So, you’ve fallen in love with burlesque and think you’re ready to become a striptease sensation yourself?
WAIT! Before you quit your day job and spend 3 days maxing out your credit card at Spotlight, there are a number of things you need to consider.
Having been in the industry for the past 10 years, Lady Velvet Cabaret has seen its fair share of aspiring burlesque performers come and go. The ones who do stay and make an impact, usually carry very similar personality traits. If you’re serious about turning this passion into a potential career path then we have some tips to help you on your way!
Our founder and director has put together a list of the five things that all the most successful burlesque performers she’s met have in common:
1. They Continue to Train, Up-skill and Grow
In any industry, it takes a certain amount of training, experience and education to become a professional. And even then, professionals need to undergo regular professional development and training to make sure they don’t plateau or regress.
Burlesque is just the same. The only difference is that we have an extremely supportive community and a lot of on-stage performance opportunities for students and aspiring performers.
But, one or two (or even twenty) performances on stage does not a pro burlesque performer make, so don’t ditch those classes just yet… or EVER.
Professional performers understand that they are always a work in progress; that they can always be better and are happy to be life-long students in order to perfect their craft and be the best they can be.
They’re the ones who continue to attend classes, sometimes even opting to repeat a course or level they’ve done before, just to soak up every last drop of knowledge, experience and education they can. They’ll try new skills and styles to help compliment their acts. They’ll sign up for classes and workshops in areas they know they need to work on. They’re the ones with the most original and creative ideas.
PRO TIP: Take classes not only in burlesque, but in other skills that will compliment your performance. Classes in dance, flexibility, circus, theatre and even sewing can help you become a more well-rounded entertainer overall.
2. They Ask For Feedback
I can count on one hand the number of people who have ever asked for our feedback after a show. Those people (every single one) have now traveled internationally to perform, are well-respected in the industry and are fondly remembered by us as a performer we LOVE to book for our shows.
Honest, constructive feedback that goes beyond the screaming sounds of drunk audiences and your supportive mum is vital to the development of a professional performer (as hard as that feedback may be to hear).
A slight change to your concepts, costuming, stage presence, choreography and even hair and makeup could make a huge difference to the quality of an act.
These small changes are often only seen by a trained eye, or by a third party who are not as emotionally attached to the creative process as you are.
PRO TIP: Take a video of your act and send it to a couple of people you trust and ask for their honest feedback. Sometimes even watching the video back yourself will prompt a few changes you’d like to make for next time.
3. They are Inspired By Others Without Being Impatient
If you’ve seen the success of other performers and are feeling a little jealous or upset that your progress is not as fast as them, it’s time to change your way of thinking.
Professional performers see the achievements and success of others as an inspiration and use it to drive them to create better acts. Those performers you idolise were also a beginner once.
When you catch shows around town, focus on learning from others (but not copying them). Be sure to use an objective mind to analyse others’ performances. Ask yourself, what do they do that makes them so different, amazing or successful? Or better yet, what can I do to be stronger and grow as a performer?
Everyone’s journeys are different. Don’t waste your precious time and energy on feeling negative about someone else’s success. Take that time and energy and spend it on improving yourself, and celebrating what makes you special.
PRO TIP: Approach someone you admire (or are secretly jealous of) and ask for their advice and feedback. Connecting with someone you may feel envious of will close that negative gap you are placing between yourselves, and make you a better (and happier) performer.
4. They Are Performing For the Audience
Many professional performers start their burlesque journeys to fulfil an internal need or personal goal. Maybe it’s their love for burlesque or vintage styles, or they want to build self confidence, or they were curious and wanted to try something new. As you start to transition from a beginner or aspiring performer to a professional artist, you need to be prepared to fulfil the needs of your audience members.
When you become a professional, you will (and should) be paid for your hard work and efforts. The person paying you (and their needs and goals) is the one you need to consider when you put together a performance.
I’m not saying you need to throw away your morals and creative process to pander to somebody else – that would defeat the purpose of burlesque! BUT, it is important to think about the goal of the event you are performing at and what that particular audience will find entertaining.
Remember that becoming a professional burlesque performer essentially means becoming a business. As a business, you need to keep your clients happy, not just yourself. That means that your performances need to please and impress your producers, and your audience members – those are your clients, and they’re paying your bills!
There’s no harm in a little self-indulgent fun onstage from time to time, but successful artists write, choreograph and perform their acts for their “clients”. Those routines that surprise, mesmerise, and stay in the heads of their audiences for a long time after, are the ones that will bring you future bookings.
PRO TIP: Ask your former producers or colleagues which of your acts they remember the most – you may be surprised! Some of my favourite acts from LVC performers are now almost 10 years old, but I’ve never forgotten them.
5. Practice Makes Better
That old saying “Practice makes perfect” doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting results, doesn’t really count as practice. The process of practising needs to be an active process where you’re focused, engaged, and constantly analysing your work.
Don’t be down on yourself if you’ve performed a couple of shows and haven’t been hired on the spot just yet. This process, like any process worth doing, takes time. Practice may not automatically make perfect, but it definitely makes you a better performer. When you step on to the stage, you need to feel confident that you’ve done as much preparation as you possibly can – there is no better feeling than knowing you’ve put the hard yards in. Once muscle memory kicks in, you’re free to focus on adding sparkle and technique to your performance.
– Practising at home? Or even better, a mirrored studio space!
– Practising regularly? This doesn’t mean just running your act once without mistakes – it means running it until you can’t make mistakes anymore.
– Recording or analysing your progress? As difficult as it is, this will reward you in the long run.
– Incorporating proper technique (whether it’s dance/voice/costume) into your routine? Producers can spot this right away!
…Or do you feel that when you step onstage, you’re “winging it” each time?
Practice doesn’t just mean performing onstage a lot, especially if it means you’re only performing your routine onstage and never at home. Put your best foot forward and give it 100% every time.
PRO TIP: Rehearsal studio hire doesn’t have to be costly! Contact a local dance studio or school and find out whether they have availability in their “off-peak” times when classes are not running. You can even contact us about hiring our Subiaco studio!
The moral of the story is, nothing worth doing ever comes easily. Give yourself the time and space to grow and breathe as a new performer. There is no deadline for when it is time to “go pro”, whether you’ve been performing for 2 years or 10 years. Pushing yourself for the wrong reasons can lead to disappointment and stress in the long run, which is not why you started burlesque! This journey is meant to be fun, empowering, and enlightening, but sometimes #hustle culture can make us feel we’re doing something wrong just by enjoying the journey at our own pace.
Relax, breathe, and throw a couple more rhinestones on that corset – you’ve got this!