BWW Q&A: Isabelle Merlo on AprilMay Productions

An Insight into Isabelle Merlo's Artistic Journey and the Birth of AprilMay Productions

By: May. 29, 2024
BWW Q&A: Isabelle Merlo on AprilMay Productions
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Discover how Isabelle Merlo transitioned from concert dance to burlesque, leading to the creation of AprilMay Productions. Learn about the inspirations and influences behind her artistic journey.

What inspired your transition from concert dance to burlesque during your time in Berlin?

After my dance studies in New York, I moved to Berlin to follow an opportunity in a contemporary dance company. At first I had high hopes for myself and felt confident about my contribution to the company, but after many months of not being casted and feeling ignored by the artistic team, I redirected my motivation towards the development of my own brand. Before Berlin, I was performing in a regular burlesque show on the weekends, and when I left, I was really sad to leave not only the people I worked with, but the ongoing creative investigation I utilized in the show. After I moved, I was motivated to find a similar show to reconnect with the exploration of this new artform and get acquainted with the European burlesque scene. Luckily, one venue got back to me and scheduled an interview. It was most definitely the most beautifully decorated burlesque speakeasy I had ever seen. Intimate and tasteful, it was like traveling through time and stepping back into the 1920s. Despite my lack of experience, I sold myself well enough in the interview that the owner agreed to give me a debut as a burlesque starlet in Berlin, and invited me to see the show the next day. I remember not being ready for what I was about to see. I was so inspired and in awe of the attention to detail, opulence and conceptual ingenuity of the show it inspired me to start taking the process of creation in burlesque more seriously. After the show, I realized what burlesque could be and decided to invest everything I had into the birth of AprilMay Productions.

How has your background in gymnastics and music influenced your dance and choreography?

My background in music has certainly helped me have a deeper understanding of tones and melodic transportation when I dance. Knowing more about how a piece is written, its history and intention is a beautiful tool to make better decisions about choosing a certain piece of music for a new work. On the other hand, gymnastics has taught me fearlessness and perseverance, applicable in life and in any creative process. This unshakable belief in the direction of my journey and the potential of my artistic power is what has brought me to where I am today, and is the force that will be supporting me to achieve bigger things in the future.

Can you tell us more about your experience growing up with a dance mom and how it shaped your career?

As a child, I never quite understood the extent of the success my mother reached in her dance career. She always talked about her travels and the company she was working for, but until I started to have the same dream as her, I could’ve never understood how much perseverance, hard work and sacrifice it took to become a dancer. Before the start of my training, I was a bit lost. I guess everybody close to me knew deep down I was a special child meant for an eccentric lifestyle and it finally concretized itself when I discovered my newfound passion for dance. Before that, my mother and I would clash a lot because of how inherently different we are. She is an insatiably disciplined, calculated and routine-driven person and I have always been free-spirited, emotional and a bit reckless; something that would worry her a lot when I wasn’t working towards a fixed goal. There was an obvious shift of mindset in me after I started to dance. Though my mother and I had been different in so many ways, we’d always been equally passionate women. This quality we both honored in each other also kept our relationship strong throughout my tumultuous teenage years. Since I started to dream of becoming a professional dancer, my mother’s been my rock. Though her journey to a successful career had its notably different share of challenges, she still supports me in knowing that no matter how hard it is to make it in this industry, it is something we would still choose over doing anything else, every single day.

What does wellness mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your daily routine?

Wellness to me is answering to what my body and mind needs in the present without compromising what it needs to thrive in the future. What I mean is, no matter the discouraging circumstances, I would do my best to stay disciplined and adhere to the schedule I set for myself to succeed. I go to class, do administrative work, practice my vocals and rehearse for shows until my body feels like there is no more information to be absorbed mindfully. Less is more; I prefer doing less and being more conscious of the tasks I do instead of trying to accomplish too many things in an unrealistic amount of time.

What was the inspiration behind the birth of AprilMay Productions?

AprilMay Productions was inspired by me. Who I am at the core is nuanced with various identities that have different colors, and burlesque finally allowed me to channel a holistic expression of all of these selves in a performance. I enjoy playing with seduction, power dynamics and tease, and my training as a dancer allows me so much more physical virtuosity and finesse when people watch me perform. I think I’ve always had an acute sense of emotional sensitivity towards the public, which also not only draws them in, but really makes me see them as I’m performing as well. I think all of these qualities make a balanced mix to reinforce the power and definition of a performer, and from the moment AprilMay Productions came to my mind as an idea, I believed it was meant to become significant in the future.

Can you share more about your ongoing training and how it contributes to your performance?

What constitutes training for an artist is a range of experiences that aren’t related to practicing the art itself. For example, though I do tend to take 10-12 dance classes a week these days to maintain and elevate my technique, I also find that going to see a show every now and then contributes to the finesse of my craft just as much as physical conditioning does. Or taking a walk; going on a date; reading; interacting with strangers; going to the museum; people watching; cooking. An artist must be a well rounded human being to keep up with creating interesting content and that well roundedness is harvested in every corner of life you see, touch, hear and feel. New York is beautiful for that, you always have novelty to draw and inspire yourself from.

Could you tell us more about the themes you explore in your blog, especially regarding mental health, emotional empowerment, and general wellness?

Most of the articles posted on Seasons of AprilMay were written in the emotionally raw period after my first really bad breakup. Even if most features are not related to life as an artist or my work in general, it was important I shared them to my audience as a supporting spinoff complimentary to the understanding of the artist I have become. Everything I am today is because of my relationship with my first boyfriend, and my journey after him. I am most grateful to have experienced a love so potent at such a young age, but I am blessed with an afterlife so full, authentic and satisfying because I am now free of spending the emotional and intellectual space others do to find true love and experience the blissful qualities of it at least once in their life. I have already lived it, and wish not to spend a moment longer pondering on when it’ll come again, or if it will ever come back at all. The next content on my blog will focus more on the different branches and realities of a performer's life, because I am most content with this life right now. I wish to shed light on how much more fulfilling it is to fall in love with your own potential, instead of being stuck in trying to believe in someone else’s.

What can we look forward to with the upcoming AprilMay Productions and your blog?

When I officially get settled as a working performer in the city and make it my primary residence, AprilMay Productions will take many different forms. Because I am a multi-disciplinary performer, there are many approaches to performance art I can channel my creative ideas through. My wish for AprilMay Productions is to be booked regularly at the most popular burlesque and cabaret venues in New York City and for myself to earn an honest reputation as a quality multi-faceted performer in the city. As for my blog, I have many new themes I’d like to write about in my new sigma female era, but I will start writing once I achieve my priority objectives that will ultimately allow me much more freedom to take AprilMay Productions and the Seasons of AprilMay blog to a whole new level.


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