What makes a ‘GREAT’ burlesque act? – Take your acts from “meh” to “AMAZING” by mastering the “Three Pillars Of Burlesque”.
What makes a great burlesque act? – Take your acts from “meh” to “AMAZING” by mastering the “Three Pillars Of Burlesque”.
“WHAT MAKES A ‘GREAT’ BURLESQUE ACT?”
Has got to be the age-old question.
Usually, the discussion comes to a conclusion of “well it’s subjective”. Everyone has different tastes and so you can never OBJECTIVELY say if an act is ‘good’ or not.
But is that really true?
When I’m judging acts for the online competition Limelight, I can’t just say, “well I liked this one and didn’t like that one”. I have to know WHY and I have to take my own tastes out of the equation.
I hold myself to the standard of being able to articulate WHY an act got a particular score and if the act didn’t get full marks I have to (and WANT to) be in a position where I can give effective guidance and advice on how to get it closer to one.
If that guidance is, “I just personally didn’t like it”, then I’ve failed as a coach.
THE THREE PILLARS OF BURLESQUE:
So that is why I’ve created the Three Pillars Of Burlesque. Not only so I can be objective when coaching students and judging competitions, but to also be able to apply them to my OWN work so that I can categorically see where an act can be improved and where I need to focus my energy.
If someone loves elaborate costumes, or puts dance technique as highly in their favor then, how can these criteria be applied to acts which are not dance heavy or covered in rhinestones due to artistic choice?
I believe that EVERYTHING that goes into a burlesque act, and the performing of that act can be put into the following three categories.
1) SKILL LEVEL
How proficient is the performer at the skill they are presenting on stage? This can be any skill that the act is based around be it dance, acrobatics, comedy, singing, acting, hosting, lip syncing, strip technique, feather fans, boa work, playing a musical instrument, fire performance….. etc.
Maybe to improve your act, it’s the actual SKILL TECHNIQUE that you want to improve on or add to your tool belt. Or maybe you’ve got SO caught up in skill that you’ve worked on this as much as you can and can’t understand why your acts aren’t improving, in which case – time to look at the other two categories.
2) CONNECTION AND CHARISMA
This looks at the way YOU perform this skill. Take two performers equally skilled in technique and why is it that you prefer to watch one rather than the other? Why do I want to watch YOU?
Maybe you prefer to watch the performer who is LESS proficient in a skill and as an audience member you just don’t know why – they have a certain “je ne sais quoi”.
Well as creators and coaches it’s our JOB to KNOW. And if we don’t know, then we should be curious and find out.
How confident are you just being on stage? How does your stage persona inform how you approach and present your performance skill? How do you connect with the audience and hold their attention? How good is your ability to improvise and go with the flow and the unexpected?
If you’re feeling blocked in your act maybe this is the area you should be focusing on in order to supplement or even offset your skill technique.
Is there a concept behind the performance piece, and has it been fully realized?
I’ve watched acts that are beautifully performed by someone oozing with confidence but there’s still something lacking – Concept.
Is your act 100% reliant on your skill and your charisma? Or is your concept so strong that you could give (or even sell) the act to someone else with slightly less ability and the act would still hold up? Maybe your act is SO reliant on concept that you haven’t thought to check if your skill technique is lacking or if your confidence level is hindering the act.
Concept covers your choices and creativity around music, costume, hair and make-up, character, lighting design, stage topography, story structure – do they all make sense and been carefully thought out, or have they all been a lackluster afterthought?
Burlesque really is about being a ‘triple threat’ and learning to excel in all three of these areas.
In June 2023 I will be running a virtual 3 Day intensive workshops touching on each of these three pillars so that we can all really get to grips with exactly WHERE improvement is needed in developing both as a creator and performer of burlesque.
JUNE 22ND – JUNE 24TH JOIN OUR VIRTUAL EVENT
“YOUR BURLESQUE BREAKTHROUGH”
► Leap into burlesque, despite the voices telling you that you can’t. Vixen will give you the knowledge and encouragement to realize that in fact… YES YOU CAN!
► Re-kindle your love of burlesque after being stuck in a rut.
► Reveal your authentic stage persona – develop your character’s name, backstory, physicality and charisma so you can be seen for who you truly are.
► Learn the craft of story-building to take your solo act creation to the next level.
► Collaborate with expert coaches in all areas of burlesque from rhine-stoning your costume to mastering social media.
If you are excited to have YOUR burlesque breakthrough, then join us for this exclusive 3 Day virtual event.
You still have time to claim our Early Bird discount – just use code “EARLY” at checkout to save $50 valid until May 20th 2023
The Risk In Risque
The Risk In Risque
Whenever someone mentions risk, I think of the front cover of “The Big Leap”, by Gay Hendricks, the fish jumping from the small bowl into the larger bowl. There is no way you are ever going to progress in any aspect of life if you don’t ever take a risk. Not taking a risk means you stay in your comfort zone and life is just going to be ‘more of the same’.
I can think of two major risks I’ve taken in life which have been integral to putting me where I am now.
Firstly, deciding to move to the US in 2012. Back in London, UK, I was making an OK wage,
…with an OK career,
…living an OK lifestyle.
But that was it…… JUST ‘OK’.
Not ‘amazing’, not ‘exceptional’, not ‘better than I ever could have imagined’… but.. ‘OK’. I looked around at my life and thought if I don’t make some big changes then the next five, ten, fifteen years is just going to be more of the same. Being ‘OK’ and ‘comfortable’ is a dangerous place to be, there’s no incentive to hustle, nothing to push you to the next level. You find yourself resting on your laurels and hitting a plateau.
It took me 11 months, but I packed up that life, spent huge amounts of time and money on petitioning for work visas, paying lawyer fees, and uprooted my life to a whole other country where I knew no-one and had zero contacts or reputation.
But it was that risk that lit a fire under me, to hustle, to build a career, to make connections, to succeed. There’s nothing more motivating than raising the stakes.
The second memorable and pivotal risk I took was when my roommate moved out of my LA apartment in 2016. Initially there was the fear of how I was going to find someone ASAP to move in and help pay rent, but then…. I took a moment. Rather than have a knee-jerk reaction going into ‘repair mode’ to keep things ‘the same’, I could choose to look at this event as an opportunity and not a problem to fix. Yes, I could find another roommate to keep costs down, (the standard normal) but think of the cost of having to live with a whole new person, who may not live as well with me as the previous roommate did! Yes, I’d save a few hundred dollars a month but I’d be potentially sacrificing a really stable homelife, which, as a person who doesn’t have a workplace to escape to 9-5, is infinitely valuable.
My home is my office, my rehearsal studio, my costuming workshop, my writer’s room. I need it to be as pleasing and productive an environment as possible.
Then, the opportunity of the situation hit me.
Phrases like “dressing for the job you want” came to mind. Yes, my home WAS all those things, but living with a roommate meant in actuality MY BEDROOM was all those things. What if I, as CEO, expanded my company?
I had launched my burlesque classes in 2014 and was now teaching more regularly and paying to rent a dance studio to run sessions. This took a huge chunk of profit. Having no-show students would mean having to cancel and still owe the rental, plus a wasted trip for me to and from the studio. On top of that, I would sometimes lose out on last minute private bookings because the studio was unavailable.
Just as I’d risked everything in 2012 to jump to the larger goldfish bowl of Los Angeles, now I wanted jump into having more space in order to expand my company. I spent the last $1000 I had in savings putting down a new wood floor, painting the room, and taking on the extra rent on the apartment, because the risk of that monetary investment was worth the gain.
I felt like a crazy person, spending money on renovating an apartment that I didn’t even own?? But I wasn’t investing in the property – I was putting my money where my mouth was and investing in myself.
I now had a dedicated space for my craft, both performing AND teaching, A dedicated space to create and store all my props and costume, to rehearse, to shoot self-tapes, to teach private classes whenever I wanted, I had gained multi-layers of freedom. It turns out the risk paid off many times over, just as I had finished ‘moving in’ to my new workspace I was contacted by Airbnb as they were about to launch their new “Experiences” programme, but they needed people who not only had enough space to hold participants but also the flexibility to hold an experience at any time. BOOM I had just gained all of that by risking my last dollar and the income I made from teaching and running events through Airbnb just in the first few months was more than enough to cover the renovations and rent increase.
To me, risk is not just making the leap to the larger fish bowl. Risk is all in, no going back, fully committed to creating a new world for yourself. It’s breaking the egg to make the omelette, destroying your current situation of comfort giving you no choice but to embrace, and succeed as, the newly regenerated you.
If you’re ready to make the next big leap, click here to book a consult with me and we can figure out those steps together.
Top 10 Tips On How To Be An AMAZING Burlesque Stage Kitten
Top 10 Tips On How To Be An AMAZING Burlesque Stage Kitten
If you’re reading this title wondering, “What is a Stage Kitten and why would I even want to be one?” then you need to go read my article “5 Fabulous Reasons To Be A Burlesque Stage Kitten” which lays it all out for you.
Now that you know the benefits to being a Stage Kitten, and what the job entails, here’s my Top Ten Tips on how to be an AMAZING kitten that producers and performers will value and call upon again and again.
Just as I talk about the “functional” and “cosmetic” when dealing with stocking peel and the art of tease. The stage kitten has both a functional and cosmetic purpose in any burlesque show and therefore requires skills in BOTH arenas, so let’s look at each of these skill-sets separately.
1. Be Responsible
You are first and foremost there to fulfill a task, to set up the stage and to clear up the stage. Take responsibility for this task and don’t assume that the producer has a prepared list or that the performers will come and find you to give you their set-up and clear-up information. Be professional – you may be volunteering, you may be paid, you may be working for tips. Regardless, you are being relied on to fulfill a very important job – treat this job with the respect that it, and you, deserve.
You need to be one of the first people at the venue since you are part of the set-up. Check with the producer what time you need to be at the venue (call time) and what time you need to be “stage-ready”. You should ideally be stage-ready before you start any of your prep work below.
Don’t wait to be given your instructions. Take initiative to connect with each performer in the running order so that you are clear on what is needed from you from each one for that show.
Check your emails in case the producer has emailed you the running order in advance and then print it out so that you have your own copy.
If you have not received an email, find the producer when you arrive and ask for a running order. If you are not given your own copy, create one.
Write down your own notes (on paper not on your phone) for you to refer to. Even if you are provided a running order WITH kittening notes, don’t assume that these are correct – they may have been copied and pasted from a previous running order or the performer may have changed their act since the running order was created.
Once you have obtained a running order, check in with each performer and ask what they need as set-up for each of their acts and what clean up is required. Some performers may also need you to do something DURING their act. WRITE IT ALL DOWN, don’t assume you can rely on memory, because, in the moment, you will forget.
Make sure it all makes sense – to YOU. If you need to write long form, or have a short hand or need to draw diagrams on the page to know where things need to be placed, you do you! Be responsible for understanding everything the performers need from you. It’s better to double check rather than getting it wrong.
Make sure you know how the show producer/performers prefer their clear-up to happen. Are you collecting all the costume pieces to one side of the stage for the performers to retrieve at the end of the show? Are you going to take all the costume pieces backstage directly to the performer in between each act? Are you going to have time to go backstage to give a performer their costume and still be able to set up for the next act? Be responsible for your tasks and make sure you communicate with everyone regarding their expectations and the reality of the situation so you can figure out the best way to make it all happen.
Once you’ve checked in with all the performers, check in with the Emcee/Host of the show. Introduce yourself and check if you are going to be kittening to music with the host off-stage, or if you are kittening while the host is on-stage. Connect and build rapport with the host as some may have “bits” they like to do or specific banter that they like to play out with the kitten so check in and see what vibe they have and how you can supplement their performance.
You may be part of a show that has more than one kitten. Communicate with the other kittens so that you can co-ordinate your tasks, maybe one kitten is doing clear-up while the other is doing set-up. Once you have finished your tasks, help to complete the remaining tasks in case the other kitten is struggling or having issues. Team Effort!!
2. Be Personable
We all want a great experience backstage. You have no idea whether people are stressed or nervous or were just in a car crash or just lost their day job. SO MUCH IS GOING ON backstage and you are there to help! Interact with everyone in a pleasant manner.
That means security personnel on the door as you walk into the venue, the bar staff setting up, be nice to EVERYONE you encounter and don’t bring your issues from the outside world into the venue. Have a positive attitude, so that if a performer is stressed about something that could go wrong, you can assure them that, “you got it”… you’ve got them – they can rely on you to help with anything.
If there’s a larger issue with the venue or the organization or some comments have been said about a performer backstage, this is not the time to stoke that fire and add to the conversation – anything you want to contribute or address you can send in an email to the producer tomorrow AFTER the event.
Be especially nice to anyone who is a debut performer – they will be especially stressed out and nervous. Be encouraging and let them know you’re there if they need anything even if that’s just a glass of water or a hug.
3. Be Alert
We are dealing with live theatre and human error, so nothing is ever going to go according to plan! You need to be attentive, watching everything going on at all times so that you can immediately trouble-shoot any issue.
Once you’ve set the stage, check or look back to make sure that nothing’s moved or that an audience member hasn’t messed with anything. If the Host is still on stage you can either go ahead and fix the issue or get the host’s attention and let them know “in character” or whisper to them what the issue is so that they can fix it. Alternatively if the host has already left the stage you can let them know off-stage what the issue is, or you can alert the performer who is about to enter stage, so that they can trouble-shoot the issue during their act.
Watch the performer’s acts – they will have given you information on their pick up and clean up, so keep an eye on where costume items are discarded. Costume can end up ANYWHERE, in a completely different area of the stage, stuck in a rafter, slid under some furniture, or, completely off the stage. Maybe an audience member has picked something up! It is your job to retrieve all the items the performer specified beforehand, so make sure to watch where they end up since this can be an unpredictable part of many solo acts.
Be aware of anything that seems to be “going wrong”. If backstage a performer says “i’m not going to be ready in time” ask them “do you need help?” or “do you need me to stall the host?”. They may just need you to help with some costume or they may need you to go on stage and ask the host to stall/vamp for a moment. Equally if the host announces a performer and there is silence, you might have the opportunity to check in with the sound engineer if they have the right track or if it’s in the wrong format. If there’s a problem with the music it may be that you can fix this by running backstage to get the music from the performer’s phone or some other alternative.
Don’t wander off or take a break just because the running order shows that you have some “downtime”. Make sure to check in with the producer, host or performer about to enter stage if you need to step away during the show at any moment.
4. Be Stage Savvy
Know the basics of stage topography. When a performer tells you where to place things or where to find things, they are more than likely going to use the following stagecraft terms. Imagine that you are standing in the absolute middle of the stage area, facing the audience.
Upstage – This is the area behind you.
Downstage – This is area in front of you, between you and the audience.
Stage left – This is the area on YOUR left hand side.
Stage right – This is the area on YOUR right hand side.
There are some more detailed directions such as ‘upstage left’, ‘downstage right’ etc. these are shown in the diagram below.
5. Be Prepared
This is not necessarily required of any stage kitten but a huge bonus if you have these at the ready. Take to every show your backstage prep bag in case performers need help in an emergency: scissors, glue, needle and thread, safety pins, hair pins, pastie tape, even a spare pair of stockings. The more gigs you do the more you’ll hear a call backstage for last minute items needed or items forgotten. If you are there to the rescue, you will be remembered and loved forever.
1. Costume, Hair and Make-up
Ask ahead of time if the producer wants you to wear specific costume pieces. They may have a theme that requires a certain style such as Vintage, Circus, Halloween, Holiday Season, some ask that you wear some ‘kitten/cat’ element such as kitten ears or a tail. They may just have a colour scheme that they want you to follow such as Black and Red or Black and Gold. If there are multiple kittens in the show, take initiative to contact them and co-ordinate your costume so that you look like a professional team. If the producer doesn’t specify a theme then make sure you feel comfortable and confident in your costume and that you are dressed as if you were about to do a routine on stage. Your hair and make-up should also be show-ready. Make sure that your shoes are cute but comfortable and allow you to do your functional kitten tasks, for example, picking up costume pieces and running between the stage and backstage at a high speed if need be.
2. Pick-up Performance
Yes, your functional job is to clear and set the stage, but cosmetically, we want the kitten to do this in a fun, engaging and performative manner. Check with the producer and Emcee/host if there are times in the running order where you can take more time doing this, maybe they need to fill time to cover a quick change or maybe the second half of the show is really full and they need the stage changes to be much quicker. When you have time to fill, decide on how your persona is going to pick up and set up. Are you embodying the characteristics of a cat and playing with the costume pieces? Are you innocent and playful? Are you overtly sexual? Explore different intentions and attitudes and decide which feels more fun for you.
3. Audience and Host Interaction
It’s not just the performer’s costume and props that you’re interacting with onstage, you’ll also want to make use of interacting with both the audience and the host of the show. When you know you have time to play these moments out, explore ways in which your persona interacts with the audience and their attitude towards the audience. Explore your relationship and attitude towards the host, are you eager to help, are you flirting with them, are you ditzy and always getting things wrong? You can also chat with the host beforehand if there’s any “bits” you want to try out during the show.
We talked a bit about ‘Persona Performance’ but the way that you are introduced in the show will also infer your performance before you’ve even stepped foot on stage. Make sure to decide on what your kitten name is and let the host know so that they can introduce you correctly. Some people might decide to have a different kitten name to their burlesque name, some may prefer to use their burlesque name to solidify branding, some may prefer to remain anonymous and just be referred to as ‘The Kitten’. Likewise you may feel that ‘kitten’ doesn’t quite fit with your persona at all. If you have a different term you want to go by, let the host know. Maybe you’re “The Stage Maid”, or “The Stage Puppy”, I’ve had people specify that they are the stage “Lioness” or, during holiday season, “Santa’s Little Helper”. If it helps your persona and stage performance feel free to have the discussion if you prefer to be referred to as something alternative to ‘The Kitten’.
5. Have Fun
As with everything I teach, if you’re not having fun then neither are the audience. If you’re not having fun, then stop! And FIND THE FUN. Find the fun in everything you do so that the audience, the producer, the host and everyone around you is having fun in your presence. This, above all, should be the reason for performing as a stage kitten and indeed being any part of a burlesque show.
If you want to chat with me on how to get involved as a stage kitten or to help you in any other way on your burlesque journey, book in for a free consultation with me at https://www.vixendeville.com/consultation-questionnaire/
5 Fabulous Reasons To Be a Burlesque Stage Kitten
5 Fabulous Reasons To Be a Burlesque Stage Kitten
What is a Burlesque Stage Kitten and why would I want to be one?
Two very good questions that I get all the time from new students.
So let’s lay it all out right here.
What Is A Stage Kitten?
Just as I talk about the “functional” and “cosmetic” when dealing with stocking peel and the art of tease The stage kitten has both a functional and cosmetic purpose in any burlesque show and therefore requires skills in BOTH arenas.
Functionally, the stage kitten is essentially the stage manager of the show. Their function is to set the stage for each solo or group act, place props and costume items where they need to be for the upcoming performer(s) and then clear the stage of used and discarded items ready for the next one. They are there to help the show run more smoothly and seamlessly between acts.
Cosmetically, the stage kitten is a cast member of the show in their own right. They are a character introduced to the audience, they are part of the banter, the presentation and ultimately they supplement the vibe of the entire production. Unlike traditional theatre where the stage manager and stage hands are dressed all in black, hidden and invisible to the audience, the stage kitten is a character who brings attention to their presence, is a part of the audience experience, bringing their own unique style and personality to the stage.
5 Reasons Why Would I Want To Be A Stage Kitten?
Depending on your interest in the burlesque world there are a number of reasons why stage kittening is worth your time. You may be looking to build your confidence, build your network or build your career. Stage kittening can help to do all these things and more.
1. Stage Time/Character Exploration
Maybe you got into burlesque in order to explore your alter ego, shed your skin of past labels, rediscover your inner vixen, goddess, or badass. Maybe you want the chance to do this without the pressure of creating a whole solo act. Being a stage kitten means you can dress up and embody your alter ego without the pressure of creating a solo act or having to hold an audience’s attention for a full 3-5 mins.
You can use this stage time to explore different personas, different pieces of costume, get more familiar with who your burlesque persona is and how they interact with an audience and, in turn, use these discoveries to inform your solo act creation. This is also a great opportunity for those who have never been on stage to get used to being in front of an audience and to get familiar with the feeling of being in the limelight.
This could be social networking in order to connect with other like-minded people in a new town, or, professional networking as a newcomer to burlesque looking to connect with other industry professionals. As the kitten, you get to interact and converse with the producer, the host/emcee and EVERY performer in the show, not to mention being recognized by every audience member, bar staff, club owner and promoter.
The kitten can get more stage time than any performer in the show so if you’re trying to make a name for yourself in the burlesque world this is a great way to get your name and persona known before you’ve even debuted. I’ve known students who, while kittening shows during their burlesque performer training, have made connections that have changed their lives in terms of finding friendship, roommates and life partners. Other students, while kittening, have built up such a following that by the time they debut they have a built-in fan base of supporters right there in the audience, rather than a bunch of strangers.
3. Venue Familiarization
If you are planning on debuting a new act, or are an out of town performer looking to perform at a new venue, kittening at that venue can really aid in settling the nerves for an unfamiliar space. You get to know the size of the stage, how bright the lights are, the vibe of the audience, the distance of the dressing room from the stage, the size (or even existence?!) of a dressing room, the sight lines, the ceiling height etc. All of these factors can throw off the most seasoned of performers if they haven’t had a chance to check out the stage space. So, volunteering to kitten a show in advance not only puts you on good terms with the producer for future bookings, but also gives you some insight as to how to adapt your act most effectively for that particular venue or even which of your acts would most suit the venue for future submissions.
4. Understanding the other roles of the show
When I trained as an actor during my BA Theatre Creation and Solo Performance, in my first year, all the actors were required to do some tech for a show, and all the tech students were required to perform in a show. This gave everyone such a huge respect for all the other people involved in making a show happen. If I, as an actor, had experience of having made a prop, I then had more respect for prop makers and maybe wouldn’t throw my props around so much and therefore take better care of them. Equally, the prop maker who has experience acting on stage, and experience of being “in the moment” with no choice but to throw the prop around, now has more understanding as to why props got trashed by the end of a theatre run and more empathy for the actor using them. MUTUAL RESPECT.
If you are looking to be a burlesque performer, you are going to rely on a Stage Kitten at some point in your career and unless you’ve experienced what it’s like to BE a kitten, you may end up being less sympathetic to a kitten when it comes to giving them instruction. You’ll know how much detailed information they need, you’ll know to talk with kindness and gratitude, you’ll understand the struggles that come up that sometimes make the performer’s requests nigh-on impossible. If you are going to rely on a stage kitten at some point in your career, it only makes sense that you should experience what that position entails and feels like, so that you are empathetic and sympathetic when calling on their services.
5. Research and Development
There is nothing more valuable in developing your burlesque performance than keeping up with the latest trends and peer creations. The first thing you should do when embarking on a burlesque performance career is familiarize yourself with what’s already been done, by who, and how. I was lucky enough to be part of a troupe when I first started in 2005 and was able to witness the other solo acts in that troupe, not just the polished acts on stage but the set-up backstage, the conversations in rehearsal about development, prop creation and costume creation. When I started hosting/Emcee-ing shows I was then privy to numerous acts per night, able to study what worked, what didn’t work, and why. Able to hear the last minute struggles backstage of “Argh! I’ve forgotten this prop!!” and then moments later see how that performer trouble-shooted the issue on stage. YES, at the very least you should be doing your research by attending shows, but by kittening, not only do you get free access to these shows but also some ‘behind the scenes’ knowledge.
How To Become a Burlesque Dancer, Burlesque Performer, Burlesque Artist….
How To Become a Burlesque Dancer, Burlesque Performer, Burlesque Artist….
Maybe you’ve seen some pictures, recently saw a show, or have been a fan of burlesque for years but always secretly wished it was you on stage. Whatever piqued your interest, you’re here… wondering if this seed of an idea can become fully fledged reality.
The answer to that is, YES – it absolutely can!
From those of you looking for a hobby to improve body confidence, or to add some fun and sparkle to your life, to those with stronger intentions of turning this beautiful art form into a new career – this guide will give you the necessary steps to successfully support you on your way.
Over the years I’ve witnessed my students transform into international award-winning burlesque performers. I’ve seen them grow their own troupes and produce their own shows. I’ve seen how burlesque has provided them with a supportive community and the new found confidence to enable them to make drastic, positive changes in both their personal and professional lives. (You can check out some of the most inspiring and moving stories of my students in my book, “Vixen’s Unleashed”) – So let’s get you started on YOUR journey.
STEP ONE – TAKE A CLASS
If this is all totally new to you, you’ve never danced or even performed in any medium before, I recommend taking an introductory burlesque class first to get a feel for it.
Taking a one-off introductory class such as my “Unleash Your Inner Vixen” either in-person or online means you can get a feel for the teacher’s vibe and style before you commit to their longer term course.
Watching YouTube videos doesn’t really count. Yes you might be able to pick up some technique, but taking an actual class gives you the opportunity to gain personal feedback, as well as a chance to plug in with your burlesque community, both by creating a rapport with the teacher and by making connections with the other students.
STEP TWO – DO YOUR RESEARCH
GO SEE SOME SHOWS!! We want to get you familiar with the venues and performers in your area, as well as the virtual shows that may be running online, so that you have an idea of where you will be performing, who you will be working with and the vibe of the different shows around. This research will get you even more connected to your community and give you a head start in knowing where best to submit yourself once you’re ready to perform.
This research also gives you a chance to check out the standards and styles of acts currently being performed, which is great not only as inspiration, but also as education on what has already been created and to maybe avoid when creating your first act so that you can stay as unique as possible.
STEP THREE – CREATE YOUR FIRST ACT
My full act development course, “Permission To Play” can be taken IN PERSON in Los Angeles or anywhere ONLINE Designed for bodies of all ages abilities, shapes and sizes, this course will guide you through my own step-by-step process for creating your personally tailored solo act. The course culminates with the opportunity to perform as a debut guest star either in your hometown or in a professional Burlesque show in Los Angeles.
STEP FOUR – GET YOUR PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS TOGETHER
In order to get your act booked you need to promote yourself! For that to happen you need promotional materials that do you and your act justice.
Studio photos or stills of you performing on stage, plus video footage of your act are both needed not only to send to producers and bookers to pitch yourself for a show, but will be requested from you by the producer in order to promote the show you get booked for.
Hire a professional photographer or videographer, to help you get materials that sparkle! If you’re doing “Permission to Play” with me in Los Angeles then your debut show includes footage and show stills as part of your package.
STEP FIVE – SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s not who you know but who knows YOU! Social media is not only used heavily in order to promote shows and events but also used in the burlesque community to post castings and request show submissions.
If you’re avoiding Facebook or Instagram now’s the time to create a new account under your burlesque persona ( for my article on How To Choose Your Burlesque name click here )
Being active on social media is also important not just in order to secure bookings by finding castings and showing potential bookers your style and vibe. Social media is also crucial in order to support and promote shows once you’re booked. Producers expect you to do your fair share of promoting the show and bringing an audience so an active and supportive social media account is vital.
STEP SIX – GET EXPERIENCE (and be professional)
Once you’ve performed your debut, you need to get a few performances under your belt to really get your act smooth and polished. When starting out, try to perform as much as possible to ‘earn your stripes’, to get your act fine tuned, and to build your reputation within the community.
This will mean working a number of shows for free, before you can start demanding higher levels of pay. Submit to newcomer festivals, volunteer to ‘Kitten’ for a producer’s show, but always, always treat your gig as a professional engagement regardless of size of venue or amount of pay. You don’t want to get a reputation for the wrong reasons. When starting out it can be more valuable to do a performance free of charge in return for experience, contacts, footage and professional promotional photos.
STEP SEVEN – BUILD YOUR SKILL LEVEL
Now that you’ve got the foundation of your first act created and performed, and you’re starting to get known in the community, this is the time to build on that foundation.
Start to build on and explore other performance skills; chair dance, aerial arts, flow arts, fire dancing, juggling, magic, other dance styles, musical instruments. Find something that lights you up which you can start to incorporate into your acts to make them even more uniquely yours.
Add to your act creation skills – learn how to embellish and create custom costume pieces, prop making, sound editing, all these skills will add to your self expression and creativity when developing your next act.
You can find information on my supplementary training including learning to eat fire, beginners fire fan classes, feather fan technique and burlesque costume creation here.
STEP EIGHT – CREATE YOUR SECOND ACT
Most producers will hire a performer to perform at least two acts in their show so in order to become more bookable you will need to have at least two solid (preferably contrasting) acts in your repertoire. Make sure to get all your promotion in line for your second act as well – get it filmed, photographed and get some great studio shots for poster and flyer use. Many of my students will book me for a single private session for feedback on an act they are developing or to use as a consultation to develop new ideas. Once you’re in the community you can also use your peers as sounding boards to try out new ideas.
Now that you have two solid acts, a reputation, a growing social media fan base and some stage experience, you’re ready to go book those higher paying gigs. Download my PDF on How To Get Paid Gigs.
To book a free consultation with me to discuss how you can best make a start on your burlesque journey click here.
Do you have a festival Act?
DO YOU HAVE A FESTIVAL ACT?
What I DO have….
….is a number of acts which I have performed as part of a Festival.
I consider them to be of, “festival level” standard, but they were never, “created for a festival”, and I strongly feel that it’s harmful to make a distinction between creating an act for a festival submission and creating any other act you plan to perform.
This is a question a lot of students will come to me with ..
“I think I’m ready to create a festival act, what should I do?”
That’s problem number one. The question should be rephrased to:
“I think I’m ready to apply for a festival what should I do?”
Meaning that you already have an act you’ve created from the heart which you feel is now ready to be showcased at festival level – how should you go about making the best application and making that act as festival ready as possible?
As soon as you start creating an act for ANYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF then you’re losing the artistry.
You begin to create to the specifications of the receiver rather than the desire of the creator.
The act becomes clinical, sterile. You become robotic rather than human. Surely the huge draw to art is the humanity behind it.
I went 13 years as a Burlesque performer without performing a solo act in a festival. I put this down to a number of factors. First, I was unaware of any festivals outside of the UK and wasn’t really interested in traveling. Second, I thought that “festival” automatically meant “competition” and I was not in a place where I wanted to compete. I wanted to perform and entertain and not be judged by a panel of ‘experts’.
So Why DID I want to perform in a festival? I wanted to travel…I wanted to connect to the rest of the Burlesque community, I wanted to share my art with that community and experience theirs in return, and yes, being a teacher, I felt the need to prove that my art was worthy of festival quality and to demonstrate that I have, and continue to, practice what I preach.
My first festival I decided to go with “what will be different” and decided that submitting a ‘variety act’ was a safe choice with a higher chance of being selected. I chose an act which I had been performing for 8 years (also a safe choice). I spruced up the costume and added a couple of more moves to make it ‘festival ready’.
But this was never an act that I created ‘for a festival’.
More recently, the act which I performed for Arizona Burlesque Festival 2019 started off essentially as an in-joke between myself and some LA audience regulars. I only debuted it 6 months earlier, I’d only performed it on stage 3 times. I created it because it amused ME, it lit ME up! It was very much removed from the typical acts that I perform, but the audience reaction when I’ve performed it has been amazing and that, alone, is proof that it’s worthy of festival inclusion.
Regardless of whether I’m working with beginners or seasoned pros, my goal is always to help you create an act that comes from the heart, an act which moves you emotionally when you perform it, that is theatrically spectacular on stage and worthy of audience attention. If you have all those elements then you have a festival act.
Remember .. your act, whether performing for a small dive bar, a TV appearance, a private gig, or high profile festival, has got to be first and foremost, FOR YOU!!! If you aren’t loving your art, if you aren’t desperate to share your art… then WE the audience won’t love it and we won’t be desperate to see it.
Please yourself first, the buyers are a bonus.
If you missed my article on “What’s Your Three?” check that out here – you shouldn’t feel the need to partake in festivals “just because everyone else does” whatever decisions you make in life, be sure to have your three reasons why!!
What’s Your Three?
WHAT’S YOUR THREE?
I recently got caught up in a project that made me miserable and unhappy.
Huge amounts of self-doubt, high levels of stress, and this surging anger which I realised was not directed at the person running the project…. but AT MYSELF… for having agreed to doing the whole thing in the first place.
HOW DID I LET THAT HAPPEN????
I hadn’t been in that situation since another ‘Project From Hell’ which I fell into around 2008 – OVER 10 YEARS AGO!!!!
I thought I’d learnt my lesson!!
…Was this project paying me thousands of dollars? No!
…Was this project getting me ridiculous amounts of exposure? No!
…Did I owe this person anything? NO!
…So what the hell?
….and it’s literally affecting my mental health and daily emotional state!
When it was all over, I was so thankful that it was, in fact, temporary, that I have now reminded myself to be more aware of being sucked into doing things that really ARE NOT worth my time and energy… but was also painfully aware that
NOT EVERYONE IS THAT LUCKY…
That what had been my, ‘temporary situation’, is actually some people’s daily existence.
This toxic, unbalanced, emotionally abusive working relationship that I’d found myself in, is some people’s 9-5pm, some people’s long term friendships, personal relationships and worse – the person you come home to every day.
My first year of college I remember saying to my mum I had found the secret to happiness… (in hind sight, what I meant was, I’d found a way to be less indecisive.)
HAVE THREE REASONS
FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO
It originally stemmed from constantly making the decision whether or not to take a trip into central London since, as a totally broke student, I could barely afford the train fare. If I had three reasons to make the trip then I would go, because if one of the reasons fell through, I always had two back-ups to make the trip worth it.
Seems basic, even childish, but weirdly enough EFFECTIVE when testing the theory elsewhere in my life.
It would help shift the mind from thinking ‘I have to’ to ‘I want to’ during those times that I found myself in a work situation or event where I would start resenting being there.
However shitty the situation – I didn’t ‘have to’ be there, I ‘wanted’ to be there I had my three reasons and I had not been forced to, I had made the choice.
Once those three reasons have gone… done.
And that’s what happened with the project – any reason I may have had for taking on the project, had faded away during development – and that’s when you have to say, we’re done here!
So much of what we do on a daily basis can be out of habit, out of imagined pressure or responsibility, or because it’s just become the norm.
Take a moment to look around at your everyday actions however large or small.
What you eat for breakfast,
…who you hang out with,
…what you chose to do with your free time,
…where you choose to work,
…how many times you check Facebook.
Do you HAVE to do it it? Or do you WANT to do it?
And WHAT ARE YOUR THREE REASONS WHY?
So much of what I love about burlesque comes form the absolute ability to please yourself.
There’s nothing that you HAVE to do when performing burlesque, you do what you WANT to, and for those that are in the process of cutting out the ‘have to’s from their life, it’s an amazing way to equalise the balance.
After a day of dealing with the ‘Project From Hell’, I can go on stage, in the costume I love, move to the music I love, expressing whatever emotion I want to express and leave the stage purged.
“Project from hell??? ….WHAT project from hell???”
I’d love to hear from you about ways you’re cutting your ‘have to’s out of you life or way you’re able to please yourself to equal the balance – Click the link and join the discussion on my Facebook group.
Don’t Give A F*ck
The Art of Not Giving a F*ck
I recently came across a bunch of thought-provoking articles by Mark Manson, one of which totally fits in with a lot of what I teach in my intro class “Unleash Your Inner Vixen” and keep touching on during my, “Permission To Play” course – “The Art of NOT GIVING A F*CK” … it’s a great read:
Apparently we only have a limited amount of ‘F*CKs to give’, so let’s stop wasting them on what others will think about us, and start using them on the things we are passionate about!!
Embrace our true callings and take a risk on DOING, BEING and ACHIEVING those things we secretly know we really want to DO and BE and, underneath it all, ALREADY ARE!
You will hear me repeatedly say in class, “Don’t worry about getting it right, don’t worry about making a fool of yourself, don’t worry that you’re not ‘being sexy’, don’t worry that you’re going to F*CK UP!” When you stop worrying, you become free, and start to play, and create, and truly be!
All of those f*cks are about others’ thoughts, opinions, standards, (all of which are in your imagination anyway)… learn to NOT GIVE A F*CK about THEM .. because
YOU DO give a f*ck about YOURSELF…
…about YOUR passions,
…YOUR enjoyment of life,
…YOUR feelings of fulfillment and..
having no regrets on your death bed!
Go do the thing that lights you up because it matters to YOU!!
If you’re loving this vibe and need some more inspiration today, head on over here for some musings on the secret to happiness and always having your three reasons why.
Remove The Stress From Your Act Creation
YOU CAN’T BE IN SIX PLACES AT ONCE
How to tame the six-headed beast of the burlesque artist.
There is so much to do, and it feels almost impossible to get any of it done!!!! And all the while, yet MORE tasks seem to keep getting added to your list until you are paralysed into complete in-action.
This phenomenon arises in many other creative areas and indeed in many careers, but I have never felt it more strongly than when creating a solo burlesque act.
Even worse, I think this is a phenomenon that most beginners just DO NOT EXPECT! Which makes the whole experience even more overwhelming. Rather than shrivel up and suffocate in the overwhelm, wishing you could some how clone yourself in order to get everything done, learn how to..
YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS
WHY IS THE OVERWHELM SO STRONG???
Creating an act is a mixture between developing and polishing, imagining and manifesting. I’m drawing from my experience of a devised theatre background, rather than a scripted theatre background.
Rather than a writer writing the piece (or a choreographer choreographing a piece) and then passing it onto the actor or dancer to rehearse and polish, when you create a burlesque act, you’re fulfilling BOTH roles… AT THE SAME TIME!!!
In fact, throughout your act creation you’re fulfilling ALL the roles of Writer, Performer, Director, Costumer, Music Composer AND Producer…
IT’S A LOT TO TAKE ON…
And… some parts of the brain that are great at some of these roles are totally disruptive to the skills required for the other roles.
How can your creative brain think.. “Ooh I could end the act by releasing doves into sky”.. when your Producer brain is saying ..”how the hell am I supposed to get hold of and pay for a dozen doves and what venue would even allow it??!”.
EMBRACE A SPLIT-PERSONALITY
You need to allow your creative brain the time to go and explore without judgement… to play, to imagine. Then, SWITCH ROLES and allow your producer brain to look through your creative brain’s notes and figure out logistically how to make that idea, (or at least the essence of that idea) possible.
I know for some actors when rehearsing devised theatre, they can’t concentrate on rehearsing and polishing the scenes they’ve already worked on because they panic, not knowing how the piece is going to end and yet knowing they have a show booked in three weeks time! They’re used to having the finished script there in front of them and having a solid idea of how much work is ahead.
The best advice I can give you is to try to FULLY SWITCH from one role to another during the entire process.
When being the Writer and Creator of your act, exploring all the possibilities, it’s not your role as Director to worry about how polished the performance is or as a Producer to worry about how much time or money sourcing a particularly prop will take. Letting these roles stick their head in will only distract you from the task at hand.
Pick a role and run with it until you have completed that role’s tasks. For example choose to spend a couple hours in ‘development mode’ where your sole purpose is to explore and create. During this ‘development mode’ keep a note pad next to you. When ideas regarding props or costume come up, don’t get distracted and start researching them, WRITE IT DOWN. If you start working on floor work and then panic about whether it will work with the venue’s sight-lines – WRITE IT DOWN. If you suddenly have an idea of changing the beginning of your music, or suddenly remember that you haven’t sent your music to the show producer – don’t run off and do it, WRITE IT DOWN.
ANYTHING that distracts from being in development mode write it down so you can stay in the “Actor/Writer role”. Treat the process as if you have a team of five other people who are fulfilling the other roles, and write it down for THEM to deal with later.
If during this rehearsal session, you find yourself at a creative ‘writer’s block’, THAT’S the time to let the ‘writer’ in you leave the room so you the ‘actor’ can use the remaining time to focus purely on just perfecting what has already been created, to give your creative mind a bit of a break and switch gears.
ALTERNATE BETWEEN ROLES
Schedule your sessions so that every time you work on your act you are switching between your roles, to give each part of your brain a break.
So, when you hit a creative writers wall, and don’t know where the act is going, and you’ve rehearsed the piece as much as can during your session, NOW’S the time to switch to focusing on more tangible things that you CAN be doing in order to get your act show-ready.
Become the Producer and look at the list of things your writer and actor gave you to problem solve during their rehearsal session, source that prop you still haven’t gotten hold of, send your promo photos and music to the booker, promote your show on social media, check on the venue sight-lines and confirm the available entrances and exits.
Then become the Costumer, look at the notes your actor and writer gave you and apply those rhinestones to your costume, find the pieces that are missing, you can let your mind wander as you do so…
BUT MAKE SURE TO STICK TO WHICHEVER ROLE YOU HAVE DECIDED TO EMBRACE FOR THIS PARTICULAR SESSION..
..and if something crops up for the other roles to deal with, write it down so they can deal with it during THEIR next session.
At the end of the day, remember, although creating your act yourself is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, don’t beat yourself up trying to get it all done. There are always things you can outsource, you can always ask a friend to help find that 50’s style radio prop that you’re having an issue finding or ask a fellow burlesquer to help out with some costume design problem you’re finding, hire someone else to edit your music for you, book in a session with me to look over your work so far to give you some ideas of how to get out of your creative block or to polish what you’ve already choreographed.
Yes it’s a solo act but you’re still part of this burlesque community – and we are here to help and support each other.
ABOVE ALL – remember why you started this whole process in the first place and whatever role you’re embracing during your act development, or indeed your everyday life, make sure you’re still having fun!!!
Top 5 Burlesque Costuming Tips
Top 5 Burlesque Costuming Tips
Your costume is one of the most important ingredients in your burlesque act, not only for how it looks on stage and how it portrays your character but also in the functional design so that you can continuously rely on it to be removed effortlessly and intentionally. Not to mention the costume’s maintenance, storage and transportation, so that it continues to look and perform it’s best, show after show after show!
Many times it will be some kind of issue with costume which prevents a student from exploring and developing an act to it’s fullest potential – here are a few tricks of the trade to overcome hesitations in pushing your costume boundaries.1) HOW DO I CLEAN THIS ONCE I’VE EMBELLISHED IT??????
This fear may prevent you from investing in adding beading, trims, appliques and rhinestones to a garment – all of which are absolutely necessary to customise your costumes to make them uniquely yours and to make your costumes look like a billion dollars on stage.
True, all these beautiful and expensive costumes are not easy to keep clean! I even had a corset refused at a dry cleaning company because they were scared the process would melt the beads and sequins that were part of the appliqués.
Dry cleaning sticks for spot checking are an absolute godsend, but for freshening up and killing off bacteria, many suggest a vodka/essential oil mix. A great product available from performer Caramel Knowledge is her Stripper Spritz in four available fragrances – for info and to purchase, send her an email at [email protected]
For underwear in particular – 99% of the time I will wear a nude thong as a base layer, not only as a protective layer for cleanliness but also added coverage for quick changes backstage (or let’s be honest, in the corridor of the bar!). On some occasions, the costume design might mean that an under layer of thong might show through or poke out the top. On other occasions I’ve ended up at a show accidentally wearing a black thong and about to put on my VERY WHITE snow queen costume.. oops. Try cutting the gusset out of a similar pair of underwear, or even just a triangle out of an old t-shirt and either using small snaps, or if these are too bulky you can always use your double-sided pastie tape to attach the fabric to the inside of your garment. Then, when you need to clean the piece you can just remove the fabric and wash that instead of the entire garment. I’ve even heard of some people taping the inside of their costume panties with fabric sports tape and then removing and replacing in-between shows.2) GARTER BELTS SCARE ME, HOW THE HELL DO YOU DETACH THEM FROM A STOCKING???
When starting out I could barely ATTACH a garter belt to a thigh-high stocking, let alone DETACH it. Add to that detaching it in front of an audience, in time to your music, all while looking effortless….waaaaa!
But that shouldn’t discourage you from including this in your act. Maybe you decide to use silicone hold ups instead of a garter belt, or just old fashioned ‘hours of rehearsal’ to get this technique down.
If you still can’t fathom the idea and it freaks you out, it’s not worth putting the pressure on yourself so that you consistently panic during those seconds leading up to this particular moment in your act.
Even if you’re a pro at garter belt removal and you like to incorporate my core concept of “cosmetic removal” to use the struggle to tease your audience, maybe your storyline or upbeat music means you want this moment to be more snappy … hey “snappy”, I made a pun!
Take some clothing snaps and sew the female side to your stocking top. Then close the fastening on the garter belt, and use E6000 to glue the male side to the back of the garter fastening. You can then easily snap the garter to the stocking top so it looks like it’s connected using the regular fastening. If you get runs in your stocking and need to replace then, just snip off the female snap and attach it to your new pair. Click here to see a video example of this snap technique.
The garter belt will still function normally so you can use them for more than one act – either with the snaps for quick removal, or as normal, for a slower tease.3) HELP IM STUCK IN MY … BRA.. CORSET.. DRESS… SHOE… !!!!
YEP, costume malfunction happens to the best of us. Usually the answer is spending rehearsal time figuring out what is causing the issue and troubleshooting the problem, rather than just accepting defeat. The more you can give yourself a break by altering your pieces accordingly, the better you set yourself up for success. First and foremost, there are no rules that you HAVE to use any of these items in your act, and there are no rules that if you DO use them that they have to be removed during your act – if that’s your storyline.
Just don’t let the fear prevent you from experimentation – there are ways and means.
Bras: Make sure to fold over the excess part of the hook and eye when doing one-handed removal this allows extra space for the finger and makes the logistics of unhooking way easier.
For those wearing a larger size bra that has a number of hooks – try replacing these small hooks with larger coat hooks so that the same amount of area is covered but you only have one or two hooks to undo. If you’re still fumbling – try replacing the clasp with ribbons or ties, or consider a front opening bra, either pre-bought or you can just alter an existing bra by adding the specific clasp or tie option.
Dresses: Those which have a back zipper – you can start by not zipping right to the top of the dress, leave an inch or so at the top undone, so you’re already on your way. Tie on a zipper extension to hang down the back so that it’s easier to reach around to pull, this can be decorated with beads or a sequined trim or tassel so that you’re misdirecting your audience from the functional reason for the extension. Dresses with straps or a halterneck – you can detach the straps and add a snap extension so they can be easily undone on stage ready for you to effortlessly step out.
Corsets: Another intimidating item for removal and easy to get stuck in if you don’t loosen the laces enough before undoing a front busk. Again, maybe your act calls for a different energy and instead of a slow removal you want the punch of a quick removal in one moment. I have a fire act where I have a fire stick in one hand and am therefore completely unable to remove a busk-fronted corset with the other. There are a few corsets on the market that have swivel buckles at the front which you can undo with one hand either one by one or all together in one swift motion.
There are also corsets available with zipper front. If you can’t find one you like, then you can easily use a seam ripper to remove a busk and replace with a zipper instead.
Shoes: Many performers use ballroom dance shoes with an easy release clasp. Maybe you don’t want to spend the money, or don’t like the look of these for your act, but you also feel like slip on shoes are not secure enough. Rather than fumble with standard buckles, try using ribbon as below to to tie the shoe to your feet without having to attach it to the shoe.
This also sets you up for some post-peel action with the ribbon, after you’ve undone it, but before you remove the shoe.4) MY BODY CONSTANTLY CHANGES – THIS EXPENSIVE COSTUME IS SUPPOSED TO LAST ME FOR HOW LONG??
I have previously made costume pieces to fit me EXACTLY (at the time) and then yes, weight gain, weight loss, times of the month, all mean you may fear that the costume will be redundant in a few months or years time. The more you can make your costume adjustable, the better. Feeling less than 100% confident in wearing your costume can tarnish the way you feel about your entire act.
Feeling amazing in your costume off-stage, sets you up for success on-stage. Don’t settle for less!
Bras: We’ve already mentioned the use of ties for the back of a bra to help with smooth bra removal, but adding ties also means that the bra becomes adjustable, for both a decrease and increase in size. If you don’t particularly like the look of ties at the back, you can always add an extra hook and eye panel cut off from an old bra in order to extend the back. Or, alternatively, adjust the placement of the eyes in order to reduce the size of the back. Make sure to embellish over the top of any extra section so that the whole thing ties together into the original bra design.
To alter the front of a bra that may have become too small, you can add extra trim or fabric to the top or side of the cups, or for halter necks, add trim all the way up along the side to cover any “chicken fillets”.
I’ve even gone as far as cutting the cups in the side to create a “dart” effect to add more fullness to a bra cup as a permanent alternation,
however, most of these alterations can be made temporary so that you can easily switch between the different versions of the same costume. For example, the tie design on my leather fire bra has meant I’ve been able to use this item for styling on a range of body types when running my makeover photoshoots, or to lend to a fellow performer for a one-off act.
Panties: I had some panties made by a third party for an act and unfortunately the embellishment had reduced the stretch of the material (another thing to be aware of when doing your own embellishment). I was able to cut into the seam both left and right, add elastic to the main garment, and then add an appliqué to cover the sight of the elastic. Put the garment on your body and you can see where the appliqué is meeting the garment and place a snap at this point. This means that any weight loss or gain will just affect the amount that the elastic stretches and you will only have to move the snap accordingly in order to change the placement of the applique.
I am a huge fan of using elastic to make things adjustable but really don’t like the way it can dig into the skin. Using the elastic as the base for a garment and then attaching a trim with snaps means that you can always adjust the placement of the trim and it will never dig into your skin.5) ALL THESES EXPENSIVE TRIMS AND FABRICS ARE DRAINING MY BANK BALANCE.
Yes, yes it will. Although the more you invest in making your costume look amazing as well as standing the test of time, the more you will get out of it, have your act booked for higher paid gigs and gain more festival appearances.
One of my first outfits, my leather bikini and fire dress, in total must have cost upwards of $1200, but I created that outfit in 2007 and am still adding to it and using it today. I’ve had TV appearances wearing it, I’ve rented it out to other performers, I’ve had one-off gigs that paid $650 for one appearance.
Does that mean ALL of my outfits originally cost that much?
But it does show the value of investing in at least two or three “high profile” acts, your favourite acts, the ones that audiences show the most love for. Test out an act and then you can pick your favourites and gradually invest into them more bit by bit.
There are ways of avoiding spending crazy amounts of money upfront and ways of being smart about where the money goes.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Buying costumes new, buying fabric, trims and embellishments direct from the store can all add up when oftentimes it’s not necessary.
Old Costumes into new: Many burlesque performers will post their old costumes on facebook groups or advertise costume swap events. These are great since these costumes will mostly be personalised, not off the rack, and will have already been adjusted to be easily removable for the purposes of a burlesque act. Re-read how to adjust items above in point 4) and use this knowledge to look at others’ pieces from the angle of how best to make use of their items even if they don’t fit EXACTLY. Can you use that piece as a base for further embellishment, can you use the long dress to split into a skirt and use the top section of fabric to embellish a matching bra.
If something is too large or small can you alter it to fit? This knowledge is also perfect for looking around charity shops with a more creative eye, or for improving an off-the-rack or cheaply made halloween costume to become personalised and stage-worthy.
Treasure hunting: Thrift stores ( or UK Charity Shops) are amazing hunting grounds. Not just for finished pieces but for what you can scavenge from certain pieces. More expensive fabrics like fur, leather, silk, can be bought as items from a thrift store and then chopped up for your own use, especially when (for example, making my werewolf costume) you don’t really require a full yard of fabric.
For my leather fire dress, I paid a dress-maker to create the dress section personally from scratch, but for the skirt/loin cloth section, I decided to make this myself. I found an XXL men’s leather coat, on sale in a thrift store for $15 – that’s a lot of leather! Not only did I make the skirt I intended, but continued to use that coat material for other pieces for other acts, gauntlets, maleficent crown, a fire proof tutu for a friend’s project, and still there’s material leftover waiting to be repurposed.
Fabric aside, you can also purchase pieces that have trims you can repurpose – use a seam ripper to remove fringing, appliques, stones and jewels from an item and use them to embellish your own. Not only can this be cheaper than buying the trims new, but someone else has already done the work of matching and complementing the colour choices and removed the guess work out of which colours to mix and match. BONUS!
I would love to hear any queries you have about costuming, any issues you might have faced or projects that seem too daunting – feel free to post in the members Facebook Group, if you’re a member, or shoot me an email at [email protected] if you’re not.
For those based in Los Angeles I run a monthly costume creation class where I can help you to source the pieces you need for your project and then help advice and create whatever your heart desires. Check out all the info at: https://www.vixendeville.com/classes/costume-creation-workshop/