I often get asked to give advice either to individuals or press on how to have a professional career in burlesque so here for anyone who wants to know more is a copy of my interview for UK alternative fitness pioneers Polestars…
How to Be a Burlesque Star
As burlesque’s popularity has increased over the past few year so too has a desire to perform this fabulous artform. There are lots of classes available for you to learn some moves and techniques and increase your confidence all whilst having fun and feeling good – but what if you want to climb to the top of the tree and become a professional performer? We asked Miss Tempest Rose, International Burlesque Star, Producer and Director of acclaimed Burlesque production company House of Burlesque to give us some top tips for making your dreams a reality.
Step One: Its Life Jim, But Not As We Know It
Watching a great burlesque performance it is easy to see the attraction to those who think ‘I want to do that!’ There on the stage you see a beautiful lady, stunning dressed, and full of confidence performing to a crowd who are whooping and cheering their approval at everything she does. The essence of a great performer is that they make everything look effortless but the reality is far from the truth. Being a burlesque artist requires the same level of commitment and dedication as it takes to be a good musician, dancer, singer, stand up comic or any other profession. A successful burlesque girl must master the art not only of entertaining a crowd, but dance, body language, costuming, hair and makeup and be business savvy too. You must be prepared to invest heavily in the beginning in good costuming and styling as well as training and your first gigs will most like be unpaid and it will take a while for your fees to even cover your out goings, let alone actually make a living… Have a long hard think about if this is what you really want and if you are prepared to make the commitment – read on!
Step Two: If you Don’t Know What’s Out There…
I am often surprised by the number of ladies who come to me and say they are desperate to be burlesque stars but when I ask them what burlesque they have seen they say none! We are very fortunate in the UK as we have an amazingly rich and advanced industry with some fabulous performers doing some incredibly advanced work. Go and see as much burlesque as you possibly can! See what styles are out there, which routines work and which don’t and also why. There are many types of burlesque you may find you are inspired by an area that you never knew existed!
Step Three: Who are you?
The first thing you need is a name and persona. Are you the tall, dark, sultry type? Are you the clown? Are you graceful and balletic or sexy and earthy? Be honest with yourself – burlesque is about magnifying the most fabulous part of yourself, it’s not about pretending to be something you are not. Look at your body and your personality and what you enjoy doing and play to your strengths.
Step Four: The Lightbulb
As well as watching Burlesque get involved in seeing other types of art too – painting, film, vaudeville, circus, hip hop, tap. You want your ideas for your acts to be as fresh and sophisticated as possible – remember inspiration can come from anywhere!
Step Five: 25 Burlesque Performers Standing on the Wall
Your originality is your strongest selling point. If you have done your research properly you will know what’s already out there and how you can be different and unique. If your debut routine is a fan dance to something from Moulin Rouge the likelihood is you are not going to stand out from the crowd. Similarly stay clear of obvious characters and music choices unless you are doing something groundbreaking with them. Competition in burlesque is fierce and although artists often use the same stereotypes which make up the language of burlesque be sure your interpretation is unique to you personally. If you have an idea that someone established is already using – find another, even if you thought of it independently. They got there first, accept it.
Step Six: Get Training
If you haven’t had much training in performance skills then get some sharp! Acting, improvisation and ballet are three of the foundations of burlesque, and there are plenty of adult classes you can go to. If you are already coming from a trained background then be aware that burlesque has techniques of its own that go beyond singing show tunes or doing fosse-style jazz. Find a good burlesque teacher and take time to learn the arts of striptease, body language and act formation. You can also find great workshops in hair and makeup and don’t forget computer skills! Its all very well having a great routine but you need to be able to contact promoters and promote yourself. If you are not computer literate take a crash course.
Step Seven: It’s not what you know….
Well actually it’s both, burlesque is a small industry – take time to meet people and say hello. Be nice to everyone not just the people at the top and remember a bit of flattery will get you everywhere!
Step Eight: The Beat Goes On
In acting circles it is accepted that even the biggest stars must constantly stay in training, burlesque is the same. You should always be growing as a performer and seeking to be better. The body is a tool, you must maintain it in good working order. And remember Burlesque is a business, people booking you will expect you to be courteous, efficient and organised.
Best of Luck to you! And remember, the best burlesque artists are like Ducks – gliding effortlessly on the surface but paddling like crazy under the water!