1. Learn the basics. Before gracing the stage, take some classes in burlesque and other movement disciplines. Whether its ballet, circus or salsa it will help you to create textured choreography.
2. Research. In this day and age, there is no excuse not to research! There are countless videos and articles online that you can watch and gain inspiration from. We highly recommend reading ‘The Burlesque Handbook’ by New York School of Burlesque Headmistress Jo Weldon for valuable knowledge and tips.
3. Name yourself. Burlesque performers create characters on stage and a burlesque name is an important part of that. I don't recommend performers take on a stage name until they're ready to make a solo debut, as you'll change and evolve many times before that!
Think about what you are trying to evoke when someone hears your name. Do you wish to present as glamorous, risqué, fun or obscene? Once you’ve decided on a name it is essential to check that it is not already in use. Google extensively (the name with the word 'burlesque' and spelling variations) and check the Ministry of Burlesque website, Worldwide Burlesque Registry and Australian Burlesque Name Registry to avoid confusion and possible legal action.
4. Know your scene. Go to burlesque shows in your city to get to know the venues, the styles that are popular and what the audiences are responding to. Whether you choose to go with or against the grain, it will inform your creative choices.
5. Be Original. While you may find inspiration in another act or performer, be careful not to copy an act outright. Imitation is not seen as flattery in burlesque. As the performers involved have developed every aspect of their act it is heartbreaking to see a performer copy and take credit for another’s work. If you have a concept or song in mind, search for it online with the word ‘burlesque’ to ensure it hasn’t already been done. Even with classic bump and grinds or tried and true themes like the bride or the housewife, it’s possible to bring your own character and take to the stage.
6. Develop your choreography. Once you’ve chosen your persona, concept and music you’re ready to choreograph. This is something that you can develop yourself or you can take private lessons and workshops offered by many of the burlesque schools to help you get started. Then practice, practice, practice!
7. Create your costume. Depending on your routine, you may need to devise your costume before you choreograph. Ensure that it is a reflection of your theme and easy to move in. A costume needs to be durable and stage friendly – the beautiful detailing that you spent hours on may be lost only a few meters into the audience. It is imperative that you rehearse in your costume many times before your performance to minimise things that could go wrong.
8. Perfect your performance. Above all, burlesque is about the performance. When things do go wrong on the stage – and they will – be prepared to improvise and keep performing. To get used to this, try to rehearse through mishaps rather than stopping and starting again. Be ready for anything!
9. Polish your look. Make sure that you are looking the part from top to toe. Research vintage hair and beauty tips as a guide. Choose makeup that enhances your persona and is suitable for the stage. This usually means bold lips, defined eyes with dramatic liner and false lashes.
10. Tread the boards! If you’re not already taking classes at a burlesque school where beginner’s showcases are regular events, keep an eye out for beginner’s nights in your city where you can try out your new skills. Remember to interact with the audience and hold your character from the moment you enter to the last second that the audience can see you. Take note of what went well and revise any part of your act that wasn’t as successful, ready for your next performance!
Ready to make your debut? Join our Headliners: Act Development Masterclass for professional development advice and act creation coaching. View more information here.