How To Become A Burlesque Performer

The burlesque act is a mix of the beautiful, daring, fabulous, and even outrageous. It’s a wonderful yet underappreciated art form.

But how do you go about becoming a part of this amazing world? Well, take a look at this guide for aspiring burlesque performers.

Starting Out

Luckily, starting your journey as a burlesque stripper isn’t all that difficult. If there’s a right place for you to take that first step, that is.

There are plenty of performance art schools that can teach you the basics of burlesque. They’ll teach you some essential moves, how to do striptease, do troop performance, and even make a character of your own.

It’s by far the best way to start off your burlesque career on the right foot.

Your First Performance

In most burlesque courses (all the worthwhile ones, at least), you get to do a kind of first performance as a test of your skills. This is where you put everything you’ve learned together in a performance that’s completely your own. You’ll have your mentors helping you out every step of the way, so don’t worry about being in over your head.

Getting through your first performance as a burlesque dancer is a major accomplishment. That’s the crucial point when you decide whether this is something you want to pursue passionately or not.

Getting Seen

Now that you’ve officially done your first performance and graduated from the burlesque class, it’s time to find a regular gig.

The best way of doing that is to get the attention of a burlesque club. That’s usually done by recording a performance of yours and sending it out to as many establishments as you can. You should also make a portfolio of photographs of yourself to give out. 

Keep sending your videos and photos everywhere you feel they are welcome and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results at first.

Try Social Media

Nowadays, trying to get seen without using social media is playing a losing game. So set up a profile meant to spread the word of your skills. 

Instagram, Twitter, and Instagram are the main platforms you want to spread on. Create a consistent persona on your profiles and network with artists in the field. Creating a network of people in the industry will do wonders for your visibility in the burlesque show world. You can also give other social media sites a try, but these should garner the biggest audience for you.

Keep Up the Grind

Now that you’ve established yourself as an aspirant on the scene, you should be working on getting as many gigs as you can.

At this point, it would be smart to follow two pieces of advice: don’t be picky and don’t get your hopes up. You’ll have to perform at plenty of low-rate places. What’s more, you’ll often do shows for free. 

Whatever you do, don’t scoff at the chance to do your shows at these places. Moreover, always give it your all, no matter how low-profile the event may be. You never know who’s watching your show and whether it’s the one that propels you to burlesque glory.

Show Off Your Talents

As you do one gig after the other, you’ll start getting a sense of what talents you have. Some are great at stripping; others are great singers. See what kind of reaction people have to certain parts of your act and work on emphasizing them.

If you feel like you don’t know how to improve on your show’s highlights, you can always rely on the colleague network you’ve been building up. They can give you some constructive, professional feedback. Nine times out of ten, new burlesque artists have trouble with poise, posture, and movement, so you should work extra hard on these things.

Learning to Stand Out

After you’ve cut your teeth in the game for a while, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what sets you apart from other performers. It’s a good idea to tweak your show to revolve around this talent or talents.

For one, framing your performance on something you’re good at will make the show a much better experience. Secondly, you’ll have much less stress to deal with than if you tried to be a jack of all trades. Sure, some people have the talent to do everything amazingly well, but make sure you master the stuff you know well before branching out to other acts.

Crafting the Second Act

Beginners usually have a single act that they run through dozens of times show after show. Once you’ve thoroughly mastered this first act, it’s time to expand your performance with another.

By now, you’ve probably gotten a good amount of experience in the burlesque arts. As such, you’ll likely have a good idea of how to construct the second act in a way that compliments the first. All the same, you should probably turn to your fellow performers for some tips.

Do It for the Love of It

The burlesque business isn’t exactly the most profitable in the world. Chances are you’ve learned that already. 

But you don’t want to do it for the cash. It’s all about the art and the passion behind it. So don’t let cash be the deciding factor for every show you accept or reject.

That doesn’t mean you should be swindled left and right by any bar or parlor that’ll have you, though. A good rule of thumb is to earn at least enough cash from a performance to cover all costs of getting there and prepping for it.

It Can Get Hard

Throughout this guide, we talked about what steps you need to take to make it as a burlesque dancer. But we didn’t exactly hammer in the point that it isn’t as easy as one-two-three. Like most things you’re very passionate about and want to pursue, it’s a grind. It’s easy for a few shows to prove not so worthwhile financially, making you doubt if the whole hobby is worth your time. 

Even worse, there will be instances where people will ask you to do something you aren’t comfortable doing. They might take the “stripper” part of burlesque strippers a little differently, for instance. Ultimately, it’s up to you to gauge each opportunity and the dangers it may come with.

It’s Worth the Effort

Even with all the bad that comes with it, being a burlesque artist is amazing. The extent to which it can change your life is truly profound — more profound than you’d ever expect. 

You’ll have a near-inexhaustive creative outlet, and you’ll meet so many incredible people. And the fun you’ll have is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. It’s worth every step of the way, even the painful ones.