When first starting out, burlesque is this beautiful and exciting world you need to explore. You may want to take every class you can to become a great performer. Or perhaps you’re interested in the history and want to learn how we’ve gotten to where we are today. Regardless of where your interests lay, there are a vast number of ways to learn in our community. So, if you’re new and eager, take note of your resources!
1. Take Classes and Workshop
Classes are the most easily thought of and often most sought after for growth in burlesque, and for obvious reasons. You are learning skills beyond your level from your mentors! Whether teachers in your area are offering classes, you’re attending Burlycon or a convention, or you get together with other performers to workshop routines, you’re growing.
2. Watch YouTube
The more you get yourself lost in the YouTube spiral, the better. Randomly searching YouTube is one of the main ways I have discovered new (to me) and strong performers. If you find a particularly strong routine, note who the performer is and find more by them. Learn other performer’s names and styles. From my experience, when I learn – REALLY learn – about other performers, I can more easily study their techniques of comedy, grace, sass, movement, professionalism, or whatever they bring to the table. Watching other performers is one of the best ways to learn what works and what doesn’t.
3. Read Articles and Participate Online
There are an infinite number of resources online for our own personal gain as performers. 21st Century Burlesque Magazine, Viv Cliquot’s blog, and many other sites are the top spots to get your daily dose of tutorials, interviews, event updates, reviews, and SO much more! While burlycon message boards, Burlesque Hall of Fame, Big Brother/Sister Burlesque, local burlesque groups and a plethora of other groups host the knowledge base for a community of discussion.
4. Watch Documentaries
Documentaries offer such a unique view of our burly community. Whether they’re filming our bedazzling legends or showcasing an overview of where we are today, they present a variety of performers and styles, and above all, our history. And as mentioned by many performers, you can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you came from or where you’re currently starting. League of Exotique Dancers, Behind the BurlyQ, and Glitter Tribe are just a few to check out!
Books, books, and more books! If you enjoy reading or history, books are your best friend. Many of our golden burlesque legends have autobiographies that are incredibly inspiring. As well, there are many burlesque history books. If you get the chance to attend Burlycon, check out their library! There you’ll discover just how many literary treasures you can read. Books like Behind the BurlyQ, The Pastie Project, Jo Weldon’s Burlesque Handbook, and MANY more books offer a huge insight into our world. Find inspiration for costumes, motivation, and learning.
6. Study Other Forms of Expression
Conventional dance like ballet, contemporary, hiphop, ballroom, and any other dance form... have a vast complexity to them that can be applied to our own style. This goes for outside of dance. If you have an interest in circus arts, take classes. Want to learn exotic dance or pole? Go for it! Fire play, cosplay, drag, improv… every other form of theatre has something to share. Learning the basis for different art styles and layering them into your own unique twist will give the audience more reason to watch and keep watching! Even if you just do a simple shimmy, the combination of your costume (& knowing how to use it), your face, and how you move into and out of that shimmy will be what makes it go from simple to mesmerizing.
7. Go to a Festival or Convention
I can’t stress this enough. Burlycon, Burlesque Hall of Fame, any city’s international burlesque festival… You may think you know burlesque, but until you attend one of these, you don’t know what you’re missing. Burlesque is so much bigger than your city’s community or what you think you know. I did not realize how many things there were to learn until I attended my first year of Burlycon, and I’m still discovering new avenues of growth since then. When you have performers from around the world congregating, you discover just how big our community really is, and you learn about so many huge performers you’ve never heard of. You get the chance to talk to and learn from our legends. You can take a multitude of classes, from movement to networking, from costuming to marketing, from musicality to meditation…you can literally learn every aspect! You see live performances that are amplified from the performer’s energy reverberating back and forth among the audience. We are a huge community with a lot to give, and we are always willing to share when we get together!
8. Talk to Other Performers
One of the easiest and quickest ways to get involved and knowledgeable about burlesque are your own peers. Know who the legends of your town are and who the performers are who know their stuff. Even if you don’t have true legends in your community from the Golden Age of burlesque, you still have performers who have worked hard to create your community and build upon it. Learn who your mentors are and learn from them. Heck, even getting together with other new performers is a great way to build community and learn from one another. If you’re new, we’ve all been where you’ve been, and we know how hard it can be to be new and shy. We’ve all made the same mistakes repeatedly so hopefully one day someone else won’t have to make them. We’ve all done our different areas of research: who are the producer’s in town? What’s the difference between DMC rhinestones, Preciosa, and Swarovski? What is classic burlesque and neo burlesque? We love to share our knowledge to those who ask, and we love to learn from those who will share.
9. Watch Yourself
Pictures of how awesome you look onstage is one thing, but video is a whole other level! If you have the opportunity to have someone film you at a show, do it and watch it. You may think “Wow, I’m so much sassier than I expected! I look good!” Or you may go to the end of criticism, “Ugh…I can’t believe everyone saw me doing THAT!” Either way, watching yourself is the best way to see how YOU perform. It may be hard at first, but the more you watch yourself, the easier it will get to objectively work on your routines. What works? What do you need to work on? Filming yourself on your phone in your living room is also a powerful scope into how you move and where your skills are. So get your sexy on in front of that camera!
This should go without saying, but you cannot improve unless you get up and practice! Stretch to get flexible, play with your music, experiment with that prop you’ve always wanted. Like anything, burlesque is a skill that you can always improve upon if you want to. If you don’t know where to start, start by learning. Use any of the above tips to discover new moves you want to try and go from there. Eventually you will develop your style and master it. It just takes one thing: practice.