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Growing Your Burlesque: Standing Out

How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd? How do you make a statement, create your “style,” or become memorable? Burlesque is far more than “just burlesque.” It is an art, and it is an art that tends to fuse multiple creative outlets into one glittery, cheeky, tease. So how do you make yourself bigger than a performer and instead your own entity in burlesque? Well the answer, my beautiful lovelies, is in the style of burlesque itself.

Being enamored with burlesque and all it has to offer is great, but what do you love to experience outside of burlesque? Personally, I love how much variety there is in the burlesque community. We are so full of contortionists, nerds, comedians, clowns, hoola hoopers, and people who play with fire. There are people who bring their politics to the stage, and so many others who bring various exotic dance styles with them as well. And then there are the performers who are so classic, so graceful and cheeky, they make elegance and glamour look easy. The classic performers may not be bringing any seemingly innovative bits and bobs to the stage with them, but they have studied classic tease and practiced it so incredibly well that it is second nature to them. I adore burlesque, and keep falling back in love with it, because it is a platform where everyone and every style belongs.

A quote that stands out to me, is one that I think everyone needs to hear at some point. I am paraphrasing, but I first heard this lesson from Perle Noire at Burlycon in 2018:

“Dita Von Teese doesn’t ‘emulate’ glamour or pretend she’s glamorous. She presents her authentic self when she is on that stage.”

This lesson, from Perle, is one that I have slowly been learning the longer I perform. I am still finding my own style and what resonates with me as a performer. But piece by piece, I am discovering my own power in my performances. Gone are the days (almost) where I create routines to fit a theme or to say “look, I can do this style too!” Now, my energy goes into creating and continuously growing the routines I want to share with the audience. And bit by bit, my routines are getting better recognized and requested compared to my earlier years. If you’re a performer who wants to create a lot of new routines or build yourself into themes, that’s great too! Like how performers can make any kind of routine, we can also practice our art however we see fit. As a career, a hobby, a passion: anything.

This post may seem like it’s going off topic from “standing out.” But I think, as performers, that it is so easy to focus on being noticed or performing what we think people want to see… that we often forget about what WE bring to the stage or scene. Whether it is creating acts for our home towns, tours, or festivals, I am continuing to learn that there is no one style producers want to see, with a very few exceptions. The routines I see onstage that truly inspire me, are the ones where I can feel and know that the performer is doing what they love. They get their 3-5 minutes to just be themselves, and the audience gets to be a part of that experience.

If you are reading this and want “real” advice on how to stand out. The best I can give is to put yourself out there. If there are classes you want to take, take them and apply them to your burlesque. Learn how to do poi, or play with your energy, play with politics, or create characters, or whatever calls to you. Put yourself out there by chatting with producers and other performers, so at least people can recognize your face. If anyone makes you feel invalidated, find the people who do support you.

People will always have their opinions, but the great thing about burlesque, is that there is always a community somewhere for someone. Your art is valid, and your burlesque belongs on the stage. And to end, here is another quote I plan to carry with me – and leave with you – by Sweetpea:

“I am the first, the last, the one and only, fucking phenomenal me.”

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