlykifyoje7
4 How has the act changed over time.
So far, no changes.
5 What came first? The costume, the music, the choreography etc
.For this specific act, the costume and concept came first, then music,and last is choreo. If all goes well, I won’t need to change the music! But as you know, sometimes you work with a song and it just SUCKS and does not work. It does not bring you joy when you perform it and then you have to start all over with the music search.
6 If the act has some personal meaning, does that same emotion still drive you? Did you use the act to help cope or overcome a problem? Did it help?
This act, as is with all my food-inspired acts, is my way to
expressing my Chinese American background without getting super serious and “joy luck club”-y. LOL. Sriracha, sushi, and cup o noodles have become icons recognised worldwide. I am proud of that. That such simple condiments and basic food from Asian food culture have become so accepted (and popular) in western culture. This is deeply meaningful to me.
7 Have you ever been asked to change part of it?
8 Is there anything missing from the act you’d like to be in it but can’t due to logistics, prop dreams,money etc?
I would love to have a cup that is already formed, that I don’t need to set up.
9 Where did you first perform the act?I
debuted the act at Wang Newton’s King show at 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn
10 And what has been your favourite time performing the act.
At Snack Theater, a monthly show produced by Rara Darling and Angelica Sundae. The stage and lights were just amazing, just so happy to have a place this Chelsea Music Hall in NYC.
11 If you were creating this act again now, would you do anything different?
12 Do you ever ask particular people to critique your acts, or do you listen to random ones that suggested changing music, a pose or adding a prop? If you did get critique did you change it? Why/why not? Did it help?
As I mentioned before, I listen to the audience reaction. But I do ask my close friends for feedback. Usually, I already know what’s wrong with an act and I just need confirmation that yea, that part is kinda
boring and not efficiently used.