After lots of queries from budding burlesque beauties looking for advice on how to get started in their burly journeys, we’ve compiled six top tips! You may have seen some of these already on our instagram feed, where we post tips and tricks regularly – be sure to follow us to stay up to date!
1. Take Classes
Whether it’s burlesque or ballet, we cannot emphasise enough how important it is to remain open to learning if you’re trying to improve or develop a skill. Learning from the experts is the best way to gain experience and develop as a performer! Find yourself an established, professional and reputable instructor or studio (like us!) and get excited about stepping into the studio. Far from showing a lack of skill, signing up for classes shows that you have a growth mindset, are committed, and are a passionate performer. Even established artists continue to work with mentors or academies for their professional development, and it shows! Taking burlesque lessons gives students the added benefit of performance opportunities, which may not be easy to come by in certain cities depending on your experience. Experience performing onstage to a real life audience gives you countless benefits, from learning how to deal with costume malfunctions (it’ll happen sooner or later!), beginning a portfolio of photos and recordings of yourself onstage, or just learning more about the inner workings of professional productions.
2. Step Outside the Burlesque-Class Box!
It may come as a surprise, but taking classes in subjects other than burlesque can really boost your burlesque practice! Rather than taking classes of a single discipline, our next tip is to step outside the box and try your hand at something different. At burlesque competitions and pageants, judges can very easily see when a competitor has a strong background in other areas of the performing arts, as it’s reflected in their performances (and their judging scores!). Want to improve your balance, posture, line, and grace? Try ballet classes! Want to give your dance technique a boost and learn some challenging combos? Sign up for modern jazz classes! Do you want to boost your strength, flexibility, and maybe learn some new tricks? Try an acrobatics or stretch class! How about polishing your character skills, learning to think on your feet, and really hold a crowd? Why not sign up for acting, improv or musical theatre (pictured, left) classes – these will often have the added benefit of performance opportunities so you can flex your creative muscles onstage, separate from burlesque entirely!
3. Come to the Cabaret, Old Chum
There’s nothing more inspiring than watching artists perform onstage! Whether you attend events like Miss Burlesque WA religiously, or binge at Fringe, there’s so much cabaret and burlesque to enjoy in our beautiful corner of the world. Watching local, national and international performers is inspiring and helps connect you to the larger burlesque community. But why stop there? Don’t just watch burlesque shows – get out there and experience as much of the arts as you can, because you never know where you’ll get your inspiration from next! Check out cabaret and vaudeville shows, improv, stand-up comedy, theatre, dance, music and circus – even tickets to the opera or ballet may get your creative cogs turning in ways you never expected.
4. Polished and Prepared
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing WELL! Take every opportunity offered to you if it will help you polish an aspect of your burlesque performance. Once you’ve attended a number of professional and graduation shows, you’ll soon start to notice the little details that set established performers apart from newer artists (of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a “baby burly girl” though!). In terms of the actual performance, ensure that you’re taking the time to fully extend your movements and lines, point your toes, and take it slow: a slow strip or reveal where a performer really connects with the audience leaves everyone on the edge of their seats, versus a rushed or overly-complex routine where the performer doesn’t have the time to make that deep connection. In terms of costuming, try putting some extra polish on your act by customising your costume – add some stones or trimming, or experiment with altering basic items like underwear by adding or adjusting straps. Lots of basic costume adjustments can be done by hand, so you don’t need an expensive machine or lots of experience to do them. Just remember to have a clear vision of what you want (even a mood board or inspiration images) so you don’t end up wandering too far from your original idea! When it comes to hair and make up, you can really make your presentation pop by adding vintage curls, statement lashes, or accessories like fascinators or costume jewellery. Going the extra mile to ensure every part of your routine is polished and prepared will boost your confidence, and help kickstart your burlesque journey in style!
5. Be You-nique!
It sounds cheesy, but this is your biggest asset as a beginning burlesque artist. There are a number of tried-and-true classic burlesque tracks favoured by burly girls, whether professionals or students – it’s almost a rite of passage to perform to Fever – but when you’re ready to take the next step, why not stand out from the rest? Use tools like Spotify’s recommended lists, digital radio, or SoundCloud to discover new and unique music and artists. You may well find a piece that has the same vibes as a burlesque classic, but is uncommon enough to really get an audience’s attention! Think outside the box and explore film scores, instrumental jazz tracks, or even classical music – take note of pieces that conjure a certain image, or have interesting accents that you could use in your choreography. Who knows, you may just be the next burly trend-setter!
6. Connect with the Community
The burlesque world is positively teeming with wild, wonderful and creative artists and troupes who are doing some really exciting work, so get amongst it! Surf a range of hashtags and follow those who inspire you. Of course, this advice comes with the caveat that social media should not be used to compare yourself to others, and that you shouldn’t feel pressured to create a public persona for your burly character before you’re ready (or at all). While you’re still exploring your new favourite artform, you shouldn’t feel pressured to create content and gain followers, you should be focusing on exploring and learning about this amazing style of performance! There is a troupe, festival, or performer out there for everyone, whether you want to explore classic burlesque, neo or comedic burlesque, or even protesque and gorelesque, get out there, connect, interact, and get inspired!