Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Become a Burlesque Star

There's no easy road to becoming a Burlesque Lovely, but if you're going to start somewhere, start here! The road to stardom is vague and probably very rocky, but the curtains rise and knickers fall and the world will always need Burlesque. It’s not going to be easy; there are many pathways that lead to the glitz and glam of Burlesque. How do you join a troupe? What do you need? Where do you start? 

1. Appreciate the art and further your knowledge of it. You can’t just instantly take to the stage, take clothes off, and consider yourself a Burlesque Artiste because you have a feathered fan. It’s about using every little prop, and body part, to your advantage. Is Burlesque for you? What is it? Where did it come from? If you have never heard of Lili St Cyr or Gypsy Rose Lee then you haven't learned enough! History of Burlesque is just as important as the technicalities.

 * Find out all you can about the history, and find people who inspire you.
    * Write a list of all the things a Burlesque Artiste has to do, and compare them with what you know you can achieve. Still think you have what it takes?
    * Lovely ladies who you may want to look into are Burlesque artists: Lili St Cyr, Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, (and more recently) Dita Von Teese, Catherine D’lish, The Sweet Soul Burlesque Troupe from Vancouver… fetish and pinup model Bettie Page, movie icons Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Betty Grable, Barbera Stanwyck, Rita Hayworth, and Mae West for style and glamour inspiration.
2. Get yourself to dance classes if you need them. Learn how to use a pole and a barre, get fit and into shape, and get yourself the way you will be on stage. It doesn't matter whether you're a little chubby or whether you're stick thin. Burlesque used to be for curvy honeys but it's now for everyone. Get classes on dance, drama, and stage work, and choreography if you can. Watch dance shows and films, get to grips with how to work those limbs.
  • If you can’t find any troupes or shows near you to join, you can start out in pole/strip clubs if they’d take a classier act. Remember that hands-on audiences are a no-no! Burlesque, is, of course, stripping (usually down to pasties and a g-string) but the tease part is the main bit! Remember dolls, Dita Von Teese started out in a strip joint!
  • If there’s no chance there, then local bars and clubs need shows and performances of entertaining value to draw in customers on the nighttime. A classy bit of Burlesque is great here also, though it does help if you can sing a little cabaret!
  • If you have trouble finding a troupe, don’t start there. More on troupes later! If you do join a troupe, you probably don’t need the rest of this guide! Listen to these lovely ladies and ask yourself if it’s the life you want. If not, search for another troupe, or go it solo.
3. Get the look.

* In every Burlesque Beauty’s closet (in addition to their own signature props and costumes, of course!) should be: a sheer negligee, a pair of slippers or heels that have feathers or fluff on them somewhere, a pair of heels or stilettos in satin, patent, or covered in rhinestones or glitter, thigh high stockings in nude and black, suspender belts in the three base colours (red, black, and white)- or better - a corset or waspie with suspender snaps! You will also need, of course, matching underwear, and above all: pasties! Pasties and nipple tassels are a must if you intend on taking off so much! You should also have a feather fan to incorporate somewhere. Other musts are bold lipstick colours, black liquid eyeliner, and nail polish to match your lipsticks of course!
    * For hair and make-up: try cherry red lips, and black cat-flicked eyeliner. Look at vintage hairstyles for inspiration in the eras 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Barrel-curled hair is easy, best done with nylon net rollers and pins! You can also use hot-rollers, they are great and quick before a show! Invest in lots and lots of hairspray. Be bold with colour. If you’re wearing a blue corset, wear blue nail varnish and blue lipstick, but line the edge of your lips in black and blend them together for twilight to midnight look. If you’re wearing lilac, wear lilac lipstick, smoking purple eyes, and matching polish. Oh, and don’t forget your toenails need love too!
    * Clothing: Be a vintage vixen. Curvy wiggle dresses, cocktail gowns, and all manners of retro clothing remind of a more glamorous era when ladies always wore a pair of stockings. Nothing better than to create the illusion of that in the minds of common males, eh? Pill box hats are brilliant- or any hat with a veil actually. Mini top hats are gorgeous accessories and so are big hair flowers and fascinators.

 4. Practice and cultivate a show. If you don’t join a troupe, it’s important that you practice the basics. Taking corsets off with one hand, dancing on your tip toes as though you’re wearing high heels, extending the arms and legs gracefully, and so on doesn’t come naturally to some people. Depending on what type of act you want to do, you will need to learn different things, but as a rule of thumb you need to be able to take your clothes off and look good doing it! The idea is that you don’t look like you’re concentrating. When you get dressed and undressed, always try to do it one-handedly, and also as though someone is watching you so you must keep all your intimate parts covered! Can you change your bra without taking off your blouse?

There are tonnes of props just waiting to be bought or made, and inspiration all around you! You might already have been inspired!
 # Signature routines: You must be bold! Dream up anything! So your show is budget… economy versions are often best because they have been thought about! Flick through fancy dress costume catalogues for some great ideas, and traipse through charity stores to see if you’re inspired by a piece of jewellery, or a certain bodice or skirt. Don’t be a copycat darling! Originality is key. The Martini Glass (all credits to the gorgeous Ms. Von Teese) has been done, and so have the diaphonus bubbles! What do you like in your house? What do you like in your city? You can base a routine around anything!
# Seductive tricks: On stage- learn to suspend yourself from a pole and slide down it v-legged. Learn how to take all your clothes off (besides those pasties and panties of course!) with only a fan in each hand as coverage and not show the pasties or panties! Learn how to sit on a chair provocatively. Chairs are great, cheap props, and everyone loves a chair routine! Learn to lock eyes with your audience. They won’t know what hit them. To tease whilst seated, stretch out your legs and rub them round as though feeling the seam up the back, or caressing the stockings. You can also disrobe with your back turned to your audience. Especially taking off that corset or bra… they won’t immediately know about your pasties!

5. You may want to throw away all your drab or store it away for a rainy day.  It may come as a shock, but you may find it hard to walk around in jeans and a tee-shirt. Why? Because it's not glamorous. Is Audrey Hepburn famous for wearing jeans? No! Did Marilyn Monroe’s tracksuit bottoms puff up with air? These are two lovely ladies who were known for class, style, sex appeal, and yet they weren’t Burlesque honeys - but they were still icons. You work, learn, and live the fluffy wedge slippers and chiffon nightgowns, but Burlesque is almost about everything we do. If you wear a bullet bra on stage, wear one off stage, and if you wear matching underpinnings on stage, wear them off stage. You’ll probably feel better about yourself too! Be a glamour girl every minute of every day if you want to be a real Burlesque ‘star’. It’s a lifestyle, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either!
Learn to look modest, to pout, to laugh, to adjust your stockings when you know people are looking but pretend to be trying to do it discreetly, be glamour and class personified. Apply lipstick in public in a powder compact, do wiggle when you walk, do wear heels, do act like a 50’s movie star and you’ll feel like one!

6.  Promote yourself. Things are smooth, and you’re a glamour kitty, okay, but you want to be a star, right? You want to have the glitz, the real  crystals instead of rhinestones, and be booked the world over for famous celebrity parties. You’re doing well at the bar/joint that you work, but you’re not earning wads of cash. So, of course, you need to build a brand for yourself. You need to create a demand, and then fulfill it. Hand out personal flyers and start getting bookings for parties. It may seem seedy, but there’s an art to being subtle and you’ve probably learned it already if you’ve come thus far without being dragged off down the ‘sleazy’ path. People book you, and people tell people. Build a website  with your info, be available! Join an agency if you think it will help. Have hunger for it, and it will come. Organise your own show at a nice venue or hall, and make the tickets reasonable but to cover the cost- you can up the price later when there’s more demand. A new type of show will have plenty of support and you can advertise it in the local newspaper, on the radio, and on local news television if you can. Flyers, posters, anything as long as the image it conveys is something that will show people a classy and yet very artful and sexy type of performance. Above all, be original and be different, but not too strange or cult or people will be scared to see your show!

7. Take it up a notch. You’re being booked up, sold out, and the next thing you know is you’re a local celebrity. Time to start planning shows in other cities and venues, no? Take it extreme. Create a troupe if you haven’t joined one. Local dancers might try it, local strippers might be looking for something to be more uptown. Create an interesting venture between yourself and your community, but don’t let any honeys upstage you, no no, you must be the most extravagant of them all. Plain Jane never got any attention after all!
Get ready for hard work! There is no easy way along this road. The path of Burlesque can be fun and can be glamorous, but there is also a darker side, which is hard. Troupes often go a long time without seeing their families, and life is tough. Make sure you're willing to commit to this.
  • Half your wardrobe should be lingerie! It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can get cheaper items and then customise them with lace and frills from a haberdashery. Alternatively, you can bargain hunt on the internet or in charity or second hand rose stores for corsets and suspender belts, and some gorgeous vintage finery! Panties are best full and frilled. All the better to whip them off and show off that flash g-string underneath! You can get fabulous panties with corsets up the sides, you can unlace them slowly and just let them fall away! Magic!


  • You must be able to walk in the heels you buy, and dance in them too. The shoes should only come if it’s part of your act!
  • Hands on audiences: No no! We can’t have the audience copping a feel, that’s not what it’s about. Burlesque is a part of voyeurism. Keep out of reach- and make sure you keep all your props and clothing out of reach too! Having a lovely assistant to collect them is a good way to make sure nothing gets pinched.
  • Stuck clothing: Velcro = legend. Zippers are great, but they get stuck sometimes so have a lovely assistant on hand to sexily help, or ask a member of the audience for help.
  • Losing clothing by accident: It happens. Just make like it was meant to! A bra can take a pastie off if it’s not stuck on properly. Hold it in place, cover yourself with a prop or your hand for the rest of the routine, or lose it all together! Another great idea is to flash the pastie-clad boob, and then take them off and keep the bra on! It wont spoil your dance if you take it off at the end, only to be covering yourself up with your arm!
  • It takes a hell of a lot of time of research, shopping, exercise and travel to be a Burlesque Queen. Make sure you don’t compromise on personal time and family and friend time. Make every precious second count.
  • Burlesque still comes with the misconception of being stripping. Use a stage name, and stick to it in all interviews, especially if you need a job on the side to pay for the vintage clothing.
  • Likewise, this is a world where women need to be careful regularly. If you are taking clothes off, dancing provocatively, and showing off lingerie, be careful of the drunks who don't quite get it (especially in a bar scene).
  • For the reason listed above, avoid alcohol while you're on the job. It can also tarnish your name if you're caught drinking a beer hours before a show, and you mess something up (even if it's entirely unrelated).
For a first tease, you will need: A prop (be it giant ostrich fans or just a towel or a table or a fully fledged giant bird of prey to swoop in on!), lingerie consisting of corset/suspender belt, stockings, bra, panties, and pasties, and some glamorous overclothes!, a good pair of heels, and a musical backing track. A little imagination and practice goes a long way too honies!

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