Burlesque Beginners Dos and Donts

Aug16th2015-13

I’ve finally begun performing burlesque, and it’s been super hard work and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s had me somewhat creatively distracted for a while too, so it’s about time I check in with you guys here to teach you something new, in my usual by beginners for beginners format, with the help of my new partner Riley Strange!

So you’re intrigued by burlesque and you’ve never done it before, so you want to give it a shot. To go to shows and see the finished product on stage can feel pretty overwhelming when you have plans to try it out yourself. Just how does it all come together? If you don’t have a mentor to guide you you might be totally lost. Let us lay down a few simple dos and donts to get you started.

Riley prepared to go on stage for her Alice in Wonderland routine

Do…

-Your research. Learn by taking a class if there are any in your area, watching youtube videos, going to shows, reading up on burlesque history, and perusing informative websites such as 21stcenturyburlesque.com. Jo Weldon also has an awesome book on the subject that covers way more than I can here in a puny little blog article.

-Cut the damn tags off your clothes. As a performer you are delivering a fantasy. Tags and other flaws like stains, wrinkles and tears take the audience out of the moment.

-Be creative with your costume. Even if you must wear something off-the-rack, try to alter it in some way to make it one-of-a-kind. The last thing you want is someone in the audience pointing and going “Hey, I have that same bra at home!”

Adding rhinestones to these Victoria’s Secret panties add a little special sparkle

-Choose a song you absolutely love. With rehearsals you’ll have to listen to it a hundred times, so if you don’t love it, it’s going to be a nightmare to perform to once show day arrives.

-Be aware of what your audience will enjoy while not compromising your own tastes.

-Go big or go home. This is not a movie or a photoshoot, and there are no close-ups. Makeup and movements need to be seen from the back row. You WILL feel silly, at least in the beginning. You’ll get used to it.

-Make sure your stage name isn’t already taken by somebody else. A Google search should be pretty much all you need here.

-Make the most of your abilities. Any abilities. Dancing, acting, costuming, comedy, acrobatics, the list is endless.

-Be prepared for people to have misconceptions. Don’t get offended, it’s part of the deal. It’s up to you if you want to work towards changing their mind or not.

-Try to find a mentor if you can, to guide you through this stuff or just keep you company while you’re gluing on rhinestones.

-Consider the length and pacing of your song. You don’t want to feel rushed, or end up with nothing to do because the song was too long or slow.

-Be reliable and professional. This might be a fun job, but it is a job. It deserves to be taken seriously.

-Come to your show prepared. Remember not only the elements of your costume but makeup, pastie tape, a Tide stick, etc. This is the huge packing list Riley and I had last time we did a show, and this is only for three acts between us.

All this shit for less than 15 minutes total stage time. Also handy to make sure you leave nothing behind at the venue at the end of the night.

-Plan something achievable. This is something me and Riley have personal experience with. We kept coming up with extremely ambitious routines that were just way above our level. If you keep doing that you’ll never be able to complete the process to see it come to life on stage. You can keep having ambitious ideas, just tuck them away for a future date. A routine does not have to be difficult in order to be entertaining.

April 1 2016 - Heart-Shaped Box

Don’t…

-Think that the performances you see are the rules. This is art, there are no rules. You don’t have to wear a corset, you don’t have to choose a jazz song, you don’t have to know how to dance (although it helps) and believe it or not you don’t even have to be sexy. Let this be an expression of who you are, even if it only relates to one of your many facets. Well ok, there is one rule, and that is that you must be entertaining.

-Wear anything flat black unless your character depends on it. It’s too drab and somber. Either add some sparkle and shine or choose something more lively. Or better yet, both.

-Limit yourself. Explore new horizons and keep things fresh.

Just a backstage selfie with Adore Delano. No big deal 😛

-Focus on reasons why you “shouldn’t” do burlesque because it’s just not true. Any adult age, any gender, any body type, and any ability level (there are even burlesque performers who use wheelchairs in their acts) is accepted. This is the real beauty of this art form. It’s about celebrating what makes you you.

-Forget your face in your choreography. It just won’t look good if you look like you’re taking a shit while you get undressed.

-Be a diva. Ok this isn’t just a burlesque tip, this is a life tip. There’s a difference between honestly expressing something that’s important to you and acting like a spoiled child about it. You’re not above anyone.

-Panic if something goes wrong. Because it will, even to seasoned performers. But guess what, the audience probably doesn’t know, and if they do they’ll think highly of you for being able to just move on with the act instead of freezing in a panic. Riley and I have both performed to the wrong track when the DJ made a mistake, and neither time could anyone in the audience tell. Keep in mind we are both still beginners. It happened to Riley on her second day.

-Make excuses! You’ll just keep missing out.

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Online Shopping 101

Every time the Canadian dollar is doing well I get to laugh as I watch the news detailing the trips of hundreds of families across the border for some American shopping. Laugh more than what’s appropriate most likely, because all that time spent away from home is making for a pretty crappy deal. So I’ve often wondered maybe somewhat cruelly how people can be so silly, when all they have to do is hop online to get all the selection they want without the added time and hidden expense.
The truth is, most people are a little afraid to shop online. They don’t want to buy something they’ve never seen in person, or they’re concerned about security issues. I’ve been shopping online since the day I got my first credit card (obtained solely for that purpose) at 18, and ever since then I buy virtually ALL my clothes and half of my jewelry from my living room. In the six years since then only two purchases have not turned out, so I’m confident that everybody can relax and the water’s fine. Online shopping is something the knowledge and skill of which grows very easily with a little practice once you get started. To help you get that start I’m now writing this handy little guide.
So why shop online?
A better question to ask is why NOT shop online? You get the biggest selection in the world, and it only takes minutes -up to as long as your heart desires- to see it all. You’ll undoubtedly obtain many things you just can’t get locally, which will make for a very personalized look you just can’t pick up at the mall. You also get to compare prices for everything, savings that will often cancel out the cost of shipping. If not, the rest is made up for by the aforementioned selection and convenience. Also keep in mind that since web shops instantly reach a global market, many retailers these days have completely forgone limiting brick and mortar shops. If you want to take part, you’ll have to go online. And another note about shipping: receiving packages in the mail is incredibly fun. It’s like Christmas all year round. Some would even argue that the anticipation and the excitement of getting your stuff is even better than the instant-gratification of shopping in person.
So what about that issue of not being able to see the item in person? Just like in traditional stores, online businesses want to keep you happy. They know that good products and services will result in positive word of mouth that’s better than any advertising campaign. If they scammed you, they wouldn’t be in business for long. Many even have a section where you can read honest testimonials from past customers. And if you become a happy customer yourself, definitely take the time to let them know.
Furthermore, all products will have a detailed description and photos. The photos should let you see what you’re getting from multiple angles, and the description will tell you important things such as materials used, the manufacturing process, and if sizes happen to run a little large or small. Plus they’re often just fun to read. When it comes to clothing, every site will have a size chart for each brand that they carry, so you know your item will fit. Just take your basic measurements and compare them to the chart to find your size. Of course it’s definitely an asset to know your body type and what basic clothing styles will flatter it too.
If for any reason the purchase doesn’t work out, all online stores will have a return policy that you can check out in advance, and most of them are even better than the return policies you get for shopping in person. Timeless Trends for example has a 45 day return policy that they will extend depending on circumstance. But just like traditional shopping, make sure that the item you purchased is returned in the same condition you received it. They sent you something pretty and new, and you owe them the same courtesy.
The service online is often surprisingly awesome. Because many of these companies are a lot smaller than traditional ones, you have a better chance of communicating directly with the company owner or item manufacturer, sometimes one and the same. And yes, there are very open lines of communication online, whether through email, live chat, or a phone call. I’ve once had the pleasure of communicating directly with Louise Black of Project Runway for a made-to-order item made by her. How cool is that? And I will never forget to rave about AntiSally of Goth Rosary’s awesomely friendly *hugs* in her emails.
Payment is also extremely secure, possibly even more so since there are no hacked machines on which to get skimmed. Giving your credit card information is completely safe, and if it still makes you nervous most all sites now let you use PayPal, a service so secure I was once locked out of my own account and had to make a new one. Refunds are always given out promptly where necessary. Also, when it comes to using PayPal, particularly if you’re shopping on a site such as eBay or Etsy, where items come from individuals instead of commercial stores, PayPal ensures that if you don’t receive your item in 45 days they’ll make sure you get refunded even if the refund isn’t coming from the seller themselves, which is very good to know.
Speaking of eBay, this is the biggest thrift store in the world, and then some. Not only does it have an infinite amount of used stuff, but due to its success a lot of commercial retailers are using it too. The first thing you might want to do is treat it for what it is, a huge thrift shop. This means there are tons of great finds there, you just have to be patient when looking for them. Sometimes those gems can be buried under a lot of crap. And once you’re lucky enough to find one of these gems you’ll want to pay as much attention to the photos and description as possible. If there’s anything more you need to know you can always email the seller; they usually get back to you extremely quickly.
The second thing is to make full use of the search options. The search bar works just like Google’s does, so if you want your item to absolutely have a certain word in the title, put a + in front of that word. If you don’t want to include listings with a certain word, put a – in front of it. Make sure the search keeps the same words together and in a particular order by putting quotations around them. Then narrow down your search as much as possible using all the options in the left panel. You can even select “Buy Now only” if you just want your stuff right away without fussing with the whole bidding thing. And of course never forget to check the shipping costs; it’s been known to happen for a seller to list an item for 1$ with something like 150$ shipping, so don’t be caught off guard.

But what’s my all time favorite site to shop on? Etsy! This works like Ebay in that it’s a hosting site to countless little shops run by individuals. The difference is that it’s completely focused on vintage and handmade items – nothing commercial. There’s no bidding, and you can find the most incredible, unique, amazing, ridiculous, and beautiful things. The interface is a lot friendlier than Ebay too. When you like something you “heart” it, and it goes into your wishlist for viewing later. You can even heart shops so you can go back to them easily and browse their selection. This is especially one of the greatest sites for unique and affordable wedding shopping. Jewelry, dresses, center pieces, cake toppers, invitations – they have it all, all made by extremely talented people. And I’m addicted to vintage window shopping there. I just got a gorgeous hounds tooth wool dress from the 50s. Damn, I should write a review just about Etsy!
Here’s a general little tip: When you’re not satisfied with the price or shipping of an item, Google the product code. This works except in cases where the item is 100% unique to that store, usually if it’s used or handmade. Stop Staring isn’t the only website that sells Stop Staring dresses, and Pinup Girl Clothing isn’t the only store that sells Collectif dresses or Leg Avenue shoes. You’ll find the product code either at the end of the name of the item, or at the beginning of the description. It will look something like this -> pc-lizbeth-bkgr. It most often represents the brand, the product name, and the color. Googling this code will allow you to see all the other stores carrying that exact item so that you can compare prices and shipping options in a much more specific way than typing in, say, “green and black wiggle dress.”
So now you have what you need to be a real web-savvy shopper and impress your friends with your fabulous finds. Be prepared to answer the question “where did you get that??” repeatedly, and enjoy the glory of finding exactly what you want and need with a lot more fun and convenience than effort.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!