PopLurker Interviews: Nerdlesque Dancer and Voice Artist Deneen Melody

By Loryn Stone

 

PopLurker is deep in the those of fandom. All the fandoms. All the time. And the people we meet during our excellent journey are some of the most interesting, artistic, and unique people in the world. The means of self-expression are so vast and above all, beautiful. Of all the people we met in our local Sailor Moon Facebook group, one colorful sprite of a woman stood out to us. A real artist’s artist- voice acting, dancing, modeling, acting, traveling, beauty. Today we’re showcasing Deneen Melody on PopLurker by showing her our true adoration for her arts!

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Where do we start with you? You’re such an all-encompassing artist! You have an IMDB. You’re an actress. A professionally trained dancer. A performing “nerdy” burlesque dancer. And most recently, you’ve been focusing on trained voice work in the last couple of years. Which out of everything is a hobby versus a passion versus a career route? How are they all compartmentalized with you?

Wow, thank you! To be quite honest, I don’t always realize the various things I have done, or continue to do, till someone brings it all up or I stop to really think about it. I have sort of moved from one thing to another, spending a few years focusing on each thing till I eventually figured out that, in terms of an actual career, that I wanted to pursue and focus on voice over.

So, I will say that voice over is what I consider my career route. I’ve invested a lot of time, money, and energy into what is (hopefully) the right direction. I’m also getting into motion capture as well.

As far as passion goes, that definitely falls into dancing, which still brings in a bit of money, but I don’t think of it as a long-term sort of job as I do with voice. I believe I will always dance, whether performing or just taking classes, but I also understand my limits with that. Dance, however, has my heart completely.

Then for hobby, I would say my on-camera and stage work falls into that. It is something that I dabbled in for a few years, doing quite a few micro to lower budget indies, and even The Playboy Club for NBC, but I reached a point where I realized I didn’t have the drive for it as I do with voice over or dance. I suppose, in some ways, I became disenchanted with it all. It is a rough business and I had quite a few negative experiences. However, it is still something that I do enjoy, especially when one of my favorite writers contacts me with a new play! Plays are fun. I definitely love doing them.

 

I’m aware you had a bad injury that affected your professional ballet career. Can you talk a little about that? How did it affect the next career choice you made?

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It was actually a foot injury, and a lot of it all came from me being a stubborn young dancer. In fact, I had just turned sixteen at the time. I was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a wonderful youth ballet company, and during one of the first performances, I rolled over my foot (while on pointe) to try and stop myself from taking a bad fall. I knew right away that something was wrong, but it wasn’t hurting too badly, so I just kept dancing. Long story short, I danced on that foot for months, even performed The Nutcracker, and it finally, well, what started as a small fracture turned into something much worse.

Over the course of two years, I went through two surgeries and spent most of my time in a cast or a walking boot. That is probably the worst time for a young dancer to have an experience like that, too. It is the age of gearing up for company auditions and making your mark, but since I wasn’t able to, it was an extremely emotional time. I was determined, though, and as soon as I could, I started dancing again. It was slow at first, but I found a nice little youth company to train and perform with and was also able to get work with some smaller companies like Sandra Organ Dance Company in Houston. Eventually, I was accepted in the summer program at Ballet Austin, which had always been one of my dream companies.

The unfortunate thing is, however, that during my time there, I began to realize that there wasn’t any way I could possibly have a dance career. Not the one I wanted, at least. I had a very difficult time keeping up with all the classes, as my foot was still bothering me, and I also realized that I couldn’t move the way I used to. No matter how much I tried to keep up or do the choreography during the rehearsals, I was always a bit behind, and I was growing more and more frustrated.  By the time the program was over, and I had the opportunity to come back in the fall to start training, I had made the choice to step away from dance on a professional level.

In a lot of ways, I have to say it has probably been the most difficult decision I have ever made, because the dreamer in me really didn’t want to do it. Dance was MY LIFE, in every way, and was such a huge part of my identity. How do you step away from that? I knew it had to be done, though. Shortly after, I moved to Chicago and that is when I started to try other things, such as modeling and film. Leaving ballet behind like that left a huge hole in my heart, and it really has taken some time to find something that makes me feel just as passionate.

 

Let’s talk about burlesque dancing. Or should we call it Nerdlesque? What was the draw to Pop-culture influenced burlesque and how does that change the audience who comes to the show? Do you have any best or worst audience/fan moments to talk about?

I would definitely call the majority of what I do Nerdlesque, for sure! I was instantly drawn into the pop-culture side of burlesque because, well, I’m admittedly such a fangirl. Big time. And, I mean, getting paid to dance AND honor my favorite characters? How perfect! My very first show was a Harry Potter themed show (Cherry Potter by Peepshow Menagerie) as Luna, and right after that, I did Link from Legend of Zelda and then Captain Jack Sparrow. Back to back. (Oh, and my chosen stage name, before I even realized “nerdlesque” was really a thing, is Leggy Lass Greenleaf.) I’m also one of the members of Star Girls, the original Star Wars burlesque parody by Devils Playground, as Rey (The Warrior) and Amidala (The Queen).

In terms of the audience, I have found that the biggest difference between the nerd themed shows and regular burlesque shows, is that the audience tends to be truly appreciative and respectful of the performers. Not that you don’t get that in regular burlesque shows, because you do, but when you are doing a show with such a specific theme, it draws in people who are absolutely dedicated to that particular fandom. They genuinely adore it and tend to take a more personal interest. They enjoy seeing their favorite characters and stories brought to life in such a unique way. It also opens up burlesque to an entire group of people who may not have been familiar with what burlesque actually entails. I’ve had so many interesting conversations with fans after these shows about that, in fact!
Oh, I think my best moment was performing Star Girls last year for over 1500 people on May the Fourth. We had the opportunity to dance on a gorgeous stage, with all our cool lights and projections, and the audience simply loved it. They were the loudest and most enthusiastic crowd I have ever danced for! I also danced in Kiki Maroon’s Comic Strip for Oni-Con this past fall with my Punisher and Cammy from Street Fighter numbers, and any time I do a show with Kiki, it is just the absolute best. However, I think because we were performing at an anime convention, the audience was really into it! Talking with everyone afterwards was nice, because most of the crowd had never been to a burlesque show, and it was wonderful seeing their reactions.

Worst moment? Well, I wouldn’t say it was, terrible, but it sure was awkward. I was performing my Jack Sparrow number for a burlesque show that was during the day at a festival. People were told it was a mature show and all that, but some folks still brought their kids. Their YOUNG kids. When I came out, these kids were obviously excited to see Captain Jack Sparrow…I mean, till Captain Jack started taking off his clothes to reveal a sparkly red bikini and boobs. (I am sorry, children, for perhaps ruining your childhood.) OH! And for Jurassic Peek with Hollywood Jane Revue, I do a Magic Mike sort of dance as the Robert Muldoon character. I bring this up because almost every time I do this, someone in the audience gets offended. My making out with two-foot-tall blown up raptors and covering myself in blood as they kill me seems to be too much for them. Personally, I think it is such a ridiculous dance number, but, who knows.

 

I first met you when I came to the Moon Tease show last year, and you were just adorable in your homage to Sailor Moon role. What goes into putting on a show like that?

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Aw, shucks! Thank you! (Usagi and I are kindred spirits, so I feel like she comes naturally to me.) To be honest, I never had any interest in really producing a show, but I pitched the idea to Peepshow Menagerie because I love Sailor Moon SO MUCH (it is one of my biggest fandoms), and one of the producers was pretty much on the same page already. We asked fellow dancer and Sailor Moon fan, Seraphina Wilder, if she would co-produce, and it just took off. Fast. Luckily, we didn’t have any issue getting the cast together, which can be a problem with certain shows. All the performers we cast are fans and, honestly, I believe this is what makes Moon Tease so great! No one wanted to be in the show just to be in another burlesque show, they wanted to be involved because they love Sailor Moon, and it shows in the quality of their performances!

Producing is hard work. You have to make sure that everyone is on the same page as much as possible, which can be a bit tricky when you have lots of people involved both on the producing and performer side of things. Music needs to be collected and put together, you have to create the order of the show, and promote, promote, promote! (The lovely folks of Sailor Moon LA really help us with this, too!)
We want the performers to be happy, and also the audience, so we try to come up with things like the cosplay contest and trivia. Since Sailor Moon has such a passionate fandom, I personally want the audience to feel as though they are part of the show, just as much as the performers.

 

Let’s segue into your voice acting career. I’ve heard your demos and they’re seriously excellent. What point are you in with that? Are you still building your resume or have you started the hunt for agents? What are you working on?12038804_976425349088325_4417672195685480183_o.jpg

Again, thank you!  I have my two most important demos and an agent, so at this point, I am just auditioning and continuing with classes. (I’m a firm believer in keeping up with classes and constantly working your craft, no matter what level you are.)

I’ve been fortunate enough to book a couple of things, such as some wonderful audio dramas and a really cool video game (I’m under an NDA, so I cannot say anything about it yet). I also just did my first anime!!! That was beyond exciting, but, again, I cannot say anything due to being under contract. (Hopefully soon, though!) Aside from that, I record quite a bit for Suspense Radio, which is a revival of the classic Suspense Radio Drama series. John C. Alsedek and Dana Perry Hayes are wonderful producers, and John gives me some of the most fun roles!

 

I always describe you as this ethereal faerie flitting through this world. Are you still learning Gaelic? What’s that like?

Hehe, oh, I love that! Go raibh maith agat!
Actually, I am learning Irish, or Irish Gaelic. (I have learned that referring to it simply as Gaelic is frowned upon.) Admittedly, it has been slow for me, and I’m not as advanced at this point as I would like to be, but, I’m still learning whenever I can! It really is such a gorgeous language! However, it is extremely difficult, and my brain has been on overload the past few months with voice over. The Duolingo app has certainly helped me keep up with it from time to time, and I actually recommend it to anyone wanting to try another language!

Are there any misconceptions about acting, dancing, or voice acting you’d like to share?

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There is this huge thing out there about voice acting not being “real acting”, or that it is super easy, and both of those are so very wrong. So wrong. I don’t know if some people think since you aren’t seen or you’re behind a microphone, that any type of real acting skill isn’t required or what, but it is offensive. Some of the best actors I know are primarily voice actors. And, no, it isn’t easy. As with anything, voice over still requires a lot of skill and technique. Dubbing, like in anime, is especially difficult. Voice over is also very competitive. I don’t know how many times I have heard people refer to voice as their backup plan or something they think they can do to make some easy money. (I wish!)
Dance, acro, aerial, etc. etc. has this issue as well. The professional dancers and acrobats I know are THE most dedicated people. To do it for a living, they have to not only work hard, but be willing to sacrifice a lot. They spend pretty much all their time training and rehearsing. They do the most insane things to their bodies. They experience injuries. They put themselves into their art 100%. These performers bring their very best to the stage so the audience can witness something beautiful, but not see the effort behind it all.

 

What are some of your favorite foods? We’re big on food on PopLurker.

This always changes depending on where I am in life, haha. Right now, because I am more on a vegetarian diet, I am all about this vegan pad thai dish from a restaurant I love. In fact, if I could have anything at this very moment, that would be it. I also love matcha. ANYTHING matcha flavor, I will eat it. Oh. And pineapple. (Disney Dole Whips!)

 

If you could travel anywhere today, where would you go and why?

Does Middle Earth count? If not, I want to go back to Scotland. I realize there are so many other places to explore, but I fell in love with Scotland all the way back when I was sixteen. I had such a perfect opportunity to become familiar with Edinburgh, but, honestly, I want to explore the country now as an adult. I would also like to visit Ireland. There is so much history there that I’ve always been interested in, plus, it would be a great chance to practice the language!

 

What are you hoping the next five years brings?

Professionally, I hope to do a lot more anime. I absolutely love anime. So much. And I love dubbing. It doesn’t pay as much as other voice over work, but I really would like to have a nice bit of anime on my resume. I would also like to do more video games…especially something like Final Fantasy. Oh. Yes. Actually, I would be incredibly happy if I were to take part in a Final Fantasy game in any way.
As mentioned earlier, I’m also getting more into the motion capture side of things, so I hope to travel down that path. It would be awesome to book a nice paying steady gig with mocap, especially since I am such a physical person. I think it would make me very happy.

I hope to continue dancing, even if for myself, and I have been playing around with the idea of becoming certified in yoga.

There are also some personal things I hope will happen in the next 5 years, as well, but I will keep those near and dear to my heart.

And, honestly, I hope I continue meeting such lovely fun people, like yourself!!
You can find Deneen on her website, on Twitter, or on Instagram.

 

Got an interesting job, hobby, or life experience? Tell us about it! Just email PopLurker and let us know what you’re up to. Or, follow Loryn on Twitter or her personal blog. Loryn’s debut novel My Starlight, a young adult novel about anime, cosplaying, fandom, love, loss, and friendship will be released August 3rd, 2018 by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

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