It’s funny how we all look for a drive in life… that one thing that makes us go “aha! THIS is my purpose.” It’s not like we’re told that we need to have a reason to exist, it’s just something we have hiding deep inside us wanting to come out. What do you want? To be happy? To express yourself? To fight for a cause? To bring awareness to the world’s conflicts? Trying to tackle your ‘life’s goal’ is hard enough as a normal human being living a normal muggle life, how does one even begin to look for their inspiration in burlesque?
The beautiful thing about burlesque, is that there are SO many ways to express yourself. As a performer, you can be completely character based, focus on musicality, create an entire story arc, send your message to the world, or whatever your heart can dream up! Any one of these is a form of purpose. These are trade marks that can stay with you through your career or can change and develop as you grow. It may take a while before you even begin to consider what YOUR drive is. Regardless, if you want to explore your possibilities there are more than a few places to begin…
What is something you find is missing in your life or your community? One thing I have noticed about a lot of performers I know, is how many of us advocate for things we struggle with ourselves. I believe that there is truth in all burlesque, and truth needs compassion for it to be genuine and supportive of yourself and others. I fight for truth and love, I want all performers to feel welcome and safe to perform. I LOVE seeing people in their element. Have you SEEN someone strip to Harry Potter and LOVE it? Or what about someone just eating, getting messy AND fully embracing it. Or someone living their fetish? Even if it’s not what gets me excited, I love seeing people fully embrace whatever is true for them. Yet, I have struggled with love and truth at times, both with myself and the people in my life. I have trouble opening up about myself and have had moments of high self doubt or a lack of compassion towards others. Burlesque is my main form of self expression and I am growing a LOT in my daily life because of it. Some people struggle with never thinking they can pull off being ‘sexy,’ or funny, or cute and they work on it because they so badly want to know how it feels. And you know what? They are freaking AMAZING at it! Likewise, I know performers who are strong advocates for self love and still need to remind themselves daily that they are not the exception to that love. We know how it feels to struggle with these necessities for life and we don’t want it to hold us or anyone else back, so we use it.
What is something that you want to see more of? There are times when you may see something miraculous and you feel all warm and gooey inside from it (in whatever way you wish to interpret that). Why not replicate it? Because chances are that there isn’t enough of that thing in life. Do you want to see more tease or creative ways to remove garments? Have you ever seen a powerful smashing of the patriarchy? How about reverse strip? Clearly, there are not enough people putting clothes on. Find inspiration from the reveals you see or the acts in daily life you witness and maybe one day you will replicate it over and over again.
Who inspires you and why? Now, don’t forget about ALL of your inspirations, including outside of the burly world. What do these people have that makes you go “wow!” Are they incredibly hardcore in everything they do? Maybe they move their body in a way that truly captivates you. Or perhaps they bring awareness to the world where we need it without shame. The more you look at your idols, the more you may realize that they all have some things in common. Maybe even you share some of these traits unknowingly.
Talk to your community and watch burlesque communities from around the world. There are certain things that you may not see by yourself that need to be fixed and worked on. It’s quite possible that you have what is needed to mend that seam. It could be something that seems obvious once you are told about it. Need more accessible rhinestones or high quality costumes? Become a seller or create. Want to leave the bar scene and have higher quality shows? Produce. Is there a gap between the different burlesque groups in your town? Become the person who mingles among each group and eventually pulls everyone together. Talking can bring up so many opportunities for you and even mentorship in the areas you may be weaker and want to expand upon. It just takes a few outside voices to help you out.
Experiment. Dip your toes into what you may find exciting. Play with politics, mess around with your characterization, aspire to a great story. So many beautiful and powerful things come out of play. If you play long enough, eventually you’ll find something that you’ll naturally want to continue with. So please, play!
Discovering your forte isn’t something that comes quick or necessarily easily. It takes time and tender love. Don’t be afraid to be new and experiment, and don’t be afraid to change your views throughout your burly life. I’ve been performing for two years and have only recently started putting serious thought into where my efforts lie in burlesque. Some people click with their purpose right away, others take time. Just know, like anything, that if you want to create your goal then you will need to put effort into it and it will one day come to fruition. So, by all means… Research. Chat. Play. Grow. And embrace whatever your truth may be.