When I started teaching burlesque, a local performer warned me “not to share my secrets.” She went on to say that I should be careful about teaching anything, because others would steal my tricks and perform them onstage. In her mind, there were only so many tricks, so many gimmicks, to go around, and if I was teaching them to everyone, then there wouldn’t be enough left for the rest of us. The comment was well-meaning, but ill-placed. But here’s the thing, more good burlesque performers mean more people want to watch burlesque. It widens my audience, and it creates much-needed diversity in a small market. Does it mean I have to up my game to make sure I keep deserving gigs? Absolutely, but I should be doing that anyway. The fabulous Gypsy Rose Lee famously said, “You gotta get a gimmick,” but she should have followed it by saying that an act should always be more than a gimmick.
The very idea of “secrets” create a false identity of scarcity – there are a few keys to doing something well, and if more people know, then you’ll lose your edge. With a few exceptions, this is so unlikely. The truth to success being something about hard work and dedication with a sprinkle of luck.
Plus the more you share what you know, the more you create evangelists of your brand. Mystery is certain a quality of fascination, but it’s not the best one, and if you’re teaching, then it’s the wrong one to adopt.
If you have a signature move or a specific flair that’s all you, it’s okay not to share that, but it’s better if you teach it. Gimmicks come and go, and whether or not you teach it, someone will find out how to do it. So be in control of your information and your brand.
Michelle L’amour, my burlesque instructor when I started and still a teacher and inspiration to me and many in the community, had one of her fantastic performances go viral, called Butthoven. I could explain to you what it’s about, but if you haven’t seen it, well, just watch for yourself (NSFW):
It’s seemingly simple, surprisingly technical, super silly, and brilliant. Instead of secreting away that mysterious booty knowledge, Michelle took a better tack. She made a DVD that teaches anyone exactly how to do the moves in Butthoven. The video is transparent and clear – helping anyone who wants a stronger booty game, to get one. By doing so, Michelle profits on her hard-won knowledge and internet infamy, and while she creates “competition” for her gimmick, she’s also cemented herself as a trailblazer and expert in that niche.
What secret superpower can you teach to your clients?
Glitter and glute squeezes,