There’s one big secret in Burlesque, and it’s not a kept one, it’s something that’s said over and over that no-one believes : There’s really no money in it. Yes, I know some very successful, busy performers. Still, I would by no means call them rich. If they’re ‘comfortable,’ it’s because their heart’s still in it, they have other means of support, and/or they’re living within their means, and those means are acceptable.
Burlesque in the past eight years has become what Bellydancing was in the mid 2000s – something watered down by soccer moms and young hopefuls that has been practically taught in strip-malls, and told that “you can be one too, in a few weeks!” Well, yes and no. Let me explain.
I have friends that run Burlesque schools, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s wonderful. Some of them even have student showcases, and they are rightfully popular, and well worth watching… but let’s be real for a second. You won’t be an overnight success, and quitting your day job. Those big-time Burlesquers you know? Most likely years of ballet, assorted dance classes, lots of day-to-day discipline, heavy personal marketing, and, for the first few years, if not forever, spending more than you make at it (costumes, flyers, etc.) I also have no problem with some of the former students getting into it seriously, or half-seriously, just follow your heart, but be real about your expectations.
…just remember there’s really no money in it, something many a seasoned dancer knows.
Well within the performers with the most longetivity in the business, are the same things in the girl that first signs up for classes on day one – their heart is in it.
But, we forget that sometimes.
Should I quit? I’m going broke!
Nothing wrong with putting it on hiatus. Get your shit together, come back anytime. Don’t worry about the competition – do not think of others as competition, that would defeat the purpose of getting involved in the first place. Go to shows, get the gears in your head working about routines for when you return, keep seen in the scene. Don’t forget how much you loved it, to keep the door open when you come back.
Should I quit? My boyfriend and I are having problems, because of this!
It’s hard to diagnose a wide variety of relationships with such a small statement, but I can tell you this : whatever is in your personality that is manifesting as wanting to do Burlesque, will resurface in different ways, even if you quit. You need to, for better or worse, address this with him. (I say ‘him,’ because I’ve yet to meet a male performer, or gay/lesbian couple who has had a problem with their partner doing burlesque, though I’m sure it exists, but the vast majority of these situations are performer-girl and jealous-guy.) The problem isn’t Burlesque, the problem is an incongruent mutual interest in the way you want to express yourself, a red flag for a bigger problem. The rest is up to you.
DRAMA makes me want to drop out forever!
Yes, with the influx of a bunch of performers who never had years of group or private training, there will be lots that have not learned the common discipline of working well with others. Despite how much ‘better’ they may be than you, prettier, longer-working, and such, everyone knows their deal. The newbies with attitude are even worse, because they haven’t even earned a good talent versus attitude ratio. There’s only so much tolerance a scene will take before they simply won’t get booked anymore, the span of them phasing out is variable.
Also, it’s a highly incestuous circle, cliquish, and such. It also can be a major support group, source of camaraderie, and a new source of friends in general.
If you’re not liking the smell in the air, a greener pasture is but a venue or two away.
If it’s really getting to you, take some time off, let the bad ones flush themselves out while you’re not around. You’ll hear about it soon enough, just because performers (generally) do not engage in obvious gossip publicly, doesn’t mean it won’t trickle down to you quickly.
Should I give up now, how will I ever be like Dita?
No, you will not ever be like Dita. She was a fetish model at the right place at the right time, and dated someone at the top of their game, got noticed internationally, and has exquisite financial backers. You may think (and may be right) that you’re technically better than she, and would be as famous if you could afford the costumes, but she made her mark strong when people were still using Netscape to look up the definition of Burlesque. Statistically, you’re probably better off writing a hit song for fame and fortune. If this is your only goal, maybe you should reflect on it, and run your course gracefully.
What about Cher’s movie Burles-
If i have to answer any questions dignifying that hell-borne movie, you do not know what Burlesque means.
Am I too old, should I give it up?
No, but don’t start too late if you’re already thinking this – make sure you have something long-practiced and original to offer a crowd, otherwise most will think of you as just a novelty. That may not be fair, but that’s what’s on the table at the moment. I know dancers in their 40s who are the show-stoppers and award-holders because of their ingenuity, not just because of their looks. That doesn’t mean they’ve been on the scene for a decade (though some are,) it means they really put on a fucking show, and are creative and mature enough to know simple exhibitionism (the wrong reason to join Burlesque) is worthless.
What should I do if I want to move on?
Get great photos done. Get good video of your favourite performances taped. Get a lot of group shots. Keep in touch with your Burlesque ‘family.’ Whether you feel you made your mark or not down the road, have something exquisite to reflect on, and to share with others.
The point of Burlesque
Is simple. The age of XXX theaters killed the original shows, because the tease was over. Such venues became pedestrian stripper clubs, and the art was lost. When it was resurrected, it had a solid foundation of what was expected, and a line of credit to redefinition. It’s no longer a primary income source, as it once was, for most. It is costly. It is cumbersome. It is demanding. It is (unfortunately) competitive at times.
It’s also a matter of love.
That’s the main gist.
If you feel out of love with it, take a break. If the love doesn’t come back, kiss it goodbye. Keep mementos. Keep the associated friends. Treat it as an on-again, off-again lover. Always let the memory keep a smile on your face.
Make sure you get out of it what you put in it, not in dollars or fame, but in satisfaction.
But never forget what you’ve learned, and why you loved it.
About the photo : This is my good friend Trixie Minx (Creative Director/Founder of New Orleans’ Fleur de Tease) that I’ve worked with for about 7 years. She’s the busiest, most-booked, most-respected Burlesque performer I know. One day we’d realized she may or may not be at the apex of her career, as busy as she was. I wanted to make something eternal for her. Something she’d be proud about when she was 50, 60, 75 years old, taken when she was arguable at the top of her game. She’s also the one who got me back into Burlesque. On the counter are our cigarette butts, her favourite shoes, dresses she loves, a very heavy antique headdress, a bottle from her wedding reception. The curious shadow is my leg and torso, a shadow from reversing the flash nearly behind me, against a mirror. The patterned shadow is the same light coming through the feathers of her headdress. The only retouching in this photo is the color was reduced to 50%. Color was too much, Black and White was too bland. This is the best example I have of everything I’ve talked about, down to the memento, and, as it was, our friendship personally and professionally. Her up front, me nearly invisible behind the scenes, but a part of the glamour, nonetheless.