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.