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 email@example.com.
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