We couldn’t think of anyone’s advice we’d rather take than Miss Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Founder of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook, which is why we’re thrilled to have her as our Burlesque Etiquette contributor! Have a question you’d like Jo to answer? Please title your email “Etiquette- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
I run the New York School of Burlesque, and I get input all the time from the instructors who work with me, as well as from other headmistresses like Indigo Blue and Ophelia Flame. I also get some input from students, though not as much as I would like. Certain issues come up repeatedly, and I think you’ll see a trend when you see them all in one place!
Teacher/Student Dos and Don’ts
Instructor to Student
Be grateful when students tell you that you’ve inspired them, but remember that inspiration is your job.
Be honest. Don’t prize being liked over getting your students to do their best. Not telling people when what they’re doing doesn’t work is like stealing their time and money.
Make sure your class conforms to the description that prompted the students to register for the class.
Describe your qualifications and accreditation honestly.
Don’t teach what you haven’t studied. However, it’s okay if you can’t do it, as long as you can teach others to do it.
Don’t impress upon students that your pet peeves are universal standards. While advocating what you believe in, do tell them that your approach is one of many. Encourage them to research. Offer them positive examples to emulate rather than negative examples to avoid.
Don’t allow photographers in the class without students’ permission, or make students who don’t want to have photos taken have a different experience of the class than those who do.
Don’t teach other teachers’ material without permission and attribution. A syllabus is actually copyrightable, as is choreography.
Be forgiving. You used to not get it, either.
Student to Instructor
Don’t try to teach the class. You don’t need to point out every exception to the rule, especially in a class on fundamentals. However, a good instructor will often ask students about their experiences when class time permits.
Be on time, or if late, be quiet when entering, and don’t ask to be caught up on other students’ time.
Don’t argue with the payment policy. It was there when you paid, and it’s there to protect the livelihood of the instructors. Most folks will make an exception for a death in the family, but it’s not your school’s fault if you missed the bus.
Don’t ask questions without checking the website first. Everybody in the world gets too much email already.
Tell the instructor if you have a problem, not the other students.
Read the class description carefully and don’t be surprised the class conforms to the description.
If you already knew what the teacher told you, learn from watching the other students in the class learn it.
Give feedback when asked, and offer it when it may be appropriate. Not only is it valuable for the instructors, but it benefits the students who come after you and the burlesque community as a whole.
Don’t teach other teachers’ material without permission and attribution. A syllabus is actually copyrightable, as is choreography. Yes, I’m saying this to both instructors and students.
Be forgiving. Teachers, like performers, occasionally have off days.
Here’s the New York School of Burlesque’s mission statement: “The New York School of Burlesque has worked with Burlycon, Coney Island USA, Tease-O-Rama, and The Burlesque Hall of Fame. These associations inform our aesthetic, our educational approach, and our values.
The essential mission of NYSB is to provide both unique and fundamental classes taught by experienced performers. We strive to promote diversity in performance styles and so present instructors with different interpretations of burlesque. We want to promote instructors who teach both locally and worldwide. We want to provide classes for a variety of student interests: for fun, for fitness, or for preparing to perform. We believe in glamour that is bursting with intelligence. We believe that studying the history of burlesque is an essential component in creating burlesque with depth and character. We believe in the originality that can come from both experience and inexperience. We respect those performers who came before us, those with whom we now work, and those who will come after us. We respect performers who see things our way and performers with different goals and approaches. We believe in asking challenging questions of ourselves and others. We believe in being open to approaches and history beyond our own easily accessible realm. We believe in self-expression and audience appreciation. We believe in the excellence that develops from study and repetition as well as the excitement that comes from experimentation without guarantee of success. We believed in both seasoned and emerging performers. We believe in entertainment for its own sake, as well as for its ability to change the world.”
As I’m clearly invested in this, I look forward to getting more insight from comments on this article! This is part of a bigger project in which I’m hoping to learn what benefits performers and producers feel burlesque classes provide, as well as what responsibilities members of the burlesque community would like burlesque instructors to assume. If you have suggestions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to see more of Jo’s etiquette columns? Check out: These Children That You Spit On: Established Performer to New Performer Etiquette, Stage Kitten Etiquette, Making Introductions: Emcee Etiquette, Photos & Pasties, How to Annoy Producers, How to Annoy Performers, I’m Just Saying, Headliner Etiquette – Part 1, Social Media Etiquette for Nearly Naked People
2013 Texas Burlesque Festival Diary
By: Goldie Candela
Where to start? Texas Burlesque Festival is the event I look forward to every year. Since its start in 2007 it’s been a prime example of the Burlesque/Variety community coming together to strut their stuff, shimmy their derrières and twirl their tassels. Through the years the Festival has only become better as the number of applicants grow; this once very local based Showcase and Competition has made a name for itself in the international scene of Burlesque and has hosted 5 Miss Exotic Worlds as well as other super stars and Legends in the industry. I have had the honor of being a part of this festival every year since its beginning, with the exception of my baby hiatus in 2011. And this year only proved to be the best to date with headliners Dirty Martini, Reigning Miss Exotic World Imogen Kelly, Bazuka Joe and Ray Gun of The Stagedoor Johnnies, and Legend Camille 2000.
Thursday night started the Festival off with a huge BANG! This year brought so many new faces, ones I’ve only seen in our Social Media, all together. To this day Thursday night is MY favorite night of the fest because of all the new blood on the stage, either through their experience or the new routines. I was there for check in way too early which everyone knows was actually on time, only myself, Producer Lynn, Frenchie Renard, and the Stagedoor Johnnies were there ready to check in and load in. I went to re-introduce myself to Ray Gunn since he had done the festival last year, and how would he have remembered little ol’ me?…only to have him give me a hug and say he DID remember me…Ah! Then I turned to Bazuka Joe who I hadn’t met in person and I was met with a hug and the words “I follow you religiously on Facebook”…Seriously? PINCH ME NOW! The Johnnies know who I am and like me! YAY! My night couldn’t have gotten better from there…
Doors opened with audience members and half prepped performers filing in to catch the show. On the way in I was able to catch a little face time with this year’s headliners Dirty Martini (rated #1 in the world) and 2012 Reigning Miss Exotic World, Imogen Kelly. Both attired in playful colors and their larger than life personalities (I’m just going to say internal girly squeal did in fact happen). Then with a quick Photo Op with Imogen, Miss Bambi La Fleur (FL), Dirty, Jigglewatts Burlesque Founders Ruby Joule and Coco Lectric, we took our seats. All the while my nerves were alive and well, prepping mentally for my Emerald routine’s debut. I put my whole heart and soul into every routine but this routine was more emotional than any I’ve done, my ode to the family I love and my roots as an Irish lass. The music runs in our blood, well, music and Jameson; the rhythm vibrates through our feet and in my case my G-string.
After seeing Rhinestoned Cowgirls, Classic showgirls, Samba Queens, Pyramids, and my dear friend Man Johnson it was time for this Gold Rush to start prepping, so with a glass of Chardonnay I headed back to the dressing room where Bazuka Joe was beginning to fluff… his feathers, Ray Gunn was in full rehearsal mode, and my fellow Jigglewatts Ruby Joule and Pearl Lux were both prepping for their performances. I love dressing room time and not just because of all the nudity, though that’s a plus, but it’s where you can collect yourself, check your makeup, fluff your hair, get that last G-String check before you go out and show the audience what you’ve taken months to work on…And time for one of my earrings take a swim into Remi Martini’s cocktail. I still have NO idea how that happened….The moment of chaotic Showgirl Zen. Before I knew it, it was time for me to glitter up one last time, shake some Stripper Salt on for an extra juicy stage appearance, and head back stage. My nerves had me wired like a hypertensive Chihuahua but with some sweet words from performers Ron DezVous and my San Antonio pumpkin Vixy Van Helen I was ready. The Music started, the spotlight was on and there I went. Months and months of work and prep all for this. The dress snagged on my shoes which caused it to start coming off earlier than expected, but I being the Queen of the MisHap (seriously some get me a crown already) recovered to an audience full of hoots and hollers.
The night ended with fierce performances by Bazuka Joe, Ray Gunn, Onca O’leary, and Ruby Joule. It’s really no wonder these performers travel all over the world. Absolutely breathtaking. The Audience Choice Award went to one of my favorite people, Miss Lady Luck with her “I’m a Woman” routine. And if you’ve seen it you know why she had the audience on their feet and losing their voices.
Friday Night “The Night of Legends” was sadly missed, myself along with Ruby Joule and Pearl Lux had to hold it down in our weekly revue at The Gibson Lounge-Maggie Mae’s. Getting to play with your family is a small price to pay for missing a night at the Festival. The 8pm show went off without a hitch as we soldiered through 3 solo routines each and Pearl and I performing our notorious Marilyn vs. Jackie Number. Our MC through it all is our Jigglewatts adopted Comedian, Jade Esteban Estrada. Our very own personal Gay/Mexican/Vegan, he really knows how to tell the story with his jokes, banter and songs.
We were able to have a quick bite to eat with our Bunnies, Bunny Blue and Bunny TaTa, across the street at The Jackalope – can I just say I love me some bar snacks? Fried Pickles and buffalo chicken tenders, yum (with a side of a Vegan educating our poor waitress on what constitutes a Vegan meal.) Then it was right back to the venue where we hosted the OFFICIAL After party for TXBF. Running a completely different show from the 8 PM, we pulled out all the stops with our festival routines. There were fans, boas, and rhinestones galore. As audience members and performers from the festival started coming in the room started to fill with excitement. Excitement to be at our home venue and to not let their evening of Burlesque end before 2 AM. Joining us in this show was our special guest and Jigglewatts friend, Crimson Skye of the UK, who got there from the Festival as fast as she could almost stripping her way to the back stage, blowing up her balloons and rubber gloves with the speed of a Texas tornado. The show finished to an up roar of support, love, and booze. As well as some stripping assistance from Miss Pearl Lux, since my Bra apparently felt the need for more stage time and would not come off! ….Now it was time to head home and get ready for the performer’s brunch the next morning. (Audience Choice Award for Friday Night was the out of this world, Cruel Valentine (Chicago, IL). Well deserved. I’ve seen this lady grow and strengthen as a performer over the years. Love her!
Saturday Morning, Performers Brunch: What I love most about this event is the free food. Just kidding. The brunch creates such a comforting social scene where those from all 3 nights can sit have some food and talk. The topic of conversation for this year’s brunch was based on community. How to build a stronger community within ALL of the Burlesque scene. There were many talks about how through competition, community is greatly lost in the larger scene of Burlesque. I do personally feel this to be true. Competition can make Divas and Monsters out of the sweetest of people, if they allow themselves to compete against each other. The best remarks I heard were to remember that every time you step into a show you are competing with yourself not anyone else. I feel in our industry that is the main base for growing. You want to beat the last performance you did. The titles and tiaras, or in this case Barbies, are the extra. The extra little cherry on top, it’s NOT the whole sundae. We here in Texas, especially Austin, are quite spoiled with our want and need to support each other in our community. Yes, we have performers who no matter how many times you lend your branches of wisdom or friendship are just not that interested, as long as there are performers willing to learn from each other, from our Legends, our Burlesque community will continue and hopefully one day Burlesque as a whole will have more unity and support among its members. Just remember we’re all here for the same thing, being naked and glittery.
Saturday Night is always bitter sweet for me. It’s the last day of the Festival which means this time tomorrow you have to rejoin a world that is somewhat scared of side boob and runs away from glitter. The evening started after brunch in the morning, the hunt of the perfect burrito with my blonde twinkie from San Antonio, Suki Jones, for my new Burlesque love, Miss Bambi La Fleur, and then some pool time with some of Denver’s sexiest, dirtiest ladies of the VaVa Vettes, Remi Martini and her awesome Burlesque Hubby, Sam with Frenchy. Pretty sure if I ever have to move to Colorado I’d be more than OK with that. After introducing these ladies to some Torchy’s Tacos it was time to haul over to the Holiday Inn and finish getting ready with my Twinkie and my Strawberry Sista Remi. We made it in the nick of time where I was able to say hello again to my big ol’ Burlesque family grab a cocktail and get my seat. The theater was packed full and the energy for those performing was intense. Cora Vette took the stage and with that the night began. So many tricks and teases I’m not sure how the judges were able to score, I don’t envy that job, just give me some wine and let me enjoy. From crossdressing performances to the classical tease and then the Vaudevillian variety of aerialists, this night was packed with more mind blowing talent then you could ever dream. Cora Vette took the spotlight with her Snow White routine, all I can say is, DAMN! With that it was time for the Headliners Bazuka Joe in his Speed Racer glory, Ray Gunn and his sexy Pole routine, then it would be Imogen Kelly in her Title winning performance. The Flamingo act is NOT to be missed! If you have a chance to see her perform live, do yourself a favor, DO IT! To end the night #1 in the world herself, Dirty Martini would take the stage in her Jimi Hendrix Boa number, dawned in a beautiful purple sequined evening dress. I was lucky enough to catch her in San Francisco for Tease O-Rama in 2012 with this routine and it only gets more intoxicating every time.
After a curtain call of the performers it was time to give out the Texas Burlesque Fest “Best” Awards (known as the stripper Barbies) made by none other than Black Mariah (Dallas, TX) who herself performed a fantastic routine to Fat Bottom Girls in a one of a kind costume I’m still drooling over.
Winners of the night were:
Best Costume – Tiny D – Brooklyn, NY
Best Use of Prop/Novelty – Bobbie Burlesque – Hollywood, CA
Best Ensemble – Queertini Time – Austin, TX
Most Original – Crimson Skye- London, UK
Best Tease Factor – Franki Markstone – St. Petersburg, FL
Best Solo – Peggy De Lune – Columbus, OH/London UK
A big congrats to the winners and to EVERYONE who performed this year. The show was excellent and I am so proud to have been able to be a part of it again this year. Through its amazing growth I cannot wait to see what next year brings. Big thank yous to Producers Lynn Raridon and Coco Lectric – ladies, you know how to throw one heck of a festival. To the crew who makes the festival run for 3 days – Stacy Rutledge (Former Kitty Kitty Bang Bang troupe member, the original hosting troupe of Texas Burlesque Festival), Jonny Reynolds, Midge aka Sasha Doll, and the Boys back stage, you’re the classiest pervs I’ve ever been able to work with.
Then there was the dance party……. Check photos on Facebook and interpret that one for yourself.
You can catch me in my next festival, the Show Me Burlesque Festival May 16th in St. Louis, MO with Van Ella Productions and even more of my Burlesque family I love and those I have yet to meet.
Love from Texas’ Very Own Gold Rush,
By: Lillith Grey
I recently launched a new project, the Academy of Queerlesque, and I have been getting a lot of interesting reactions from people in the local burlesque community. The reactions haven’t been negative at all; they’ve been generally supportive but confused and unsure of what queerlesque means or what place it has in the broader burlesque scene. There is no shortage of allies in the Dallas burlesque community – on the contrary, the community is warm, loving, and accepting, and I have no doubt that if I wanted to douse myself in rainbow glitter and run around a stage yelling “I’M A DYKE” as part of my act, I could find a producer and an audience that would appreciate it here. Last year, a local straight(ish) performer did a Muppet-against-Chick-fil-A act in front of a huge mainstream audience and was very well received. A popular local host is a wildly gender-bending drag queen and budding boylesque star. All-in-all, being queer in the Dallas burlesque scene is pretty freakin’ cool.
So it’s not surprising that many of the people around me are not sure how to feel about this project. They’re wondering why I felt the need to start a series of performance education classes focused specifically on the queer community when the queer community is so welcomed in mainstream burlesque. Some of them don’t know what queer means, let alone the concept of queerlesque. And, although none of my kind friends and burly colleagues have said this to me directly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be a twinge of hurt or rejection, or maybe the feeling that I’m somehow blaming them or saying I don’t feel welcomed here, which is absolutely not true. Hopefully I can answer some of these questions and be open about what my motivation and vision is for the academy.
Before I can talk about queerlesque, though, I want to be sure I’m being clear about the terminology I’m using, particularly the word queer. Society at large conceptualizes gender as a dichotomy – only two options: boy or girl. Researchers, scholars, and social justice advocates (particularly those in the women’s movement) have a lot to say about this perceived dichotomy, and more and more people are coming to realize that those two categories don’t really make much sense. There are so many ways to be a guy and so many ways to be a girl, it seems weird to have all these expectations about femininity/masculinity connected to somewhat arbitrary body parts (WARNING: BABY WITH PENIS WILL EXPLODE IF TOUCHED BY PINK FABRIC). So a more diverse and accurate understanding might fit better on a spectrum, rather than two checkboxes. Taking the body parts out of the picture, we can loosely classify gender like this:
We’ve all known men who embody more traditionally feminine characteristics, and women who tend toward the masculine (my fav). If you were to put yourself on that spectrum where would you fall? Does it change sometimes? Mine does, depending on how I feel – sometimes I’m all high heels and glam, sometimes I’m in jeans at the gun range. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about performing – pushing my gender alllll the way to the tip of the spectrum (ten points if you know how many rhinestones I can fit on my eyelid!) And that’s the fun and appeal of drag – jumping drastically on the spectrum. Some people feel strongly identified with one place on the spectrum, and that’s cool, while other people feel most comfortable moving around it more fluidly.
Unfortunately, social messages about the relative meaning of those points on the spectrum are misleading and often harmful. We are taught early on that men should be manly and women should be ladylike, that boys should only strive to push themselves closer to the masculine and never ever to the feminine (ballet and skirts? Doubtful). Girls can push toward the masculine a little bit (playing sports, wearing pants), but cannot go past a certain line without social repercussions. Breaking these rules of gender is very, very dangerous – it is the root of gay- and trans*-bashing and is strongly related to violence against women.
Because I was born into a woman’s body and I also happen to identify as highly feminine (I am cisgender), I carry some privilege in the mainstream culture. No one looks at me funny, no one taunts me or challenges me or threatens me, no one feels the need to heap their biases on me. I don’t visibly appear to break the rules of gender. So very many people I love, though, do visibly break the rules. They are so brave and self-aware and confident and insightful that they will not conform to an unreasonable and inaccurate method of categorization. They choose instead to live authentically, and they pay the price for that, from tiny micro-aggressions to overt acts of violence.
Enter the world of the queer. In this world, we collectively reject those stupid checkbox genders – we shatter them as we dance wildly around the spectrum. We dance around the spectrum of sexuality, too, defying labels that are dichotomous, knowing we don’t have to be either “gay” or “straight,” but can love and connect with people freely and in whatever way feels right. Queer takes away the need to categorize – I mean, if someone moves around the gender spectrum, does that make a feminine gay dude a lesbian? Am I not a “real” lesbian because my partner is masculine? Wait, what? THESE WORDS ARE STUPID. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
So queer gives us space to connect, to celebrate, and to feel safe with other people who don’t live in the world of heterosexism and heteronormativity. While we love and respect and care for our friends who do live in that world (the vast majority of the burlesque community), we don’t have that comfort of normalcy. We don’t put on queer when we get to the theater and take it off after curtain call, we live it every single day. We face the oppression and hate and discrimination aimed at our people, our family, every single day. And it is exhausting. It’s exhausting to walk the tightrope of safety, to wonder if your identity will cause someone to harm you. It’s hard to hear people tell stupid jokes, make mean comments, use the word “gay” to mean something bad or unbearable. It sucks to see friends and family post hateful political messages on Facebook. It’s heartwrenching to read about another murder, another suicide, another assault. Every. Single. Day.
And we take risks when we take queerlesque to the mainstream stage. It is entirely possible that an audience member will take issue with our queerness and choose to make a scene. My partner and I had to leave a show once after she was harassed and overtly threatened when she used the women’s bathroom – I barely made it through my act and we got out of there. We were terrified and devastated and alone. And this isn’t uncommon – I have to consider our safety when booking gigs anywhere. Venture twenty miles out of Dallas and Texas becomes a whole ‘nother country. This isn’t the fault of producers, of my burlesque sisters – they don’t want us to be hurt, we know that. It’s the fault of a fucked-up social system that for some reason can’t handle the fact that my girlfriend wears ties.
Queerlesque is an attempt to create safe space. It’s a place to celebrate queer history and queer culture – and we do have our own culture! Drag Queens and Kings go way back in our history, and we have our own icons and ancestors and important events – and we want a chance to focus on that. Instead of being one queer in a cast of non-queers (which is fun and awesome and I love you all), I get to be in an ENTIRE SHOW of queers! OMG heaven!! Instead of worrying that I will make someone in the dressing room uncomfortable if I admire their panties, I know that my compliments won’t be misunderstood. And since all of us – our audience and our cast and crew – walk in the same world, we can understand each other, support each other, and celebrate each other. We can be a little bit more vulnerable, a little bit more real. For a few hours, we can be unabashedly queer, and that’s magic. Just plain magic.
As the producer of several queer-focused shows in Dallas, I see a lot of queers in very vulnerable moments. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and perform something real after living for decades in a world that says that who you are is wrong. That’s what the Academy is for – it’s a place to start unlearning all that shame, all that critique and censorship and rejection. It’s a place to heal self-doubt, to help others heal theirs, and to dance naked together in a shower of rainbow glitter spraying from the horn of the gayest unicorn ever.
The courses we’re offering at the Academy of Queerlesque are specifically geared toward queers and queer culture, but people who identify as non-queer are absolutely welcome. We love and need allies, and your presence tells us you stand with us. We only ask that you recognize that you’re coming into our safe space, and make sure that you’re respecting that. Don’t judge us, don’t tell us we shouldn’t be worried or that we’re overreacting when we express fear or concern. Don’t forget the struggles we face every day, and do everything you can to contribute to the positive, warm energy of queer space. If we designate a class as limited to a specific identity (i.e. Trans* only, or woman-identified only) please respect that and don’t be offended – it is our mission to create safe space, and sometimes that means being in private groups.
So that’s my vision. I welcome questions and conversation about it, and am always looking for more talented students, instructors, advocates, allies, and supporters. Oh, and if anyone knows where I can find a gay, glitter-spewing unicorn, please let me know.
These Children That You Spit On: Established Performer to New Performer Etiquette
We couldn’t think of anyone’s advice we’d rather take than Miss Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Founder of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook, which is why we’re thrilled to have her as our Burlesque Etiquette contributor! Have a question you’d like Jo to answer? Please title your email “Etiquette- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
In The Burlesque Handbook, there is an entire chapter on etiquette. Since the book is intended to be fundamental, most of the etiquette in the chapter is designed to help new performers, known affectionately as newbies. The goal of the chapter is not just to help them avoid offending established performers, but to understand how to get gigs and get called back for more. When I teach I try to frame my advice as useful to helping new performers get what they want, rather than as a way of teaching them to care what established performers think. For instance, when I talk about stage names, I don’t tell them that established performers will find it annoying if a new performer uses a stage name too similar to names that already exist. I tell them it will make their stage name hard to find when producers do an internet search for them, and that they’ll get confused with other performers, which could result in getting fewer gigs. It does behoove new performers to learn from experienced performers. The experienced performers are often the ones who got the revival started in the first place, the ones who gave it a reputation as a form of entertainment appealing to mixed audiences, who helped build it into contemporary culture. The perspectives and information gained by experience have unique value.
Most new performers and most experienced performers treat each other with respect and generosity–not to mention that most of the legends these days are loving and supportive, unlike the haters of my early strip joint years. However, I’ve seen a few instances of bad behavior that drove me to consider etiquette from the angle of experienced-to-newbie.
A few of the suggestions I offer new performers in The Burlesque Handbook:
1) Ask before taking pictures backstage. A person who doesn’t mind being seen naked onstage may not want to be photographed checking for a tampon string, especially if s/he hasn’t finished her/is makeup.
2) Do not perform a messy number (whipped cream, water, confetti, wax, etc.) without permission. Cleanup is boring for the audience, and if you can’t be interesting without endangering your fellow performers by making the stage slippery, you’re a crappy performer.
3) Don’t bring a plate of spaghetti backstage. It isn’t just the chance it might stain the costume, though that’s important; it’s the chance that the smell might remain in someone’s costume. If you think we clean those things frequently, you ARE new.
4) Don’t bring your friends backstage. Especially friends with benefits.
5) Don’t distribute flyers for shows at other venues without asking. And don’t just ask the producer, ask the venue.
6) Be wary of calling yourself anything unless you’re reasonably sure it’s true. You are probably NOT “The First Ballerina in Burlesque!” Wait a minute–I’m SURE you’re not.
7) Don’t add people to your email list without asking. Especially if you haven’t added yourself to theirs.
8) Don’t use another performer’s signature gimmick in your act. If you see someone using one of my gimmicks, smack ‘em.
9) Don’t assume that anyone owes you stage time based on how hard you worked or how much money you spent. Or for any other reason.
10) Don’t contact a producer and say, “I’ve never seen your show, but I’d love to be in it.” You should be in their audience, at least on Youtube, before you get on their stage. That represents only about 5% of the chapter, which includes detailed explanations for why I make these recommendations.
However, I didn’t spend much time in the book talking about how established performers treat new performers.
When I first started working in strip joints in 1980, there were still what we now call “Legends of Burlesque” working in the clubs, usually as costumers or house mothers. And they HATED us. They had worked in the 40s-70s and they’d had minks and limousines and choreographers and champagne and feather boas and had all been engaged to Frank Sinatra. We were whores in spandex who were destroying the art form with our full nudity and jukeboxes and lack of artistry. I certainly wasn’t inclined to think of them as mentors. Realistically, they didn’t have much to offer in terms of helping me make more money–their era, which in some cases was only ten years past, had a different format. If I had done what they did I wouldn’t have gotten the results they got. Also, I didn’t care to be trained to end up stuck in a strip club I detested. I did, however, adore them for their stories. And their incredible hair and nails. And I really wanted to get paid to prance around in a beaded gown and play with ostrich fans and boas, although it took me another 12 years to figure out how to make that happen.
Remembering how they alienated us, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on how the established performers of 2013 might relate to the new blood. Even if you disagree, I hope it gives you food for thought.
1) Remember that things are supposed to change. If burlesque looked the same as it did fifteen years ago, that would be weird. And if you were doing the exact same thing you were doing fifteen years ago you’d be bored out of your skull.
2) Give them a reason to care what you think. If you think that they’re destroying the art form, why should they care? Are they having fun making new friends and earning money doing what they love and delighting audiences with their aesthetic? Are you considering paying to get into their shows? WHY should they care what you think?
3) Don’t be offended if they do burlesque repertory (ie, things that have been done before). They may come from an art form where that is what you do–you watch people do the thing, you learn the thing, you do the thing. Give them some time to get to know the community before you get all up on your hind legs about it.
4) Don’t give them a hard time for doing it differently than you do. Otherwise what can they do but do what you do?
5) Don’t mistake your insecurity about your future for concern about the art form. These kids WILL get your gigs. You will find people who value experience– let new performers find people who value the new. It’s a beautiful thing that there are audiences for both.
6) Don’t feel superior because they’re dying to dress up like a superhero or because they’re dying to dance with feather fans and you feel you’ve seen it all before. They may attract people who’ve never seen that before. You may not be their intended audience. Just because they’re not blowing you away doesn’t mean they’re not blowing someone else away, and initiating new audiences who may end up paying to see your show. Do tell them if an act they’re doing isn’t likely to be unique enough to get them into a particular festival, IF THEY ASK YOUR ADVICE.
7) Don’t ask them to work for free just because they’re new. If you have an intern slot or an audition slot, that’s one thing, but if you’re asking them to do something that you would prefer to use an
experienced performer for, but you’re trying to avoid paying anyone so you can make more money than you’re entitled to, you’re exploiting their hunger to get onstage and it’s icky.
8) You can let them know if they are doing an act that is likely to spark conversation about copying another person’s act or if they are engaging in cultural appropriation. You don’t have to lecture them about it–just let them know they are going to end up having certain conversations if they continue. They may not appreciate it, but you’d let them know if they were about to trip over a rock, wouldn’t you?
9) If you think they suck, don’t hire them for your show or venue. And don’t tweet about them sucking or annoying you (you don’t have to name them for them to know who you mean). Maybe they’ve been paying to see you perform or get into your show for the past five years.
10) Remember that a newbie may have mad skills in an area in which you have none and may be a rockstar in another field than burlesque.
If you want to enjoy your community, be willing to find inspiration in your generation, the generations before you, and the generations after you. Respect works best as a two-way street. If you don’t respect the pioneers of your art form, you’re setting the standard for disrespect of pioneers and setting yourself up to become a has-been when the new breed after you accomplishes things and establishes themselves. If you don’t respect the new breed, you’re setting the standard for exclusivity and alienation and setting yourself up to become a has-been when the new breed after you accomplishes things and establishes themselves. Be secure in yourself, respect everybody’s ambition and accomplishments, and live and work in the present.
And finally–yes, somebody is always ruining burlesque. It’s been ruined a million times. Histories of burlesque usually detail its demise. Your perception that burlesque is being destroyed is accurate.
However, if your shows, which you structure and style as you like them to be, keep selling out, and you keep being flown around the world to perform, and you keep getting press, and your audiences remain loving and enthusiastic, the demolition of burlesque may be just what you need.
Want to see more of Jo’s etiquette columns? Check out: Stage Kitten Etiquette, Making Introductions: Emcee Etiquette, Photos & Pasties, How to Annoy Producers, How to Annoy Performers, I’m Just Saying, Headliner Etiquette – Part 1, Social Media Etiquette for Nearly Naked People
Jamie Bahr, singer and upright bass player for Danger*Cakes, an Austin, Texas-based, all-female rock n’ roll band talks hopeless romanticism, how South by Southwest changed her life, sexy band geeks, hipster Lost Boys, and accessorizing.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You’re the lead singer of Danger*Cakes and you play upright bass. How many total gals are there in the band? What are the names of the other band members and what instruments do they play?
JB: We’re an all-female band made up of five members: Jeremie Fletcher is on guitar, Tina Marie Bartolucci plays alto and tenor sax, Erin Knight plays trumpet and Violin and Laney Santana is on the drums.
Q: You’re originally from New York, but as luck would have it, you met “the most wonderful man [you’ve] ever laid eyes on” while on tour in Austin in 2009 with your previous band, and you two hit it off so well that you moved to Austin shortly thereafter to be with him and attempt to start the band of your dreams. The two of you are now married and he played a large role in the development of the band. How quickly did the move come about? Did your friends or family think you were crazy?
JB: Everyone thought I was crazy! But really, I’m a hopeless romantic, which my friends and family all know. I took the road less traveled and it took me down I-35 to Austin. I met Drew at a club called Headhunters, currently known as Metal & Lace, a dirty dive bar downtown during SXSW. Not exactly the place you think you’re going to meet the man of your dreams, but I did on St. Patrick’s Day of 2009!
I was setting up on stage when I saw him come in. I got off stage and walked to the back of the bar near where he was standing and learned the hard way that you don’t get the option of ginger ale in Texas, and mixing coke, sprite and bitters doesn’t count. It’s gross and definitely not what I was expecting when I went to take my much needed sip of liquid courage. But it worked enough to give me the guts to tap him on the shoulder. He was wearing a black work shirt that said, “Al’s Grave Digging, We Dig ‘Em Deeper”. I said, “Hey, nice shirt”, to which he bashfully replied, “Oh, it’s not that great. I got it at Hot Topic.” He was adorable. It was enough to start up a brief conversation. I handed him my card, bid him adieu and made my way to the stage join the rest of PBR (Punk Blues Review) and belted out our best.
We have a very gothic love story. We met at Headhunters, had our first date at the Bat Bridge, our first kiss was at a skate park called the Broken Neck and eleven months later, Drew would propose to me at the Alamo Ritz at the premier of “The Wolfman”. But what would you expect from Mr. Drew Edwards, creator of Halloween Man?
After our Southby romance, I flew back home to New York. Drew was the first person to call after my plane landed. Every night we talked for at least six hours, discussing everything from our pasts to our hopes and dreams and I knew I wanted to pursue them in Austin with Drew. Seven very sleep-deprived weeks later, Drew flew to New York to help me with the move and to meet my family so he could prove he wasn’t a serial killer. Everyone basically took to him right away, although my mother thought he had a lot of tattoos for someone who wasn’t in the Navy, whatever that means. We packed up my little Toyota Echo and headed south and arrived in Austin exactly two months after we first met. We married last April.
Q: The story of the formation of your band is quite fascinating! After relocating to Austin you posted an ad on Craigslist that was apparently so eye-catching that it garnered attention, albeit negative, from The Onion’s A.V. Club? Could you elaborate on that story for our readers, as well as how everything eventually panned out so that you had a complete lineup?
JB: Drew and I put up fliers all over Austin and on ads on Craigslist that said, “In Search Of Sexy Band Geeks. . .” to recruit for Danger*Cakes.
The flier said:
“Were you the kind of girl who played in the school marching band instead of cheerleading at the game? Were you more about showing off your chops than showing off your fanny? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, wink wink). Have you grown to be a classy lady who
knows not only how to carry herself, but can also carry a tune? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Danger*Cakes is looking for you. Danger*Cakes is an urban big band of sorts. We know just how to tickle the auricle fancy by combining a strapping rhythm section with a rich and luscious brass ensemble, all fronted by a nice big slice of cheesecake by the name of Jamie B! Add a side of soul with a dollop of punk pin-up and voilà! We are currently keeping an eye out for a percussionist, pianist, and rhythm guitarist, but if you’re someone who knows how to handle their instrument and can throw some spice into the mix, then by all means, please drop us a line. We look forward to making your acquaintance. Bon appétit!”
I know it’s a bit flowery, but it was supposed to get your attention. And it definitely suited its purpose. Most of the women that have been in this band replied to that ad. But it also caught the eye of the Austin chapter of The Onion’s A.V. Club, who tore it apart on their website under a column about strange Craigslist ads. I’m a big fan of The Onion. It’s sitting in my bathroom right now. I can take a joke, but instead of the A.V. club poking fun at the ad, they said a lot of chauvinist and sexist things about what they assumed the band would be like. And begged me to give up so as to not unleash another Courtney Love onto the world. Obviously, I didn’t let it get to me and their predictions couldn’t be farther from the truth. Que sera sera!
Q: I love the all the variations of descriptions that I’ve seen of your band’s style – “swing punk,” “psycho jazz,” “neo-soul,” and you’ve been called “pin-up psychobilly sirens,” yet you are inclined to describe your style as more classic rock n’ roll, right? Isn’t that hard to explain to people who might be confused when they see the horn section? Please explain more to our readers about your notion of paying homage to Little Richard’s notion of the “rock n’ roll orchestra.”
JB: Not Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll; Old School. There’s no Lynyrd Skynyrd in our set. And the only song from the ‘70’s we’ve covered so far has been Blitzkrieg Bop. No, we’re old school; Roots music. And I say that because we’re up there doing what Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Ray Charles did. We’re taking our roots, the music we were spoon-fed growing up and combining it with what we’ve been exposed to; nature plus nurture. Of course it doesn’t sound exactly like the Roots Music of the ’50’s and ‘60’s, but a child isn’t going to be the exact same spitting image of its parent either. And we wouldn’t want that anyways. If we did, we’d be a cover band. Instead we take all of our influences and stew them together to breed something altogether new
and hopefully innovative, but with respect to where we’ve come from. That’s why we used to pay tribute to Little Richard in calling ourselves a Rock ‘N’ Roll orchestra, like he did with his band in the Fifties.
Q: What are the most notable differences between the music scenes in New York and in Texas? What has remained consistent in both states? Do you find yourself missing anything about New York?
JB: I saw a great meme recently online that said “What people think when I say I’m from New York” and it had a picture of Times Square. Then it said “What I mean when I say I’m from New York”, and underneath was a picture of the Catskill Mountains. The Hudson Valley is an
interesting place to grow up and I stayed in that area until I moved to Austin. I traversed many a music scene upstate. In college, I was a jazz major with a classical background playing around areas such as Kingston, New Paltz and Woodstock with a slew of different musicians from genres ranging from Jazz, Folk and Funk, to Rock, Metal and Punk. There were only a handful of venues to play at in each town if you were in a band and most clubs seem to prefer DJ’s over live music. There are so many talented people who reside there that have already made their mark in music and decide to retire or Summer there. But cost of living is pretty high. I’m a full-time musician in Austin. I supplement my income teaching private music lessons, but I would never have managed to do only that in New York, at least I hadn’t figured out how when I lived there. And it’s usually so cold from October to April which doesn’t make for the best conditions to perform.
I love Austin. Texas has taken some getting used to, but I was in love at first sight when I came to Austin. It has a Neverland-like quality that just captivates you, except all of the Lost Boys are
hipsters. I feel like my dreams really have come true here, as childish as that sounds. There’s a lot of opportunity to play out as there are clubs a plenty here, it being the “Live Music Capital of the World” and all. But because of that, the music scene is saturated with people chasing their dream of rock and roll stardom, not all of them talented. So desperate just to play and be heard, that they’re willing to play for free or worse yet, pay to play, which sets a poor standard to clubs. Why bother paying someone for their art when someone else is willing to dole theirs out for free? This type of attitude only hurts the arts and music scene.
I will always love New York and I do miss it at times. But it’s usually my friends and family up there that I’m missing, them and bagels and hard rolls.
Q: You self-produced your first EP “Just a Taste” and went the indie route, mostly selling it at shows, correct? You’re now signed with Deep Eddy records and just released your first full-length album, “Dessert First.” How exciting! Care to tell us about the process of landing the record deal and recording the album?
JB: Technically we don’t have a recording deal. We have a distribution deal with Deep Eddy Records. We raised the money to record the album ourselves and were very hands on with the mixing and production. Ted James is a great guy; really responsible and trustworthy. We’ve
played with his surf-rock band, The Nematoads numerous times. So when he approached us about distributing our album through his label, we knew he’d be a good ally. Now, our songs are being played throughout the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Spain and the UK and are available for
download on Amazon.com, Itunes and CdBaby. So we’re really excited that our music is getting heard by so many ears, near and far.
Q: In addition to being a musician, you’ve also done pin-up modeling, including being asked to be the model and spokeswoman for Dangerous FX, a U.K.-based full-figured, vintage-inspired clothing line. You’re also very outspoken about body positivity, and you said in a past interview, “I do my best to promote a good sense of body image in women of all sizes and they have taken notice. I’ve had countless women thank me for showing them how to embrace their curves and ample figures. It’s the best feeling to know you’ve helped shape the way someone sees themselves for the better.” Have you always been so body confident? What advice can you offer our readers who are struggling with that issue?
JB: I’m not always confident. Doubt is an ugly mother. And as with most women, my weight fluctuates. But I’ve realized that the times I’m most hurtful to myself don’t always coincide with how much I weigh. It’s usually when I’m upset about outside stresses with my career or problems in relationships with family or friends. It’s during those types of scenarios that the anxiety takes over and I find any way to insult myself, regardless if I’m a size twelve or twenty. But I am also of the mind that if you’re not willing to change your situation, you shouldn’t complain about it. I try to resolve problems as soon as possible instead of procrastinating and having all of that stress and worry fester over into other aspects of my life.
I also try to take pride in my appearance. I like to look presentable and put together, which makes me feel that way as a result. If you’re looking for fashion tips for the full-figured female, I’d say avoid loud prints, black is always slimming, dress for your shape and size and always accessorize. But the best advice I can give you is to be good to yourself, like you would be to a good friend. It’s hard to always be nice, sometimes it may not be deserved, but a good friend
comforts you when you’re down, and tells you you’re beautiful when you’re feeling ugly. But they’re also honest with you in confronting not always the most pleasant subjects and helping you with resolving them.
Q: In keeping with your band name, you love baking cakes, especially for your friends’ birthdays. What are some of your favorite (or most often requested) cake recipes? What is your favorite birthday cake to receive?
JB: I insisted on making my own birthday cake this year. Everyone was all upset about it, but I wanted my carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting which is my absolute favorite. And I have yet to have a carrot cake anywhere that’s as good as mine. I’ve also had a rash of requests for German’s chocolate cake (which isn’t actually German like the name implies). I have a recipe from the 1940’s that belonged to Drew’s grandmother. It’s a decadent cake that would stop your heart if you have more than one slice in a sitting. But it’s absolutely delicious.
Q: In your rare free time, I understand that you’re an instructor at two different non- profits, Kids in a New Groove (K.I.N.G.) and Girls Rock Camp Austin. Please tell us more about these two causes. What is your favorite memory from working with both of these groups?
JB: I’m involved year round with Kids In a New Groove and during the Summers with Girls Rock Camp Austin. Kids In a New Groove is a non-profit organization that provides children who have been recently adopted or are in foster care with mentoring and music lessons on the
instrument of their choice. It was the first music program I became involved with when I moved to Austin and I do everything I can to support the program and its cause. I feel that music education should not be a privilege, but a necessity in every child’s life. But it’s extremely crucial for those who have suffered hardships as so many foster kids have, to have a positive and healthy outlet to channel their emotions.
Girls Rock Camp Austin is a non-profit that helps build girls’ self-esteem through music creation and performance. It’s been a great experience. In five days, we teach the girls how to write a song and play it on the instrument of their choice (out of guitar, piano, bass or drums) in a group setting. They then learn the process of what they need to do to be in a performing band by participating in different music workshops and practicing before their performance for their friends and family on that sixth day.
I have to say my favorite memories of working with each program are the student’s recitals and performances. I love the look of their faces during their performance, how excited and nervous they are. And after they’ve finished, their look of pride and accomplishment. Knowing that I had something to do with that look always makes me misty with joy.
Q: What’s next for Danger*Cakes? What’s next for Jamie Bahr?
JB: Well, Danger*Cakes is already writing songs for our next album and we’re working on our very first music video for the song, “Judas Kiss”. We’re also in negotiations with a production company for some of our songs to be used in a few independent films. SXSW is just around the corner, which is always an exciting time and we’re in the process of setting up tours on the West Coast for late May, early June and the East Coast in August. We’ll be heading back to Louisiana at the end of March.
As for me, I’m busy planning my own adventures, sans band. I have a shoot coming up for Dangerous FX, but I’m looking to broaden my creative horizons so who knows where that’s going to take me. My New Year’s resolution this year was to relax more and worry less, so I’m
still trying to keep that in mind. Drew and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary April 5th, so we’re hoping to get out of dodge for some much deserved rest and relaxation. Who knows where life will take us.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
Part I in our Guide to touring got you on the road, so now that you’re there what should you expect?
First Scenario – The performer reached out to the producer.
If you’ve reached out to the producer to get the gig, make it as easy on the producer to say “yes” as possible. Here’s a few things to consider:
- Make sure you make it easy on the producer by giving him/her everything they will need in advance well before your trip:
- *high res* photos for press
- a brief bio or buzz words to use in promotions
- your tech/stage notes and music
- Your itinerary & your phone number
More advance Preparations you *must* make ahead of time:
- Have your lodging set up and choose a place as close to the venue as possible.
- If you won’t have your own transportation, do a little research to figure out the public transportation or cab system in the area.
- Have dietary restrictions? Travel with lots of snacks that do meet your needs or map out restaurants/groceries close to your hotel that you can hit up on the way.
- Make a list of what to pack and go over it several times, trying to plan for the unexpected. You don’t want to have a curling iron or stocking emergency in an unfamiliar town under a time crunch. Also, plan an extra casual outfit and dressy outfit so no matter where the after party shenanigans take you- you have the perfect outfit. (No one likes to ride a mechanical bull in an evening gown.)
- Make sure you have the producer’s phone number, email, and a secondary contact saved in your phone.
- If you are using merch as a way to hopefully bring in some extra money during your tour, make sure everything is ordered in time to arrive long before you leave so you can make any last minute changes if something is wrong with your tees/glossies/stickers/etc. Pack as much as you can to bring with you, or consider shipping them to the producer before the event if he/she is okay with that.
- Additional Gigs. Each producer feels differently about this, so make sure you clear everything with the original booker. You are on the road to make friends, not enemies. Once you get the all clear (and maybe even a list of places to start) from the producer, reach out to other shows and burlesque schools in the area to see if you can land a second show or workshop to help cover your travel costs. Make sure you can get to and from all of your gigs using either public transportation or cabs. It is unreasonable to expect a producer to bring you to someone else’s show by tech rehearsal.
- Plan some wiggle room in your plans to go to lunch before or go for drinks after the show with the producer or fellow performers, but don’t take it personally if no one is available to entertain you. While you may have a day free of obligations, others may have day jobs, children, deadlines, so don’t be hurt if you aren’t invited out.
After the trip
- A brief thank you card, or email sent to the producer is never a bad way to go.
- Follow up with the connections you made: performers, fans, producers, or otherwise telling them what a pleasure it was to meet them and how you can’t wait to see them again. (Only if you mean it.)
Scenario Two – The producer reached out to you.
In addition to all of the above, with this scenario, it’s a little safer to assume you will be hosted, though you want to be a gracious guest, so how do you navigate? The short answer, as Jo Weldon puts it, is *read your contract*! If you aren’t given a contract by the producer, consider having your own performance contract. If something is non-negotiable for you- make sure it’s in your contract!
- It is very reasonable to expect the producer to either bring you to and from the airport themselves, or have someone assigned to that role so you will arrive safely at your hotel/host’s house. It is also reasonable to think that transportation to and from the venue will be provided. However, you should always know where you are staying in advance, as well as where you are performing, so in case of emergency you can catch a cab or public transportation.
- It is reasonable to think you will be asked to join the producer or someone he/she has assigned to host for lunch, dinner, maybe shopping or sightseeing sometime during your stay as that is all part of being a good host, but please do not take it personally or be hurt if you are not asked. While you’re experiencing a new city, the rest of the crew is experiencing their daily grind.
- The tab question. Generally whoever asks, pays, and in most situations it is the producer. However, in situations where the entire cast is going out it’s understood it’s every man or woman for him/herself. The safe bet? If you can’t afford your meal- don’t order it.
- I’ve seen producers offer “welcome packets” when they know they are going to be too busy to be a good host (mainly festival situations) that provides sightseeing, dining, and shopping recommendations, as well as phone numbers for cab companies and places that will deliver food to your location. I always thought this was a great touch.
- It is unreasonable to expect the producer to run you about town for items you forgot, places/people you “must see”, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Have to see the Space Needle while you’re in town? Make plans to get there on your own.
ADA Accessibility & Burlesque
By: Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
One of the things I love about the burlesque community is that we can be quite accepting when we feel like it. Not always. Sometimes we falter. Today I’m addressing one of those falterings in the hopes that we can perhaps step it up. I remember performing my mother’s 50th birthday shindig. I was performing as a surprise for that evening. On my way sneaking away from her table, I had to run up black stairs, past a glass door, up another flight, and down another flight of stairs. The venue is not ADA accessible for performers, at least not as far as I’m aware.
This is how I managed to slam into the glass doorway at full speed, and slid down the glass in my teal and purple dress and ostrich feather plumes, recreating the Roadrunner of Looney Tunes Fame for a moment. I nearly broke my glasses. If that door hadn’t been made out of glass – if there was a safer way to get from one spot to another, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. And if I had broken my glasses, I never would have been able to get on that stage.
You have disabled performers in your midst. You have disabled audience members. You have Legends.
We need to take care of these members of our community a lot better than we do – and one of the ways in which we can do this is through ADA Accessibility.
Does this mean we need to work harder? Absolutely.
Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
Why will it be worth it? One of the reasons is simply because as an artistic community we should always be striving for more diversity and a more interesting community. Through not giving people with disabilities opportunities to perform we’re also denying that they have something to offer. Disabled performers are just as sexual as able bodied ones, and perhaps offer a different perspective on human sexuality, just because of who they are. Furthermore, creating safer spaces means making it easier Legends to perform, making more opportunities for us to learn from them. Without Mat Fraser, we wouldn’t have the same burlesque world that we do. There’s probably way more Mat Fraser’s than you would expect.
And then there’s a diversified audience. Right now most burlesque festivals have almost entirely made it impossible for visually impaired audience members to access their shows, and this is unfortunate, because most of us can see something, and why wouldn’t we want to watch burlesque? Many venues for the New York Burlesque Festival aren’t ADA Accessible, meaning that wheelchair using patrons cannot attend shows, and I have to climb stairs in the dark.
Step one is address physical accessibility – not just for people who use wheelchairs, but for Legends who maybe don’t walk as confidently as they once did. Here’s what isn’t accessible: Stages which have steps (even one!) going up to them. Elevators in kitchens which aren’t for public use (in this instance I hauled my suitcase up and down the stairs with the assistance of my peers.) Not a perfect solution, but it was a solution.
We can’t remove glass doors, but we can make them more obvious – by placing warnings, or by having decorative (and these can be classy) stickers marking where the door is. Producers don’t have the discretion of moving walls, but they do have the discretion of where they choose to produce – and perhaps by asking venues to make themselves more accessible, we can begin to fight the tide of inaccessibility.
Step two is addressing issues of sight, hearing – if you’ve got visually impaired audience members, or Deaf audience members – you should make it so they can sit close to the stage. Offering accessible seating is just as important as offering accessible venues – we can’t make shows financially accessible for everyone, but we can set aside a few seats at every show Just In Case someone needs it. For example, while the Triple Door was nearly the sight of the Great Spectacle Debacle, they also made sure every time I attended a show that I had a decent seat. They never penalized me for it, and they were always helpful when it came to my needs.
Step Three – Ask questions. If you’re not sure that the cast will be aware that a castmate has a disability, ask them if it’s OK to disclose (or even if it’s needful) before doing so. Ask what accommodations are necessary for your performers. Feeling welcome is a huge piece to this – I’ve worked with casts who didn’t give a damn whether or not I could get to the stage, and I’ve worked with casts who went so far as to make sure I could get all my makeup on even when they were pressed for time. Being the kind of cast that helps the visually impaired performer is where you should strive to be. It doesn’t just extend to disabled performers either, being a warm and comforting community makes for better working environments for everyone.
Step Four has to do with flexibility. If you know that you’ve got a performer with an illness, you have to be prepared to replace them at the last minute if something goes wrong. This does not mean that you should penalize sick people by never booking them. It just means that you need to be an excellent communicator. Are you able to say to the performer “Are you feeling comfortable enough to go onstage?” Are you willing to be supportive of them? Are you willing to not be angry at them when they call and tell you “Hey, there’s no way I can perform tonight. I’m having an episode.” Does it suck to have people end up not being able to do a show last minute? Absolutely. But if you’re working with quality people, they’ll have someone lined up to take their spot long before they call you. And if they don’t, that’s something they can likely remedy.
As performers ourselves, we can be thoughtful. Strobes are sometimes necessary for theatrical effect, but perhaps putting them in the middle of a crowded show isn’t the best idea. Submitting something which requires you to blind your audience temporarily may be suited to a smaller show where there are escape routes for visually impaired and epileptic audience members. Posting signs in the theater are also necessary.
We never fully know who is in our audience, sometimes people don’t want to be known as disabled, some people don’t want to identify in this manner. However – we’re there and we need your help sometimes in enjoying the show.
Creating accessibility doesn’t mean that we have to step entirely out of our way to make things easier, it doesn’t mean that we have to choose between making money and making art. But it does mean that we need to make a safer and more welcoming community – so that when people do come out as disabled, they don’t feel like they’re the latest addition to a minority in a community, but that they are equal and welcome members of an artistic world.
Elsa Sjunneson-Henry will be teaching an Accessibility Guide for Burlesque Producers class at Boston Burlesque Expo in March. For more of Elsa’s work, see her blog: Feminist Sonar.
So you wanna tour? You want to get out see new performance styles, learn and grow as a performer, make business connections, and get your name out there. Part I of our Guide to Touring will give you some resources for doing just that. Part II will run in next month’s issue and guide you through what to expect as an out of town performer and how to make the trip as affordable as possible.
Approach #1 – The Tried and True Method: The Festival Circuit
As Coco Lectric puts it, “It’s very hard to cast someone you’ve never met or seen [perform] live.”
The festival circuit is the most popular method of getting your name out there and also the most expensive. Lula Houp Garou shared some of her strategies in a recent interview with us, and while they are *so* worth reading, she sums it up with, “Have I recouped all the money that I have spent on festivals? Not at all. Do I still consider the investment to be worth it? Absolutely.”
The new 2013 Burlesque Festival Guide is out and there are over 30 festivals in the U.S. alone, and unless you have unlimited resources and a very empty calendar of obligations it is impossible to hit ‘em all. So how do you decide?
Midnite Martini’s approach: Focus on the mid-sized festivals. “I have done the really large festivals and everyone is so nervous and there are so many people it’s hard to make real connections or be noticed, or really remember the acts that you should notice. I really enjoy the smaller festivals as they are more laid back and there’s more opportunity for a whole lot of networking.”
Coco Lectric’s Approach: “I have a list of the major festivals that I want to hit each year, and festivals I have enjoyed in the past, and I do those. I make sure to make it to BHoF every year.”
Donna Denise’s Approach: “ I do as much as I can. I want to be able to go to them all, but I have to narrow it down to places I want to perform in more often.”
Tips for making the most out of festivals:
- Do go to as many of the shows as you can and make sure to compliment the acts you genuinely enjoyed. Try to focus on other performers’ acts and needs as much as your own. You want to impress the producers of course, but you also want to impress your fellow performers both on stage and off.
- Do go to all of the workshops, classes, after parties, and all of the other extras. You are surrounded by new people- make the most of all of the new connections. If there are other shows going on around town outside of the festival , check those out as well if possible.
- Do follow up when you get home. Add people on Facebook, drop them an email and let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them. Keep in touch.
Make a list of all of the cities you know with a large burlesque scene, or a scene in which you are particularly interested in performing. Now make a list of all of your out of town friends, relatives, exes- anyone who has a couch on which you can crash. See where you converge. You have a sister in Dallas you say? Great- let’s start there.
Step 1- Take your vacation days from the day job to go visit your sister, and plan your trip around a time when there are a lot of shows (a long weekend perhaps).
Step 2- Research the local scene. Who’s who among the producers and performers? What kind of shows are being produced and in what kind of venues? Which acts do you have in your arsenal that will fit well?
Step 3- Reach out. In a well-crafted email explain that you are coming to town and would like to perform. If you’ve already met who you are reaching out to, remind them of where. Let the producer know that you are familiar with his/her work, what you like about it, and which acts you have that are good fits and where they can learn more about you and said acts.
Step 4- Know the expectations. If you get a bite, make sure you find out the following: Are you able to perform in other shows on the same night/same weekend/etc? Would having you teach a workshop be something enticing to the producer, or just more work for them?
Step 5- Get referrals. If the producer who booked you doesn’t mind, or if they cannot book you during the time you’re in town, ask for referrals. Try to get a short list of other folks in Dallas whom you should contact, as well as surrounding cities. It’s time for the Piggy Back.
Approach #3- The Piggy Back
Whether you’ve used the festival approach or the whoring approach, the piggy back is a valuable strategy. So you’ve been booked in Dallas, but you’d like to do more in your week away- enter the Piggy Back.
Grab your map of Texas and look around. If you have a car or can afford to rent one, it’s a straight shot to hit the San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Corpus Christi scenes. It’s now time to repeat Steps 2-5 from above for each of these cities. If you play your cards right, the dates line up and the stars align, you could feasibly schedule four shows in four cities in four days- which makes you- officially on tour!
Now what to expect when you get there? Check back next month for Part II.
Layman’s Guide to U.S. Burlesque Festivals
To obtain the print copy of this guide along with a handy (and adorable!) map illustration of all the locations below, pick up your copy of the Winter 2012 Best of Pin Curl issue, available here.
Annual burlesque festivals have sprung up all over the country as the burlesque revival, now two decades strong, continues to grow. No matter where you are in the great states, there’s a burlesque festival somewhere near you. If you’re itching to take a racy road trip around the United States, we’ve got your itinerary right here!
Everything starts to heat up on Valentine’s Day with the 7th Annual Southwest Burlesque Showcase, February 14-16, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information about this fabulous festival, see http://swburlesqueshowcase.com.
Or you could head down to the Lone Star State to start off your festival circuit at the 5th Annual Dallas Burlesque Festival, in Dallas, Texas. We don’t know the dates for this burlesque and pinup celebration yet, but all the info will be available at http://dallasburlesquefest.com.
Another option in February is the 4th Annual Key West Burlesque Festival in Key West, Florida. For some wild burlesque and variety entertainment, watch for the dates at http://www.keywestburlesque.com.
For more burlesque-y goodness, visit the 3rd Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, March 21-24, in Atlanta, Georgia. There’s sure to be plenty of variety, and plenty of workshops at this fast-growing festival; find out more at http://southernfriedburlesquefest.com/.
Also beginning March 21 is the 10th Annual Moisture Festival in Seattle, Washington. As the website (http://www.moisturefestival.org) says, “The Moisture Festival is the world’s largest Comedy/Varietè festival, running for four weeks every spring in Seattle.” The festival lasts until April 14 so you’ll have plenty of time to catch some of it.
March 28-31 brings the 16th Annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Touted at “The biggest rockabilly party in the world,” this festival includes a smorgasbord of activities including burlesque and pinup events, a classic car show, and a killer music lineup. Check the website for more details: http://www.vivalasvegas.net.
However, you’ll have a difficult choice to make between Viva Las Vegas and the 7th Annual Great Burlesque Exposition in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Taking place March 29-31, this burlesque festival includes an impressive variety of classes, a historical costume display, and an art show “for interesting and innovative pieces from painters, photographers, sculptors, graphic artists, and anyone else who has found their muse at a burlesque show.” See http://www.burlesque-expo.com/home.cfm for more.
April 11-13 gives you another chance to visit Texas, for the 6th Annual Texas Burlesque Festival in Austin. The coming year will include performances, workshops, a competition, and “Austin’s First Ever Burlesque Ball.” Get all the late-breaking news on this one at http://www.texasburlesquefestival.com/home.php.
You could also attend the 3rd Annual Kansas City Burlesque Festival on April 25-27, in Kansas City, Missouri for the crowning of the next Kansas City Queen and King of Burlesque! Find all the details at: http://www.kcburlesque.com/HOME.html!
Back after a short break is Tease-o-Rama, which began bringing the burlesque community together in 2001 with performances by “The Best of the Best in Burlesque”, workshops, a photo safari, and Tea&Gossip with the Legends of Burlesque. The event has been held in New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and L.A., and we can’t wait to see what http://www.teaseorama.com/2012/ will say about the 2013 schedule.
As no dates have yet been revealed, we can only hope that there will be a 2nd Annual New York Boylesque Festival. “Celebrating the Male Performer and the Best of Male Burlesque”, New York, New York’s first boylesque festival, in 2012, provided workshops and networking geared toward the menfolk, and performances that everyone could enjoy! Keep checking the website (http://www.nyboylesquefestival.com/) to see what’s in the works for 2013– I know I will be!
May 2-5 brings an exciting new experience, FIERCE! The First International Queer Burlesque Festival, in Columbus, Ohio. Check it out at http://www.fiercequeerburlesque.com.
The month of May alsobrings us back to the Show Me State, for the 4th Show Me Burlesque and Vaudeville Fest, May 16-18, in St. Louis, Missouri. This burlesque and variety extravaganza includes workshops along with striptease, circus, and vaudeville acts. I treated myself to the 2012 festival, and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed! Find out more here: http://showmeburlesque.com/.
Although we don’t have the dates yet, May is the time for the 7th Annual Americana Burlesque and Sideshow Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. Featuring workshops, burlesque, sideshow, and vaudeville performances, you can learn about ‘ABSfest’ at http://www.absfest.com/.
June 6-9 brings us to a truly difficult decision. One option is the 12th Annual Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “The largest annual celebration of Tiki culture on the East Coast, the Hukilau is a celebration of Polynesian pop culture with live music and entertainment, and much, much more. Book your trip at: http://www.thehukilau.com/2013/!
The alternative June 6-9 trip is to the star-studded Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. Presenting absolutely amazing burlesque, boylesque, and variety performances, the BHOF Weekend includes a Q&A with the Legends of Burlesque as well as a Legends performance and tribute night, marvelous workshops, a photo safari, plenty of mingling and boozing opportunities, and features the Queen of Burlesque competition formerly known as Miss Exotic World. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s exhibition space to view some of the “art, artifacts and personal histories of the art’s biggest names and brightest stars.” http://www.burlesquehall.com.
Next year’s dates are TBA, but June is the month of the 3rd Annual Carolina Burlesque Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. This burlesque and variety festival offers workshops, live music, and a pageant; stay posted by checking http://www.carolinaburlesquefestival.com/index.html.
The next one is high up on my bucket list – the annual Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, New York! Founded in 1983, “the Mermaid Parade pays homage to Coney Island’s forgotten Mardi Gras which lasted from 1903 to 1954,” and each year a new King Neptune and Queen Mermaid are crowned. The parade is followed by a ball and burlesque and sideshow performances: http://www.coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml. But that’s not all! There’s ‘Burlesque on the Beach’ all summer long at Coney Island. Burlesque on the Beach is “a revival of the most glorious and notorious of the “girlie revues” in Coney Island history. A blend of old style burlesque, sideshow freaks, strange women, new vaudeville and toe tappin’ music,” you can see the lineup as it’s released at http://www.coneyisland.com/burlesque.shtml.
Although we don’t yet know when, the 4th Annual Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival will most likely take place in June, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival, this event features burlesque performers from around the country: http://www.paburlesque.com/.
July also has some great festivals: this year will mark the 4th Annual Windy City Burlesque Festival, in Chicago, Illinois as well as the 4th Annual Colorado Burlesque Festival, in Denver, Colorado. Each event provides classes and top notch burlesque performances. More information about these two stellar festivals can be found at
Another option for July is visiting the annual Circus City Festival, Inc. in Peru, Indiana. Held July 13-20, in “The Circus Capital of the World,” this event boasts “longest running circus parade in the United States.” http://www.perucircus.com/
August gives us another opportunity to visit Ohio, for the 3rd Annual Ohio Burlesque Festival, in Cleveland, Ohio. The dates are TBA, but this festival hosts burlesque and variety performances, and is unique in that it chooses a charity to support each year. Learn more at http://www.ohioburlesque.com/index.html.
We’re also awaiting announcement of the 2nd Annual ABurlyQ! Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which made its debut last August with a burlesque and sideshow lineup and festivities: http://www.aburlyq.com/.
Depending on the dates that are decided upon, you’ll either have a very busy month travelling to all the magnificent September festivals, or you’ll have some very difficult choices to make. 2013 will bring us the 11th Annual New York Burlesque Festival in New York, New York. Along with performances, classes, and parties, this event includes an extra special competition, The Golden Pastie Awards. These awards honor member of the biz with titles such as “The MacGyver Award,” “Performer Most Likely to Start a Harem,” and “The Performer You Would Call with Your One Quarter from Jail.” Find out all about it at http://www.thenewyorkburlesquefestival.com/index.php.
The 5th Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, has a more traditional title for its competition winners: Queen of Burlesque! The weekend is chock full of workshops and shows, all appropriately located near Bourbon Street, which “featured the largest concentration of burlesque clubs than anywhere in the U.S…from the mid-1940s through the 1960s.” Look for updates at http://neworleansburlesquefest.com/.
September also means that it’s time to visit Chicago again, this time for the 4th Annual Superstars of Burlesque. Catch all the latest about this burlesque festival at http://superstarsofburlesque.com/.
As if October weren’t an exciting month already, it will now bring us the 2nd Annual Alabama Burlesque Festival, in Rocket City (Huntsville), Alabama. We don’t have dates for the return of this brand new festival, but the place to watch for updates is http://rocketcityburlesque.com/. A portion of the proceeds from the 2012 festival benefitted The Pinup Angels’ mission to send care packages to our troops!
And speaking of pinups, a 2nd Annual American Pinup Burlesque Fest is already set for October 25-27 in Tampa Bay Area, Florida. This event will consist of the Miss Pinup America Pageant, Burlesque America Competition, a Car Show, Bike Show, Tattoo Contest, and workshops! Check it out at http://www.americanpinupburlesquefest.com/.
November brings the opportunity to round out your year with a very special convention, the 6th Annual Burlycon in Seattle, Washington. As stated on their website, “BurlyCon is an annual Burlesque Educational convention that provides educational offerings, professional growth and in-person social networking for the Burlesque Community. Our aim is to further the development and historical knowledge of this rare American art form that is experiencing a popular resurgence worldwide.” There are no performances, but there are over 100 classes taught by the best in the biz! Keep in the know by checking http://burlycon.org/ for updates.
One last group to keep in mind when making your performance-art-based travel plans is the United States Association of Fringe Festivals. Dating back to 1947, the original Fringe Festival was created in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Fringe performing arts festivals can now be found worldwide. “A celebration featuring theatre and related live presentations with a special emphasis on original and innovative forms and formats,” there are a plethora of these productions to choose from in the U.S.: http://fringefestivals.us/festival.
Every holiday season here at Pin Curl we ask our contributors to pick out the best gifts for the pin-up or burlesque gal (or guy!) in your life. Below are our selections for this year. Happy shopping!
Shoshana Portnoy – Editor-in-Chief
Nude Cuban heel backsteam stockings from Kuhmillion Lingerie $11.95 reg price, but 20% off with the coupon code “pincurl” through Jan 25th
Divertida Devotchka – Managing Editor
Atomic Clock (prices can range from $20 to several hundreds of dollars)
Femme Vivre LaRouge – Ravishing Researcher
Tickets to the Texas Rockabilly Revival Festival (Date and prices for 2013 pending)
One from my personal wish list, a jukebox. (Prices vary)
Cora Vette – DIY Diva
I really wanted to focus on small businesses run by or for the burlesque community.