By: Lucifer Christmas
I honestly can't tell you when my burlesque-iversary is. I hear people talk about them, but I can't really say for sure when I'd celebrate my entrée into the world of professional naked-ness. While some folks like to plunge into their life as a professional ecdysiast head first, I took the slow creep approach. I went to a lot of shows to figure out what I liked, I took loads of classes from very different instructors, I worked backstage and front of house, I spent time with different troupes, and eventually, I even went on a few auditions. I slow crept into burlesque over the course of several years. When I saw my first show over ten years ago (shout out to Mary Widow and Devilicia!) I knew that I wanted to be part of this art form. I just took awhile to figure out how, and I still, sometimes do this. The slow creep, the time off. Why? Because the shows and the gigs will always be there.
Repeat after me: "the gigs will always be there."
All of us in this strip-teasing ilk, we're show people--we've got something to say and we're ready to say it NOW. When I first stepped away from burlesque and drag to enter the world of parenting, I considered that this was my burlesque sabbatical, and while I was reasonably sure that I was shaving my glitter stache for the foreseeable future and hanging up my tassels for at least a few years, I wasn't sad. I knew that there would still be spaces to perform and people to get naked with and for -- even if it was only at a house show - whenever I decided to step back.
Consider this--burlesque as an art form has been around since the 1800s, possibly even longer. There are instances of drag dating back to the 1500s. These art forms are not going anywhere any time soon -- and considering the current state of the world, we all know that they're needed more than ever.
Since I'm old as dirt (but look shockingly good for my age ::selfie high five::), newer performers often run things by me or just vent. The inspiration for this blogpost actually came from several conversations I had this winter with performers who were entering their second year of performing, or looking to dip their pinky toe back in after some time away.
Most of these beautiful people were worried that they weren't performing enough. That they weren't getting enough stage time and felt, understandably, that if they didn't get on stage in the next month, they'd fall into a black hole of Boston burlesque to be forgotten along with the Combat Zone.
I started getting paid to do burlesque a little more than six years ago. The entire time that I've been doing this, I've made time to take breaks. Why? Because sometimes my brain needs it. Sometimes I want to focus on going to classes or I want to focus on revamping one of my first numbers, really making it pop. Sometimes I just want to go back to my roots as a producer and behind the scenes person. I let myself focus and learn. When I'm ready to get back on stage, I send a few inquiries out (side note: hit me up if you ever need a professional email how-to) and rent a rehearsal space. Why? Because the gigs will always be there.
Stage time is great - I mean, we're all show-offs and we love hamming it up for an audience. But stage-time isn't the be-all-end-all of performing, especially at a professional level. For those of us who want to do this just for fun, there are myriad spaces to rent out, and house shows are always an option. (I unapologetically stripped for friends when I was learning and figuring out my chops).
My two cents (for those who want to get paid--and paid well--for this) though, is to focus and take time away from the stage. Go to classes, workshop your pieces, try out figure modeling, take an acting gig, approach an established performer and ask them to mentor you. Kitten shows - kitten as many shows as possible. I, personally, love kittening when I'm trying to work out new characters as there are so many opportunities to walk, strut, and be physically in character.
Learn something new and work things out in trade if money is an issue. Sing with a band, go to an open mic, or get behind the scenes.
Finally, if you have an idea that needs to get on stage, and there's not a show for it, make one. Seriously. Sometimes part of knowing that the gigs will always be there is reminding yourself that you can make them happen. If you don't know where to start, hire a producer or partner in crime who knows their stuff. Write everything down, split up your responsibilities, and then go to work.
And remember, take a deep breath because the gigs will always be there.
Burlesque Boston's Blog is a collection of contributions from burlesque artists.