The realms of burlesque and cabaret are beautiful, glamorous, petrifying and demanding in equal measure.
If you’re thinking of starting out, then good on ya! I wholeheartedly encourage you to throw yourself into it, be bold and brazen and get your kit off in the most creative way you possibly can. That’s the fun bit.
The less fun bits are inevitably going to come to you at some point (and you’ll learn quickly from them), but a little preparation will go a long way to helping you avoid some classic burly disasters. Here’s a well-manicured handful of tips I’ve picked up through the grapevine and in action both as Ruby Woo and as plain old Lea:
- Allow for public transport: The Londoners among you will be all too familiar with the signal failure that simply must occur when you’re nervous, pushed for time and carrying half a tonne of glitter in a holdall. I once had the ordeal of two late trains and then boarding a train that had been advertised wrongly on the way to a show at Tunbridge Wells Forum. Not only was I late, I missed the rehearsal, I confused friends who were getting the train to see me as I shot past them trying to catch a connection somewhere between Kent and London, not to mention that the National Rail twitter account got a serious verbal beating from me that day. Needless to say, my nerves weren’t at ease, I was somewhat sweaty when I finally arrived and I immediately wrote to demand my extortionate train fare be refunded.
- Allow for private transport: On the same fateful day that the trains were nothing but a giant ball ache, my car also kindly gave up on me too. I’d driven from the station to the venue, and clambered into my car after the show a bit exhausted, very glittery and red lipsticked… and promptly broke down some way from home. The issue was that my petrol gauge was faulty, so my dad came out to fill up a can at the nearest station so I could make the rest of the journey home. But that wasn’t the end. Oh no. Upon returning to my vehicle with petrol, a policeman was waiting for me and proceeded to bullock me for a full ten minutes about leaving my car in lanes while my sequin shoes got ruined, as I was standing ankle deep in snow. Not cool.
- Travel home in your costume in case a policeman pulls you over: In the above situation, I’m fairly sure my heaving bosom and sparkly eyes played quite a hefty part in me not being awarded 3 points on my driving license. You’ve certainly got nothing to lose trying…
- Try not to miss rehearsals: The venue for each show is going to be slightly different. Your routine might be sound, but it’s really useful to know if the stage is on the bigger or smaller side, if it’s angled strangely or if there’s anything you’re likely to trip over. If you’re just starting out, it will help take your nerves down a notch too!
- If you’re pouring liquid on yourself, use glue on your tassels instead of tape: Yes, you read that correctly. I heard a story recently about a particular performer whose routine ends with her being covered in Jaegermeister. The fluid makes tassel tape unstick pretty much immediately, and so her pasties slipped off and she was left bearing all… If you’re getting a little happy with the champers for your dance, learn from those in the know and turn to glue!
- Talc your legs up: Stocking removal is often a big, showy part of a burly routine. They can stretch, you can pull them over the front or back of your head, you can bite them… they’re a very versatile piece of costume. One drawback is that if you’re under a hot stage light, perspiration can make them stick to your skin and resist being taken off. Pop a little talc on your legs before slipping them on in the dressing room to soak up any moisture, and go out there knowing they’ll come off nice and easy.
- Check your props: This particularly applies to chair routines. Before using any prop, make sure it has nothing that could easily snag your stockings. Ladders are not a good look and you immediately start to look scruffy – completely NOT the classic image of a sultry burlesque artiste.
- Leave enough time to affix eyelashes, and do it BEFORE eyeliner: Seriously, this is a task you can’t rush – it’s difficult enough to do in the comfort of your room with time on your side, let alone squatting at the only dressing room mirror in a rush. If you can’t get them attached to your face before you leave for a show, leave loads of time to get there and get them sorted. Plus, make sure eyelash attachment is the first step of your makeup application. No one wants to deal with leaky panda eyes!
- Don’t throw things around the dressing room: I know you’re getting dressed in a panic and are probably somewhat overexcited, but for the love of God don’t leave your stuff everywhere! I ended up losing a shoe, my tights and a nipple tassel backstage of one show. Not only was I miffed, but my bare legs had to face the cold afterwards!
- Make sure you’ve practiced with your corset. And if it won’t come off, play up the tease!: If your corset is new, make sure you’ve worn it in and thoroughly practiced the best way to get it off. For whichever corset you don for your particular dance, bear in mind where is best to loosen the lace, whether it comes off easiest if you unhook it from the top or bottom and if there are any clasps that need more attention than others. Believe me, it’ll help you when you’re out there! And if it refuses to budge on stage? Play up the tease and say “Nope, sorry! Not this time baby ;)”.
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