Please allow me to be the first to admit it, I’m lazy. I wish I could just hot glue all the things, instead of painstakingly sew them. I wish my choreography would come to me on the wind, instead of countless hours banging my heel on the floor, so I get it. We’re not often rewarded for taking the high road, for the careful and precise attention we give to our acts, so sometimes we take shortcuts. Sometimes it works, but mostly, even the most forgiving audience member knows it. I’m qualified to write these tips because I’m an expert at being lazy. I’ve made almost all these mistakes in my performing career, so I’m here to help you shrug off those lazy habits, and keep me accountable too. Literally Choreograph Your Song Lyrics I get it. Your song is giving life to your movement, so why not use what the song is saying? Here’s why: it’s the laziest choice you could possibly make. It makes the act about the songwriter, not about you, and the audience isn’t there to see the band you’re choreographing to, they’re there to see what you’re bringing to the song. If you can, ignore the lyrics completely the first time you choreograph. Then, as you’re refining, you can take into account phrases and ideas, but for the love of Swarovski, if the song says “take off your coat,” don’t take off your coat at the same time. Wear Street Clothes Onstage Costuming is hard. You have to make something unique and interesting while also not going broke. So yes, get your base pieces from whatever chain store you need to, but then, customize the shit out of them. That can mean cutting it up, Frankensteining different pieces together, or using glittery accoutrement to alter the design. Your audience should never look at your costume and think, “I saw that at Target yesterday.” “Just Wing” Your Acts I’m not talking about improvisation here, which is anything but lazy. What I’m talking about is not being prepared to deliver a performance. News flash, you’re not going to just “figure out” a great performance if you haven’t put in the work in advance. By all means work in wiggle room and time to improv, but know where you’re going before you get on that stage. Otherwise, if you have no framework and you’re not a practiced improver, you’ll just look sloppy. Beg for Applause If you’re doing it right, the audience should be with you. I say should, because that’s not always the case. Sometimes the front table bachelorette party is busy imbibing shots, or those five guys to the right are deeply immersed in a conversation about who-gives-a-fuck, and that sucks. But if you do the hand to the ear trick, or the “gimme” hand, you’re giving up your authority on stage; you’re saying “I’m here at your mercy,” rather than “you’re here to watch me put on an amazing show.” If you’re in a tough audience, give ‘em tough love, get up in their face and make them pay attention, but don’t beg. Relying on Props Props are great! They help you tell a story, come up with interesting movement, and are a lot of fun. They become somewhat less fun when you’re relying on your props to be the entire act. The “look what’s in my suitcase/cooking pot/purse” schtick gets really old really quick. There’s a rule of three for a reason. Show us one prop - establish your model, show us a second - reinforce the model, and then show us a third - break the model. If you’ve got more than that, they better be really good jokes. Let your props show how funny/sexy/smart you are, not cover up for a weak act. One of the things I love about burlesque is the diversity of performers of different artistic backgrounds and the surprise of watching something beautiful, shocking, or unique onstage. There are certainly non-lazy reasons to do any of these tips, but intention and work sets apart a rule-breaker from a lazy performer. What are your tips for being lazy?
Choose Your Shoes WiselyNot all heels are created equal. If you never, ever wear heels, look for something with a low, wide heel. Stay away from kitten heels (the really short stilettos), slingbacks, backless heels, and wedges at first. Character shoes, or some below, are a good start:
Stay on Your ToesMost of us don't really examine the way we walk. In flats, this is generally fine, but in heels, the higher you go the more exact you must be. Start standing in your wannabe favorite pair of heels, and just feel where you naturally want to put the weight in the shoe. Do you tend to stand on your heels or your toes? Do your ankles feel a little like they're bowing out? Once you know where you naturally want to go, it's much easier to re-adjust. Find a flat, hard surface to practice on. Hardwood is best, as long as it's not too slick, or short carpet. With both feet hip distance apart, toes facing forward, try to place most of your weight on the balls of your feet with just a hair on the heels. If you have a hard time finding your balance here, slowly rock the weight to your heels and back toward the toes, just getting used to the shoes. Once you feel secure, take a few baby steps, heel first and then ball and toes, lifting to the ball of the foot on your standing leg for balance. Your stride will be shorter than in flats, so you can make the most of that by pointing your toes to elongate your legs even further, or you can take a more runway walk, slightly crossing the feet, to sway your hips. Practice these slowly, then making your strides longer and quicker as you build confidence and familiarity with your heels.
Get Hard CoreI say this all the time to my students, but if you want to look good strutting your stuff, it's all about abs abs abs. When I started wearing heels, I relied on my leg strength solely to carry me around. While it was a great workout, I still found myself not at strong or as easy to move about as I wanted to be. Once I started to really strengthen my core though, I found that even super high heels don't throw me off as much because my core readjusts my weight to help keep me upright. Continuing your strut around your living room, try taking a few steps in your heels, and feel how your abs tense and release with each step. Keep that belly to spine and give your best sassy walk across the room. If you practice your walk with this core mind, soon it'll become second nature to use that center strength to carry you.
Chin Up, Boobs OutThis is one of the cardinal rules in burlesque, and for life, haha. Seriously though, if you have a great walk and are really feeling it, why are those peepers staring at the ground? I know it can be scary and you may feel insecure with those tiny heels, but if you've prepped your feet, you're strong in your core, then let that face shine! Chest up is an automatic confidence booster, and it really does make you more secure in your step. Certainly if you're walking on stairs, use the railing, and if you're on uneven ground or a cracked sidewalk, please be safe. But if you're in your party, restaurant, or dressy occasion, take in your surroundings, floor included, while keeping your pretty head up!
Bring a SpareEven if you're a heel pro, there are always times when you need flats. It might start hailing outside, or maybe the party ended up outdoors in soft grass, or maybe your feet just aren't feeling right, it's always better to be prepared. Find some roll up flats and slip them in your clutch. If you need to switch, just hold your fabulous heels dangling off your fingertips. It's almost as seductive as wearing them.
Lay Out Everything You NeedI normally lay out my entire costume for my performance, including jewelry and any extras I need just for the performance on one end of the bed. That way I know just how much space just the costume if going to take up. Then I plot out the rest of my weekend. Dresses, crinolines, work out clothes, etc. I like to go the 50s dresses route, which makes the dresses airy to pack and just one large crinoline, in a bag with all the air squeezed out, fit in rather nicely. For a four or five day trip, my luggage usually consists of: panties of all days, two bras, two skirts, three tops and one or two dresses.
Eliminate Non-EssentialsSure you might like to have all the comforts of home with you, but do you really need them? Most hotels have travel sized shampoo, conditioner and soap. If you're traveling with someone else, distribute toiletries evenly so you're not using more space by doubling up. I bring make up wipes to freshen up and whatever amount of makeup I need, but I bring a wallet sized makeup bag instead of a full case. And just think, if you save a little bit of room on the way there, it's room to fill with a fun buy at your destination!
Find the Perfect SuitcaseThis is as essential as it is obvious. Last year I was planning on going to Toronto for only one day, and had a very minimal costume, so I packed a bowling bag with the barest everything and my purse. The border guards were certainly curious as to how I was going to spend the weekend with such a small bag though! I have a variety of smaller sizes suitcases ranging from teeny to just-small-enough-to-be-considered-a-carry-on. Having everything in one place before I pick my bag lets my wardrobe help me determine the size, instead of last minute stuffing the corners of luggage larger than I really need.
Scheme your ColorsI don't plan out every single outfit I'll wear while away, but I do generally look at the colors and see if I can mix and match a few things. Black is of course, a good staple, and then a few shirts or accessories in bright colors is my usual MO.
Books and Shoes and TechIf you're a lady, or a fashion savvy man, you probably like shoe options. I do too. In fact, I love shoes so much, I'll forgo other amenities just to make room for having at least three pairs of shoes. It goes without saying, but wear your biggest pair while flying. I bring only one book on a trip, and if I finish it, I'll usually leave it at the destination and buy another on my way back. I do almost always have my computer with me for work purposes, so I make sure that my purse is big enough to to fit it in. If you're going overseas, make sure you have the right plug converter.
Buy Travel-sizedI love miniatures, so actually shopping for mini deodorants, shaving creams, hairsprays and the like are pretty fun. Just make sure that they all are under the 3oz limit and they still all fit in one plastic baggie.
Don't PanicWhich in this case isn't to say, always carry a towel. If you forget something, there will probably be stores where you are going. Are you a light packer? How do you control the stuff?
Comfortable ShoesThis is first because I'm pretty sure it's the one that gets forgotten the most. While glitzy and glamorous is the MO of a festival, if you're planning on exploring the city at all or taking workshops, you'll want to save your fancy shoes for the shows and wear something a little more walkable during the day.
Uncomfortable but Gorgeous ShoesOf course. Over the top, drag queen style fashion rules at burlesque festivals. There are generally two types. The glitzy, sequin, rhinestone people and the true to form vintage-philes. Either is acceptable, and even sometimes interchangeable. If you don't want to spend a fortune on shoes, there are several DIY options to rhinestone or glitter some cheap pumps.
Condoms or ContraceptivesPart of the reason people want to go to a festival that is implicitly adult is the promise of getting laid. Yes, there are lots of crazy parties, not all of them inherently sexual, but be prepared if you want to get lucky. You don't want to take home more than just memories from your trip.
Coffee!Nights are late and, if you plan on workshops or classes, mornings are all too early. Bring your favorite caffeinated beverage to keep going. You can sleep after the fest.
SnacksThis one sounds rather grandmotherly, but I cannot tell you how many times a granola bar or pack of almonds saved my life during a long day of workshopping or just shopping. You'll be going all day and sometimes often don't have time for full meals, so a little sustenance goes a long way.
Work Out ClothesMost workshopping activities should or can be done in work out clothes. While you will see several women in full hair, make up and dress all day long, I find it's easier to save the nights for fanciness and the day for a little comfort, especially if you're taking movement classes. One exception, Vegas for Miss Exotic World/Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. At Vegas, you might want to just wear falsies and glitter all the time.
At Least One Stunning Dress or OutfitLike above for shoes, make sure you have at least one really fabulous dress or outfit to wear to the big Saturday night show.
False eyelashes, glitter, hairsprayThis is pretty self-explanatory. You're going to a show, and not just a show, one where lots of people have traveled to perform at. So be sure to be over the top or at least put together. If you're totally hair challenged, it's perfectly acceptable to wear a wig, or two or three for the weekend.
CashThere will be lots of vendors, many of whom will only take cash or cards for over a certain amount. Be kind to these small businesses and pay in cash if you can.
Strong ConstitutionThere will be alcohol, lots of alcohol. If you're performing, please only have one drink before you go on. You can get wasted at the after-party. Nothing says unprofessional like the one drunk girl on stage who traveled three states away to perform. If you're in the audience, please get drunk, tip your bartenders, and be as loud as possible (as long as the act deserves it). If you don't drink, be prepared to be surrounded by drinks and drugs before you go.
RespectThis is another that should go without saying, but unfortunately, I find it's the one that gets pushed aside the most. Whether you're performing or just an observer, respect the other performers, vendors, and festival goers. The community of burlesque is generally very warm and inviting to all body types, sexual orientations and people of all stripes. We get soccer moms as well as the circus freaks. But sometimes in the bustle of a festival, people forget how to act kind. Don't be that guy. If you start to feel tension from others, just smile! Above all Have a Blast! You're there to revel in the glitter and pageantry, meet new people and see wonderful performances. Are you a festival goer (burlesque, music or cons)? What are your survival must-haves?
I've got a travel bug this month and will be hopping around the Mid-South in May. Hope to see you at one of these events! May 6th: I'm honored to be a guest performer in Bowling Green, KY for Art of Burlesque hosted by World Famous *BOB*! May 7th: I'll be eating fire and shaking my feather fans for Lavergne High School's Prom! Unfortunately not open to the public, but should be an interesting night! May 14th: I'm pleased as punch to say I'll be performing in the Saturday Night Carnivalesque Show at the Show-Me Burlesque Festival in St. Louis, MO! I'll be there Friday night as well enjoying the show and taking in the sights! May 20th: I'll be attending (but not performing) Panty Raid's 8th Annual Tease-A-Thon Birthday Bash, hosted by Miss Astrid at Exit/In. May 25th: I have a private party I'll be entertaining with my fire tricks. June 4th or 5th: Look for Delinquent Debutantes' one year anniversary party! Right now venue and date are TBA, but I'll let you know as soon as we're locked in!
I've been mulling over my direction, reflecting on my 2010 and looking forward to what I'd like to receive and achieve in 2011 and have come up with the following mantra:
2011 will be my year of Narrowed Adventure.By that, I mean I am trying to narrow my focuses while still remaining open to possibilities coming my way. There are certain places, people and things I need to trim back on and others I need to foster. It's time to take these things I've picked up on my way and organize and entrench myself in them, instead of still reaching further out while letting my current likes and haves stay stagnant. I've written before about how I don't have resolutions for the new year, but instead try and have intentions. This year I'm moving even further beyond that with just one intention that reaches all aspects of my life. So how do you achieve balance and focus while not getting too mired in the details?
PrioritizeIt's easy to get dazzled by things that are completely new and foreign, especially if they're at all connected to what you love. While inspiration is wonderful and it's beautiful to watch and appreciate, try to figure out if what you really want is to be involved or just to appreciate. So often I find myself wanting to do and be involved in everything I find interesting. If you're having trouble figuring out what to keep and what to step back from, make a list of those interests that take up your time. Really track how much time you spend on those pursuits and see if they match up with where you want to be spending your time. This isn't about should or shouldn't. Look it over and find those two or three that absolutely thrill you and that you really want to develop. For me, my top priorities for 2011 are:
- Writing - I want to really get back to creative writing, blogging and fiction
- Dance - I made this a high priority in 2010 and I'm still captivated by burlesque and specifically movement. I want to continue to expand my performing retinue, create new opportunities, and enrich my teaching
- Costuming - In addition to dance, I really want to expand on new costuming drawn from historic and fantastic examples to more envelope my audience into the world I'm creating on stage. And to tie those and my year together, Organization. - This reaches every aspect of my life, and something I've been lacking and honestly, genuinely want to work and spend time on.