Ask A Burlesque Entertainer: featuring Black Mariah
Q: I want to be a burlesque dancer. Where do I start?
There are many avenues available for pursuing a career as a burlesque dancer. The path you choose for your personal road to fringe and pasties will depend on your location, your budget, and the opportunities available for your debut performance.
Explore the variety and never ending world of Burlesque. I strongly recommend taking in as many burlesque performances as you possibly can, with as wide a variety of performers as you can find. Thanks to the internet, you can also easily peruse videos of burlesque performance. The internet will give you the widest range of performances that you will not, more than likely, have the pleasure of attending locally. Researching videos and attending live shows should give you a better idea of what style of burlesque you would like to perform, however, keep an open mind to performing all styles of dance and burlesque.
Seek out local burlesque troupes or soloists. If you do not have a burlesque troupe or performer within driving distance, find either in the nearest proximity and check their calendar for performances and tour dates and classes. Many burlesque dancers offer beginners classes or workshops at a very reasonable fee. These are extremely informative in all aspects of burlesque, not just dance. Many classes or workshops will cover costuming, makeup and hair, making pasties , and even prop techniques (fans, boas, chair, etc.). If you know of a good number of girls interested in taking such a class as well, some teachers will arrange to travel if a full class can be scheduled. Traveling to a class is a great option too as you will have the opportunity to network with other performers!
Be Realistic Be realistic about your entire endeavor from the first moment you decide to become a burlesque dancer. Be realistic most importantly about your budget. You will find many dancers have incredibly lavish costumes, covered in Swarovski rhinestones, and expensive props. Not one dancer began their career with all of these things already in hand, and you don’t either. Dancers are creative and resourceful, often building their own props and sewing their own costumes to achieve the lavish look. Semi-professional and professional dancers will gauge the expense of new costumes or props based on the amount they make per show.
Begin with your inspiration Begin to build on whatever has inspired the vision of your first performance, whether it is music, a favorite costume piece from your closet, or the perfect pair of heels. Create the costume based on your concept. Remember that each layer of costuming you take off, what’s left must look good together on its own. Everything must work together. Try to work with things you already own. If you must invest in clothing, then stick with a budget and make what you own and what you can afford, work! Embellish your items so that your costume pieces are unique and tailored to your concept. As for your dance, don’t be afraid to hire a choreographer. Many dance instructors live to break out of their curriculum and try something new like this. If you are well versed in dance and choreography, choreographing your own piece is alright too. Whichever your choice, your piece should be well thought out and rehearsed. Nothing is more uncomfortable than watching a burlesque dancer struggling to remember her dance steps or how to take a costume piece off because she didn’t practice. And when you don’t practice, it shows.
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