For some time now, on my rounds of the great and the good of cabaret spectaculars, I have found that I dread the mention of burlesque. Not because I don’t like the art form: precisely because I love it. Will it be satirical? Will it be erotic? Or am I going to suffer through yet another talentless, vintage-loving booty shaker in pasties?
For every good burlesquer out there, there are three bad ones. Everyone and their dog seem to think that you can put on a corset and bam, you’re a burlesque dancer. Wrong! You can put on as many sparkles and Swarovskis as you like, but if you don’t know how to move or be sexy then I’m afraid you’ll just bore me. Do it well or don’t do it at all.
I can hear some of you already thinking “alright, if you’re such an expert, then you have a go.” Well, my dears, I am well aware of my talents and I know that burlesque is not one of them. You wouldn’t want to watch me take my clothes off for two reasons: one, I can’t be that kind of sexy, and two, I wouldn’t want to. If you’re going to do it, you have to really want to. You have to be comfortable with yourself.
Knowing how your body moves is a big part of both the sexiness and the comedy of burlesque. I can think of few things more irritating than singing out of tune, but dancing out of time is a damn close second. Have some musicality, for God’s sake. The music is there for a reason, use it.
And while we are on the subject of music, please pick something original. I have heard Feelin’ Good more times than I care to remember. I know it’s sultry and it’s a classic, but there’s got to be other tracks out there that are too.
I’ve heard people say that anyone can do burlesque. That’s bullshit. Anyone can take their clothes off, I do it every night before I fall into bed, but not anyone can be an ecdysiast. I think it’s great that women feel confident and comfortable enough to get up on stage and take their clothes off, but why are they doing it? Is it because they’ve got a genuinely good burlesque act and performance is their passion? Or is it an act of public masturbation, created only for themselves with little thought for the audience that has to watch them? You can tell the difference live, and watching someone work through their self-image issues onstage is uncomfortable and embarrassing.
We want to see your intention, the reason behind the strip. I don’t mean you always need a storyline to it, but it has to be more than to just getting your kit off and twirling the tassels. Tease me. Make me laugh. I know I’m going to see your boobs at the end, anyway. As with sex, it’s about the journey, not the big finish.
Traditional burlesque is the thing that I fear the most. When it’s good, it’s so sexy and entrancing. When it’s not, it’s either toe-curling or sleep-inducing. It’s great to see pin-ups, showgirls and other glamour icons come to life before you, but if they’re going to be predictable and tame, they’d better stay pinned to my wardrobe, where at least I can imagine them doing something exciting.
There are so many great burly-Q girls out there, all doing something different, sexy, funny or even disturbing, that it irritates me when people assume burlesque is an easy art form. It’s not at all. If it were all about showing flesh and dancing about, then why don’t strip clubs put it on?
Because it’s about lust, not sex. The tease, not the strip. And yes, the audience, not the bling.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, thoroughly in agreement, well said.
I do still LOVE burlesque and a lot of the artists & people involved in it though
Just seen ‘An evening of burlesque’ at Margate. What a waste of time and money. Described as tease without the sleaze, it was possibly the most boring cabaret show I have ever seen. Surely the whole point of burlesque is for it to be erotic, sexy and great entertainment. Seeing several young women going through what was essentially the same near striptease with just differing outfits was boring and left one wishing for much more excitement. The accompanying acts, such as they were, turned out to be a knife juggler who did next to nothing, and a ‘mind reader’ who seemed to have lost the plot. Frankly I would rather take the trouble to visit Paris, Prague or Berlin, to see real burlesque, and enjoy serious performers who work with imagination, skill and erotic sensibilities. A show, should be a show – not an excuse for a show.
So glad to read this
I am a burlesque photographer and I KNOW I belong where I am — BEHIND the camera. Not everyone can do burlesque, not by a LONG shot!
This is all wonderful but I have to say that strip clubs SHOULD host burlesque acts!!! I remember seeing my first burlesque performance when I was working in a year ago and I was inspired! I was inspired by the thought that I could do that too! That I could do something more creative (albeit less lucrative) than “stripping”. Dita Von Teese even agrees that strip clubs should host burlesque acts-she’s been quoted as saying that what she does is “for the girls”, to inspire them and turn them on to burlesque. For me, it turned me on to PERFORMANCE. Now I’m taking dance lessons, aerial art lessons, stretching classes, and looking into a local burlesque instructors. My life would be very different and depressing right now if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to work at a club that exposed me to the local burlesque scene.
Nail, head, hit! I I had to share this article with my twitter followers. Please read me- where I write about professional burlesque dancers here in Vegas. How long will it be until this amateur night ends? I don’t know Alita, I don’t know.
In some cases Burlesque has become a talentless cliche, because the ‘teachers’ tell the girls they paid to learn and now they’re ready. What? I danced for 15 years in Ballroom, Tap, and was a professional stripper for 4 years before I began attempting burlesque. I too have seen the ‘shittiest burlesque’ and am pretty much burnt on any amateur show. Done. Kaput. Fin. Thanx again. http://www.FrankieTease.com
Sad but true… I stopped watching burlesque a few years ago for the same reasons. To rephrase a well known quote;
A shit burlesque dancer gets on stage and says ‘here I am’
A great burlesque dancer gets on stage and says ‘aaah there YOU are’ ….. and THAT is hot… as is talent, humour, and satire (which is what it’s really about isn’t it?)
Perform for the audience, not for yourself. 🙂
I’m sure you were just excellent at everything you’ve ever done. I want to agree with you on some points but the shitty tone of this article is just repugnant. Or put another way… Constructive criticism is great and all but if you can’t do it with out sounding like a know it all don’t do it at all.
I thought exactly the same thing.. No we aren’t all amazing. I would love to be amazing but it takes a natural instinct and practice by the truck load. Many people perform burlesque for their own confidence etc . No it doesn’t mean they should be getting paid work etc. Burlesque is hard, I completed my first solo! I walked away full of confidence but nowhere near to perform like a pro. If someone cant put their opinion through in a respectful way without acting with ego etc then don’t create a blog or article. I have a lot of respect for the dancers I know but none of them are egotistical- in fact very humble and supportive.
i so agree ..i have seen some shocking stuff (even hailed as Class )amidst the superb!!!
this is such a classic art form & should not be taken lightly!!!
but, it has become oh so fashionable! hence the thinking, anyone can do!! & that i feel, has made for the rise of the amateur!!..& put a downer on this fab art form of lust class & intrigue…
It is wonderful that an audience member wrote this not a performer.
Bless you a thousand times for saying what I’ve been struggling with for years.
I’ve been photographing the burlesque scene in Seattle since 2005 and last year was the breaking point for me. Worse that we have an “Academy” of burlesque churning out waves of performers who trot out the same moves for the same strips for the same shopworn cliches.
And bless the audiences for encouraging them with polite, meaningless applause because, gosh darn it, those girls mean well!
A local producer told me she thought that burlesque should be seen like the music scene, where anyone can do it. I asked her if she’d go to a concert where nobody in the band had ever picked up an instrument before. She didn’t have an answer.
Thank you for this.
Shared! Can’t be better said than “it’s about the journey, not the big finish”. Probably appropriate to everything we do in this scene.
“watching someone work through their self-image issues onstage is uncomfortable and embarrassing.” …sounds like projection. It seems you are afraid of being uncomfortable, but this is one of the amazing things about burlesque…since when did any artist strive to make “comfortable” art?? Since never.
Why have a dig at strip clubs at the end? I’m sick of reading burlesque dancing articles making reference to strip club dancers ‘dancing around and showing flesh’. Both kinds of strip tease are talented in their own right. There are plenty of dancers in strip clubs hanging off a pole with one leg, flipping themselves up-side-down like an acrobat whilst displaying oodles of confidence, You don’t see them saying derogatory things about burlesque dancers.
In Italy we have this problem in large scale… even the ex president use our art as an alibi for his bitches !
Fully YAH YAH YAH! An old exotic dancer from way back..tried showgal stuff to the exotic dance bars..they did not get it! Any hoo..loving teaching it…Much love and many loves to you! xx
Although you mention the standard of the girls, what about the event promoters and organisers that are allowing this to happen on their stage? Where does the blame really lie – in the girl who “thinks” she’s good? Or the promoter who’s decided she’s good enough for the stage and given her false hope…
This can be said for every aspect of entertainment that exists. Some performers suck. Some do not. What a revelation! Bravo.
I call bullshit. While there is a need to “step up the game” and avoid cliché and laziness, in all art, this reads as just another troll-call from a bored, jaded critic. One who admits to not being able or interested in putting their money where their hips are.
It takes time to find yourself as an artist, be it in oils, writing, or, yes, dance. Performing arts have the downside that your failures (there! will! be! failure!) will be public. Which means an audience is going to see that.
But, guess what? Most of us are with you. It *is* about the journey, not the destination. (Seriously, you a problem with cliché, and you got that line in there? As a writer, I’m offended.†) But the journey as an arc of your life, not one show.
This is something I’ve always hated about critics. Not every show is worth your time? Fine. You bought the ticket (most of you didn’t do that), you took the ride (ask yourself if you really did that, as well), and you didn’t like it (are you sure? wasn’t there *something* that worked?). So, in the end, shut it. This goes beyond the whole, “if you don’t have anything nice to say thing…”
People like what they like. And people, regular people, enjoy watching other people, regular people, enjoying themselves. Here’s the truth, critics: Audiences don’t need you.
And artists don’t either, once they wise up.
What we *do* need is encouragement, pro-tips, and support from people that know what they’re doing and can see what we’re trying to do. Because there’s going be (again) failure. “The Shittiest Burlesque I’ve Ever Seen”? That’s not helping.
Failure is good, it’s cleansing. It takes a lot of missteps to get to the great steps. The only real failure is in stopping.
† But, as a human being and *reader*, I get it. Sometimes sloppy writing is fine by me if intent is noble. I don’t think your intent was, Gin-Bath’s.
Couldn’t agree more!!!!!!
I agree with much that you have said especially that the point of entertainment is to enthral, delight and provoke the audience. However, it is important to look at the broader picture: there are many levels of burlesque: from the casual, informal nights put on by and for enthusiasts, to professionally run clubs and large international events. There are many kinds of audience: from apprehensive newcomers to friends and fans, to seasoned veterans. They all want to be entertained but that varies widely. ‘Horses for courses’ as the phrase goes: all levels have their place and there would not be great performers or new audiences if they didn’t have somewhere to start, or have variety to choose from.
Tigz puts a good point: that producers and venues have to shoulder some of the blame. There is a tendency in some areas to play safe and hire the cheapest performers or not pay at all. This doesn’t work in any industry, it breeds complacency and conservatism.
One major element that I feel is lacking in burlesque is constructive criticism: most artforms have this, it helps them remain lively and nimble. There is room right across the spectrum of experience to improve and develop: performers, clubs, producers and commentators!
This article was not negative (other than the provocative title), it was informative and well written to address a real problem in the community. I am surprised by all the negative comments from a community that wants support. 🙁
As a performer, producer and teacher, I try to approach burlesque with the attitude of balancing art and comercial entertainment. You are being paid to perform and have an obligation to entertain. Honing your craft is extremely important. Marketing properly is as important. Set the exception of the show properly, know your strengths and you rarely disappoint your audience or yourself.
We are not grade school kids playing sports where no one keeps score and everyone get a trophy for showing up.
We are being paid to do a job. Work hard, keep learning, produce well, and learn from things that aren’t working. My best nights are when an audience members tells what they didn’t like. It’s an opportunity to serve them better next time. And while the customer isn’t always right, without them, we are bunch a of girls playing dress up in our living rooms.
As I have commented elsewhere: I don’t think anything has been said in this article that many of us don’t already think and discuss with frustration frequently. When an article like this comes out it seems to give people license to back it and discuss it openly. They should be willing to declare their feelings and opinions independently and engage in constructive criticism; if they don’t, we will remain in a community where everyone praises each other indiscriminately, and overlooks things for fear of being called ‘negative’ or ‘mean’ or ‘elitist’. Nothing wrong with high standards folks; we should all want that for burlesque, especially when the spotlight is on us and popular opinion is being formed.
Hello Holli! This Is Cabaret was set up to give the cabaret community a voice that, right now, it sadly lacks. If you feel that there are other topics that merit a discussion, please let us know.
Please right the same about aerial !
Hello! And may I ask who submitted this comment? I’ll be happy to interview you with your point of view as an aerialist myself. Jackie
I honestly enjoyed this reading, and I genuinely don’t see why people are reacting so much about it. People in the trade often tend to forget that people are paying to see our shows, and that we have to respect that as much as we have to respect our selves and our trade.
I understand that new performers are often awkward on stage. I’m myself a newbie in the burlesque scene, but I never took this as an excuse for doing a loosy job and being soft on myself. At one point, real, good, passionate performers grow out of the purgatory of new performers, and the rest, well, stays in. And there’s nothing wrong with it; not everyone wants to be Dita Von Teese! There’s a problem, though, when you ask for more lucrative shows, or complain that you fan base isn’t expanding as fast as you want. And in my short experience, I’ve seen it.
I tend to see burlesque performances like a glamourous equivalent of rock concerts: give your energy to your audience, and they will give your their’s. You are a performer: go out there, perform, love it, and people will love you in return! If you don’t need other people’s appreciation, other people’s feedback, then you should really ask yourself: why are you on stage, then?
There are bad bands, bad musicians, bad dancers, bad writers, bad everything in this world, so why do we keep insisting that there aren’t bad burlesque performers?
Exactly. The amount of people who seem to think that burlesque is easy and requires neither talent nor hard work is staggering. Good performers make it look effortless, that doesn’t mean it is. Three-quarters of what is out there is abysmal, it is doing the rest of us and burlesque as a genre no favours at all. Do it has a hobby if you think its fun, but please, rehearse in studio with MIRRORS, get feedback, film yourself and watch it, and hone your skills before you attempt to pass yourself off as a professional. Above all don’t set yourself up as a performer or teacher of burlesque just because you’ve finished one of the appalling course that spurious companies run. You don’t know enough.
@Franco That wasn’t meant to be a criticism of the article – more a frustration that people only articulate and examine these issues periodically when an article or comment like this is made. No offense intended towards the article itself.
As someone who has seen a LOT of burlesque (and photographed most of what I have seen), I agree. Good burlesque is a tease, it plays on tropes and memes and bends and subverts them.
Bad burlesque is “wiggle wiggle, glove glove, bum, stocking stocking corset boobies… jiggle…” and the worst is when they reach the jiggle 30 seconds into a 4min 30 track. Much as I love breasts, and even better love them jiggling, 4 minutes is too much!
Great burlesque may only give me a second, a fleeting glance at the body beneath, but it’s taken me on a journey, and made me want that body so much!
Couldn’t agree more. I book burlesque acts and make sure I go to see the acts before each show. I’m amazed at how many of them keep the same facial expression throughout the whole act.
After a performance you have to ask yourself – would that have been worth while watching if the girl never took her clothes off.
Burlesque doesnt pay enough for dancers to go above and beyond! They are already baring thier bodies and souls. So what if someone has issues they are trying to get over? Who are you to judge? lots of actors and singers do too. Burlesque like the movie Burlesque which involves REAL DANCING and minimal stripping is whats entertaining because it becomes about the DANCE and the ACT . If you want good burlesque, go see Cabaret or non strip Burlesque. Because traditional Burlesque, with the “BOOB” finish bores the hell out of me! The audience claps with a removal of clothing, so the fuck what?
Very, very, very true. Also applies to bellydance.
Everyone has to start somewhere. You can’t expect every burlesque dancer who takes the stage to be perfect, and if they shouldn’t be allowed to perform until they are, they never will be.
It does make you wonder who the author went to see just prior to feeling inspired to write such a critique…the poor burly straw that broke the reviewer’s patience?!
There are some good points in this article about listening to our bodies, being comfortable in our bodies and making sure we’re happy being up onstage. But there are several points that really bug me and I’ve heard all too often before. First of all, the fact that there is “bad burlesque” out there is really no big revelation. It’s like going to every movie that comes out and saying, for every good movie there are four bad ones. Or for every good blog, there are four bad ones. No shit—there are some “bad shows” out there. I’ve had them myself.
The question is—what is the constructive and supportive criticism that this author can really offer us, especially as she doesn’t have experience as a dancer? And seriously—“For every good burlesquer out there, there are three bad ones”? Seriously? For us readers, most of whom ARE dancers, which of us thinks she’s talking about us … since apparently she’s talking about 75% of us?
Secondly, I have a problem with the common tendency of writers and burlesque dancers to talk about how their art form is so much more tasteful and more about tease and lust than strippers, who are, apparently, “all about sex.” This is just contributing to our societal negative conception of sex workers and I’m really sick of it. Thank you, Joanne, for calling her out. The difference between strip and burlesque is not about tease. The difference is in creating a character and a storyline, which also typically or should have some kind of political commentary. In any case, the dividing line between “good” and “bad” has nothing to do with tease. It isn’t something you can put your finger on because it has to do with soul and feeling, urgency and artistry.
Third, “watching someone work through their self-image issues onstage is uncomfortable and embarrassing.”
Actually, in my mind, all of (interesting) performance is about working through self image “issues” and a ton of other issues too. That’s what makes interesting performance precisely that–compelling and interesting. Check out butoh masters performance artists actors cabaret stars musicians you name it, and its clear.
The fact is, I honestly don’t think that any of us need to waste any time berating each other in blogs or elsewhere … and frankly I think that the most redeeming aspect of this article is simply that we’re having some dialogue together.
[As an aside, considering the fact that we’re all pretty broke who will probably never make a lot of cash doing the beautiful art we’re doing, or believe that we’re doing, or attempt to be doing or WHATEVER, there’s really no reason to care whether a girl puts on a corset and thinks she’s doing burlesque. There’s really no reason to berate her. It’s not like she’s suddenly raking in the cash or stealing “our” spotlight.]
The most important thing for us girls to do is keep encouraging each other, no matter what kind of shows we do. Sometimes we’re just learning or sometimes we have a bad show. But we have enough societal shit about what we should and should not reveal, what our bodies look like or should look like. We actually don’t need to spend any time judging or talking shit about other burlesque dancers — or strippers — about their shows and how arty or not arty they are, how “sexy” or “all about tease” that they are or aren’t.
Sure, let’s encourage each other to be increasingly creative funny and original; the audience demands that anyway! And certainly a conscientious and discerning booker should too! But our primary goal should be to have fun and be happy doing what WE are doing and to support each other. One of the coolest things about burlesque and other erotic performance is that we are playing caricatures of our own femininity, in its many different forms. Men have historically taken the reigns of playing caricatures of women (think theater and its history of drag) but we girls do that too! Taking back our power to poke fun at ourselves as women and to point out all of our own “imperfections” IS the fun of it; in that there really is no one person on top. Let’s keep doing what we do and encouraging each other with positive reinforcement and fight the tendency to divide ourselves or get wrapped up in competition.
YES! So happy to hear this!!! Ya think over there it’s bad, try Canada!!! Oi!!!!
They all get up there and say, “See, I can shake my wiggly bits, so can you! Stretch marks and all!” Ummmm…as long as it’s ENTERTAINING!!!!! I don’t’ pay for others to empower themselves.
They ABUSE positive body images and empowerment by manipulating the audiences emotions and convincing each one of them that they could be the next star just like them!!!
All of them use evil bullshit marketing practices akin to Nike & Coca Cola, they perform out of the country ONCE – and BAM! Instant “International Burlesque Star”. Puh-lease. Try “Went illegally down to the USA to perform for free”
Somewhere, someone has to be selling a ‘kit’….something like “Instant Burly Q Star – Just add water!”
IF not STRIP,why dita von tease always claims she is strip-er???
Now what is meaning of stripper and burlesque, though burlesque is stripper too.WHEN U LOSE ur corset,take it off, IF NOT STRIPING,so other name should put???CMON, rihanna does watching stripper, but world know it, she watch porn lesbian show not stripper.BE HONNEST,dont make fool with words, just bcoz guilty of human itself which is never satisfied of being burlesque dancer, burlesque stripper, burlesque performer?what else??burlesque what??
It is interesting, these comments have shown that everyone has a different idea of what ‘good’ burlesque is. Art is subjective. Some people like narratives, some people are all about the naked, some all about the dance, others all about the tease. I myself as an audience member prefer a certain style of burlesque performance. Stop trying to define burlesque past the basics – its like saying no to religious freedom: Thou shalt conform to such and such laundry list of ideas. Really, performer goes onstage, interacts with audience on an intimate level, and then leaves stage wearing less than they had upon entrance. Everything past that is the performer’s own interpretation, and is truly what makes it art – and entertaining.I could honestly see five ‘glove, dress, corset’ strips in a row if EACH AND EVERY performer shared a little of their own unique selves with me the audience member. Getting to see everyone’s own version of sexy is fun, and reminds me, as an audience member, that I too can be sexy in a myriad of ways.
I am the newest of the new when it comes to burlesque. I won’t claim to know anything about it at all. I came browsing the web and this is one of the first few sites I’ve stumbled upon. I have no real basis for anything I say except for the fact that I love to be entertained. I know what I like to see when I’m in the crowd. I know what makes me laugh, grabs my attention, and what turns me on. As an art form however, there is no real way for the artist to know what the audience is going to like. It varies from person to person. With this type of performance there is no real set of rules or guidelines to follow that equals a good show. From all the posts above I gather these bits of information;
1) The perfomer will or will not remove clothing as it is not a requirement.
2) The performer will do better connecting with the audience in some form or fashion.
3) There are no set guidelines on how the performer will entertain the audience.
4) There should be some type of variety between performers so the overall showdoesn’t get stale or boreing.
All that being said, that would mean that this is one of the most difficult types of shows to perform considering all that is being thrown at people in our day and age. In the past when this art was being performed, people didn’t have much in the way of entertainment like we do today. On top of that, most of the time it was illegal to even have shows like these.
Comedians know that their job is to make people laugh. Actors are there to get people involved in a life that isn’t their own. Musicians are there to influence emotions. Burlesque tries to encompass all of these things into one song or one show. Seems to me as though these performers, even the bad ones, deserve more from all of us as a community. From each other and from the audience. Granted, a bad show is a bad show. Performers should have the smarts enough to figure out the problem and fix it/change it same as the production side of the show. If your performance is suffering then the whole show suffers. Unfortunatly, people are quicker to point out flaws and advertise them than they are to try to fix/better them.
Please, for all of our sake, take pride in who you are and the show your performing for. Never settle on just one style. Keep it fresh. Come up with new ideas every day. There aren’t any strick rules to this. Use your imagination. I would love to see this art form flourish instead of diminish.
As a burlesque dancer, I’d just like to say thank you for saying this. I know some amazingly talented people doing burlesque (and hope like hell that I’m one of them), but there is a lot of BAD burlesque out there. As a performer it frustrates me a) to share a stage with these people, and b) that far too many people see a bad show and think that’s what burlesque is. I’ve far too often had to defend this art form–not from people who think it’s “just stripping” (also a field with some crazy talented performers)–but from people who’ve seen a (bad) show or two and don’t realize that there’s more to the burlesque scene.
You know… every great performer was once a beginner. Every great performer got their start in small venues, awkward sets, on the job training so to speak. But because they were given the opportunity to perform and to hone their skills and improve with every opportunity given to them, they became stars. As a photographer, I have had the opportunity to watch and see performers grow from very humble beginnings. I have photographed Catherine D’lish since the early 90’s, before she was D’lish. I have photographed Dita Von Teese since the mid-nineties. I don’t think I would be exaggerating when saying that they didn’t hit the scene as spectacular as they are today. In fact, I know I am not exaggerating, I witnessed both of their careers from the beginning. So, I would suggest that everyone should support the new rising stars in today’s burlesque productions and enjoy them for what they are, entertainment. Who knows, you may be watching the next D’lish or Von Teese and a few years from now, you can reflect back to today and be able to say you saw her when she was just starting out.
I used to be really “in” to burlesque and have my own favourite performers that I would follow around and look forward to seeing months in advance as well as photographing them and giving them all the photos for free and right of first veto on all the photos without any reason necessary.
It just started to get too hard as there were more an more performers who started turning up with expectations and a supposed “right” to everything, that it was not fun any more and I went back to exclusively shooting music gigs.
It was a very small scene in the city where I live and quite a few of the performers have moved on to be in bands now, is much more fun.
I still can’t really think of burlesque without thinking how it made me unhappy more than anything else as I was turning myself into a preztel trying to please performers who nothing was good enough for. I am not ashamed that I had a “thing” for one of the performers I was going to see, it never really got resolved, so I shut that door and bricked it up from the other side.
The one burlesque show I saw this year was one I did not shoot, the Star Wars Burlesque show. It is quite a different experience knowing that I don’t have to spend dozens of hours working on photos afterwards and I could enjoy it more.
I’m sorry, but whilst i mostly agree with this article, i have to make a couple of points.
Firstly, everyone has to start somewhere. It doesn’t how many rehearsals you do before you get on stage for the first time, nerves may hit and you may screw up; you may become wooden, fumble with your stockings, get your bra strap caught. And it may take two or three or even seven shows before you finally gain your confidence and start putting on a ‘real’ show. How about we support these newcomers? As you’ve said, it isn’t an easy thing to do and we should applaud people for having the guts to do it. Sure, if after a year of performing you still don’t have ‘it’ then maybe it is time to admit you just can’t do it and give up on trying to make the big time. But otherwise this sort of attitude just leads to bitchiness and a ‘clique’ building within the industry that will ultimately put people off and damage Burlesque’s reputation.
Secondly, chill out! What happened to doing things for fun?! Sure, if an audience has paid a lot of money to see a performer then they should expect a certain standard, and similarly if a performer is being paid then they should be of a standard high enough to warrant getting paid. But for charity gigs, or gigs where the performer is giving far more than they are receiving, then just chill out, have some fun and stop being so damn critical. Lets support one another, let’s have some god damn fun and lets celebrate the female (and male) form in all it’s glory!!
I guess all this is just a matter of opinion. Its the same with music. You could hate an artist or band and think their music is the worse thing in the world yet there are other people who worship that artist or band. Its all about personal preference. One person will love the dancing most in burlesque and others will love the clothing removal best.
People arent all the same, if they were burlesque would be alot simpler since you would immediately know what moves to perform and then would be the same old record.
I think the talents of the performer fit in too. They have to try and recognise their strengths and weaknesses and know what they are best at, whether it be dancing, acting or undressing with class. Also taking the audience with you on a magical journey and sharing positive energy is good.
Even with the best of the best there is going to be disappointment in whatever shape or form it may be. Its a fact of life some will love it some will hate it.
I agreement with the author, while there are some amazing, talented burlesque performers, there are too many shit ones filling in the gaps. Would prefer to watch a stripper who has a bangin’ bod take all her clothes off and grind a pole.
I just attended a show this weekend for which I had great hopes and enthusiasm. I am a very sympathetic performer. I see things go wrong and I cheer louder for the performer to go on. I’ve been there. But what PISSES ME OFF is watching people in vintage couture LIP SYNCING songs they DO NOT KNOW and doing the middle-school step-touch dance just to fill time. It PISSES ME OFF to see performers that I have seen previously do incredible things, take part in some trashy, ill-prepared food fight for a cheap strip. How dare they waste the opportunity to be in the spotlight, on a lovely stage, in front of a sold-out, paying audience just to give Burlesque a bad name with unrehearsed, unartistic crap like that?! But *I* can’t say anything specific as a new performer in the community or I may never get the chance to get up there and redeem our genre. SO mad!
Dumb question: How do I follow your blog?
Agreed with criticism of this so-called ‘article,’ particularly by Donaldson.
Truly bad acts, done by people who don’t belong on stage, will get weeded out with time. But everyone should be given a chance.
Like so many other things in society that have gone mainstream, burlesque is being invaded by people who are not cut out for it.
Yes, let’s get on the promoters and have them be more discriminating – but not too much so that genuinely talented people get lost in the shuffle, simply because they don’t have enough experience to create something meaningful. There is a raw talent out there that needs direction. That’s where the big investment should be.
This critic sounds like she went to too many shows. Lighten up, lay off the gin a bit and find other hobbies. I pity you and your sad outlook.
I’ll end this by pointing out that there are equally untalented critics like this one who whine endlessly about “amateurs” in other areas of art, theater and etc. This is nothing new.
You sound like a total dick. The odd thing about western cultures is we slap an individualistic value on performance art through commercial gain and status. Eastern and especially tribal cultures and communities focus on the whole. They have tribal dances where EVERYONE participates and is respected and appreciated regardless of “good” or “bad” for them to say “I don’t dance or sing because I’m bad” makes no sense. If you have legs you can dance and if you have a voice you can sing…taste and preference are subjective in western culture but look at it this way….tom waits has no operatic angelic voice deemed “good” but he is unique and s good at being “bad” that he has a huge following. I understand am art form can become blade especially when you are in it often and see so much of it that it can become redundant but if you are judging an artist just because they don’t fit your exact taste standards you may be watching with the wrong eyes…..everyone does it for a different reason. Some for money, some for attention, socialization, expression etc….just keep in mind with how others dance may bore you….you might also bore them. The beauty is in appreciAting the difference and as each is valid in the art form with its own agenda and ideals….watch with your soul and heart not your ego and your eyes……
The worst burlesque I’ve seen has been in LA. And the community out here is very closed off and forms cliques.. I hear from a lot of spectators that they wish they wouldn’t have spent $20 to see a show out here. It’s the same people, with the same shitty routines, and their shitty friends telling them they’re great. When the rest of us disagree. NYC has amazing burlesque more often than not. So does Vegas and even Detroit or Windsor! Step up your game LA.
Very interesting comments.
I find it weird that people are defending crap performers/ people ‘finding’ themselves on stage (surely that’s what lessons and newbie shows are for) – if you are paying to get in, you surely want to see something worth paying for?
I totally agree promoters play a HUGE part in the issue.
Some promoters book anyone who’s willing to put an act together and get on stage, pay them nothing, and pocket the tickets sales ….. where does that leave us?
With miffed audience members, who think burlesque is crap/ never really experience the true magic, and wages being driven down for devoted performers who pour all of their time into their passion.
Equally, why so many people want to take to the stage with barely developed performances baffles me … maybe we need private shows for performers only – i.e. promoters stop trying to make money out of people who are still learning.
Burlesque is saturated, I can’t keep track of all the new comers …. but I can say of those maybe 300 newcomers this year alone, I have spotted maybe 3 or 4 who I think – yep, they are good.
What’s the answer? ….. all I can come up with is a certified qualification, and many people will hate that idea :s
As a performer myself I am fascinated that Burlesque has the the opposite problem magic does. Magicians generally know how to handle their props and structure a routine but can’t move very well onstage whereas a lot of burlesque performers have the opposite problem. They choreograph everything except how to handle the props.
However they both have problems connecting with an audience or changing facial expressions.
A lot of the newcomers have an unfounded illusion that it’s all about them, ignoring the paying audience at large, at the expense of an actual ‘show,’ as mutable as that term can forgivably be. Burlesque is in no way explicitly just exhibitionism, it’s a show, and as we in the business all know, it can be fun, it should be fun, but it’s all about paying customers, and the PERFORMANCE. Once can listen to a band, see a film, view a painting, and rightfully have an opinion on it, but anyone on the inside of burlesque cannot, because a lot of people view it more as a body-positive support group than a show for paying customers. It can be both, but if you need to pick one, pick what benefits the SHOW. Do art, be bold, and enjoy all of the added benefits of the craft, but don’t lose sight of the many things Burlesque can be for the sake of added benefits. Here’s what it’s not: is NOT a public exhibitionist forum with no message, no talent, no craft, nothing to give people for their trouble, parking, admission, and time. Show me something traditional that’s executed well, show me something far-out and so nouveau that I wouldn’t know Burlesque could offer that, show me something political, funny, creative, surreal, poignant, or otherwise insightful and do a good job of entertaining everyone, even teaching them something – but for fuck’s sake, keep the ‘Show’ in Burlesque. More people need to hear this. 16-year Burlesque veteran, here. Don’t treat it like a sophmoric phase. It may not be as sacred as I may be making it sound, but it’s not a disposable right of passage for those that simply want to feel pretty. Make it worth everyone’s time, or think twice.
If we’re trying to use burlesque to transcend reality than we might be doing it a disservice. Cliche isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I hope there are many a good performance in your future, cheers.
What a bunch of trite elitist bullshit. Even the shittiest burlesque performer you’ve ever watched, is still better than you. Because they’re actually up there doing it. You’re nothing but a hackneyed critic, wrapped in a protective bubble of undeserved self-righteous pretentiousness.
How about encouraging people to improve their skill, instead of telling them all to quit. Also the fact you think burlesque can only fall into two categories, proves just how unoriginal you are.
The reason you criticize burlesque performers so harshly is because deep down you know you would be one of those “shitty, unoriginal, performers” you revile so much.
My husband and I went to see a 90’s rock themed burlesque show… It was awful! The live band was so bad that I could barely make out what cover they were doing and this one particular dancer I will never forget was all done up in goth like kinkery.. Her performance song was something like Marilyn Manson, could have been a pretty exciting piece accept she had absolutely no expression or emotion on her face the whole performance! Terrible, just terrible.. She looked like she did not want to be there. On the one hand, we saw a girl perform in Seattle who was wearing a sundress and granny panties and she did her entire piece in a claw footed bathtub filled with water.. Didn’t take off a stitch of clothing but it was one of the most sexiest, entertaining performances we had ever seen!
Please don’t refer to us as “burlesque girls”. For a start, we’re not all female. There are many male and NB burlesque performers. And those of us who are female are grown women, not “girls.”