Welcome to my Stripper Talk series! I thought that it would be fun to get questions from other burlesquers around the world, and answer them, “Dear Abby” style.
This week’s question is from Bunny VanDoren , from Indianapolis, IN:
I am fairly new to burlesque, one year under my belt, and I love it dearly! I have been a long time performer, but as a clarinetist. My background as a classically trained musician has been as surprisingly wonderful blessing for burlesque in terms of stage presence and musicality. However I still recognize the need for having dance training to become a stronger overall performer. I’d love to be able to take a regular dance class but it is unfortunately out of my budget at the moment. I’ve seen tons of dance lessons online and on DVD, but didn’t know if that could work as an interim substitute until I could afford to face to face classes. What would you recommend for a budding performer in my position?
There’s certainly been a lot of talk in the burly-Q community about what it takes to be show ready and many experienced performers (including myself) have been emphasizing the need for performers to continue their education with dance and theater classes. I applaud your desire to continue your experience! To answer your question, I would suggest popping into classes whenever you can, and consider saving up some pennies to get a private class from a performer or dance teacher that you respect. Another great option is trading time with a peer who has a skill that you’d like- perhaps prettier arms, a better walk, etc., and you can teach them some skill that you have, whether it’s costuming, musicality, or whatever.
There’s definitely some useful videos out there for burlesque movement and technique, Michelle L’Amour and Jo “Boobs” Wheldon both have DVD’s out that might interest you. Also watching other performers video and live shows can help to inspire your desire to learn a specific skill. I really think that anything you can get your hands on can work, so long as you ask whether a specific technique is something that works for your body and your style of performance when you’re choosing to implement it into your act. I think all types of dance and movement classes can be nothing but helpful because what they are doing is helping you to create your own movement vocabulary within your act. Body awareness, as you know is key in performance art, and classes can only help to raise your awareness of your body on stage.
Spending oodles of time in front of a mirror in your costumes and various states of undress is key. Since each costume piece highlights different parts of your body, playing with body positioning and movement with each piece is imperative to creating an interesting presentation that people will enjoy watching. I know that I personally spend a lot of time in the mirror naked with heels on. That way I get ever more comfortable in the nude, and I can really see what my body is doing.
I’d also throw in the suggestion that you start to film your self dancing, whether on stage or off, and really look at the things that you’d like to improve on and contact people with these things in mind. This may mean sending video to a peer you respect and getting constructive criticism of the things they think that you should consider working on.
This means that you really need to take the initiative in asking people for assistance. This can be scary, but worth it in developing your stage presence when you do put your act on stage. Be patient in your evolution and know that getting success in learning a new skill can take more time than you initially imagined.
I hope this can help!