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Showing posts from 2010

Jo Weldon on Christina Aguilera.com!

Pretty Things to Be Released in Paperback!

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Full disclosure: My publisher, HarperCollins, is also Liz Goldwyn's publisher, as well as Dita Von Teese's. HarperCollins KNOWS burlesque! But I bought Liz's book before I ever had a book contract, and it is spectacular. It is one of the most amazing books you'll find on the subject of mid-20th century burlesque striptease.

If you are a burlesque fan and you haven't gotten this book, you are missing out. If you know a burlesque fan, get it for them for Christmas. The memorabilia and stories will fascinate anyone, whether or not they are a fan of burlesque, with their display of artistry and charm and human interest.

You also don't want to miss her documentary film, Pretty Things, featuring astonishing and entertaining interviews with the great Zorita and my dear departed friend (who I always miss particularly at this time of year--kisses and pasties to you, sweet one) Sherry Britton.

I just did a brief interview with Liz to announce tomorrow's book signin…

How much dance choreography is too much to add into a burlesque routine and how much is too little? I've heard burlesque dancers say "not too much dance choreography."

Formally trained dancers may have a tendency to think more about their choreography than their audience. In many rigidly choreographed dance routines, the dancer's focus is to the choreographer or to the other dancers; in burlesque, it is usually outward, to the audience. And often a trained dancer new to burlesque will merely dance, stop, and take off a piece of clothing instead of making the clothing removal playful, enticing, and innovative. It's not just what's revealed but the tease and play that leads up to the reveal that makes the costume removal worth watching.

A burlesque routine offers a unique opportunity to perform a striptease and/or combine glamour, mischief, and an arc. If the number doesn't take advantage of this, burlesque audiences might get restless and start texting during your number.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Photo Post: Backstage at the New York Burlesque Festival

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It's been hard to keep up with this blog while keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, and Formspring, and while writing and promoting a book! One thing I used to do frequently that I miss is sharing a few recent photos I've taken. I hope you enjoy these shots from backstage at the New York Burlesque Festival this past weekend!


Amber Ray


Miss Indigo Blue


World Famous *BOB*

If you use any photos from my blog, please link back to me. Or you're a fckin jerk.

after taking some of your classes; how would one go about performing?

The NY School of Burlesque has student showcases in which new students and alumni perform, and often show producers come to find new talent. There are also shows specifically interested in new performers that make announcements of opportunities on their social media, so having a burlesque FB page is a good way to network. However, it's also a good idea to go to shows, find ones that you like, support them, and offer to be a stage kitten, intern, or assistant, each with their own systems. You will not necessarily get to perform with that show, but you will learn a lot very quickly, and you will meet other performers and be able to associate with people who can suggest other opportunties. Plus, it's fun!

There is more information on some of the ettiquette of getting into shows in my book, The Burlesque Handbook, but it's important to understand that policies vary from show to show.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

A Quickie with Melody Sweets

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Melody Sweets is one of the sweetest people in burlesque, and that's saying something! I've known her since the days when I hung out with The Toilet Boys (I appear in their videos for "Future is Now" and "Another Day in the Life") at Squeezebox, and used to watch her perform burlesque in The Bombshell Girls' show at Suite 16. She's a multi-talented lady--she not only, like most burlesque performers, creates her own costumes and routines, but she writes and records her own music as well!


Melody, second from the right, on the set of the Victor/Victrola episode of Gossip Girl. Photo, choreography, and costume design by me!

How did you come to be a New York performer?
When I first moved to NYC I knew I wanted to sing & started singing right away. I started singing at open-mic nights, making my rounds in drag shows, lesbian cover bands & rasta metal nights... crazy combo, I know! That's NY for you. I QUICKLY got tired of being in the backgroun…

Jo! Where's your favourite place to buy g-strings? z

I make mine! But I love stripper stores, online and elsewhere. You can buy ANY g-string and decorate with wih rhinestones or fringe, or even add hooks on the sides to make it breakaway. Just remember that if you add fringe and the fringe doesn't stretch, you need to make sure you can get the garment on and off over your hips before you do your final stitching!

Here's a great base for a decorated g-string:
http://www.mydivascloset.com/satlycybacgs.htmlAsk me anything about Burlesque!

A Quickie with Lily Burana

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Lily Burana is one of my personal heroes. When I read Strip City, I felt like I had finally read a memoir that addressed the ambivalence most strippers feel about the job in a nonjudgemental fashion. Not long after I read that book, I performed with Lily in the video for Debra's song Take It Off, a video recorded to accompany the release of Jill Morley's documentary Stripped. Working with these three women has created one of the strongest support systems of my life. Lily's book I Love a Man in a Uniform is not only a fascinating memoir of the life of an army wife, told with Lily's characteristic candor and charm, but a deeply inspiring account of her personal struggles with PTSD and identity. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to choreograph a routine for Lily's Operation Bombshell, her burlesque school for military wives, and to have had her blurb my book! It's a treat to finally be able to interview her.


Lily and Me in Las Vegas for the Burlesque Hal…

A Quickie with Mr. Murray Hill, Burlesque MC

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New York has an amazing pool of burlesque MCs, all with unique personalities and their own cults. Today we'll have a quickie with everyone's showbiz heartthrob, Mr. Murray Hill.



The first time I saw you at a burlesque show was a Pontani Sisters show at the Slipper Room in either 2002 or 2003. What was your first burlesque MC gig? Did you expect to be MCing so many burlesque shows?
Ahh, the old days...and who can remember all the details! I don't remember my first burlesque hosting gig per se, but I was doing The Murray Hill Show in the late 90's and Dirty Martini was my first showgirl guest. How could I forget her. She is the first burlesque performer I saw in NYC uptown at the supperclub, I suppose it was true love right from the beginning.
Hosting burlesque shows seems like a natural fit (no pun intended) for me...I'm an old-school kinda guy, and burlesque is from the old vaudeville days. Back then, comics and burlesque girls were always on the same bill. …

Jo! What are the best burlesque venues in New York City?

There isn't any venue devoted to burlesque while the Slipper Room is on hiatus, so you have to look for shows. The best source is Ed Barnas' Calendar:
http://www.edbarnas.com/Burlesque/calendar/index.htm

Don't miss the Coney Island shows! Mine is tomorrow night:
http://www.coneyislandusa.com

And I'll be performing at the Oak Room this Sunday, at Galapagos on Monday, and at White Slab with the Slipper Room Crew on Wednesday. See the calendar for details.

I perform most frequently at Duane Park with Brian Newman:
http://www.duaneparknyc.comAsk me anything about Burlesque!

I've been enjoying watching fan dances & am ready to try one. You have a pretty silk fan veil routine on your DVD but your clothes stay on. Do you have tips or resources or inspiration for using fan veils in a striptease?

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People have been using these fans more and more in burlesque and in other forms of dance. As I say in the video, think about fans as items you use to reveal, conceal, and frame yourself, as well as to create a glamourous and sensual spectacle onstage. Orchid Mei does a fantastic job with them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikUe_s5vm9U

It's possible to do a very poor job with these, as they are a little tricky. Rehearse, videotape yourself rehearsing, and if you have someone whose critique is valuable to you, employ them to watch and help you find exciting and elegant things to do with them besides just move them around. You can do some really clever reveals and gorgeous moves if you take the time to discover your own style with them!Play
Ask me anything about Burlesque!

If you were a rainbow... What treat would you leave at the end for people to find?

You, Deelightful lady!Ask me anything about Burlesque!

How would you deal with a jealous performer who is obsessed with being/doing better than you? She's a former student. This is taking the fun out of burlesque for me. :(

Just focus on your own business. If she does anything actually shady or cutthroat, call her on it publicly; but otherwise, her jealousy and competitiveness is really her cross to bear. And if it's REALLY taking the fun out of burlesque for you, if burlesque is only fun for you if it's free of any problems of business and social interaction, you might reconsider what you expect from burlesque.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

What do you think of MC's that talk trying to gain more cheers from the crowd, during the dancers performance?

It depends. Generally I could do without it, since I want to focus on the performer and not the MC; but some MCs make it brilliant and energizing and funny; and some audiences really respond to it. So in theory I don't like it, but in action I've seen it both succeed and fail.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

I love your videos (Fandance, Honey & Spice) and want to try to make a copy of the cute black top hat you wear with that vintage circus costume. How do you fix it to your hair? Pins? Comb? Rubber band? Thank you!

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That hat, made of painted styrofoam, is available online at various places, and my roommate Julie Muz decorated it with feathers and glitter. It's on a headband. Here's a similar one on amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Mini-Top-Hat-with-Veil/dp/B001CVDXPA/ref=pd_sbs_a_2

And for those who haven't seen the hat this formspringer is asking about, here's the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QV3ZgnFFKjYPlay
Ask me anything about Burlesque!

I am visiting NYC from Aug 15-20 and was hoping to get a recommendation on where to see the best burlesque show. What would you suggest?

Check out Brooklyn Ed's calendar http://www.edbarnas.com/Burlesque/calendar/index.htm
I can't recommend Bambi the Mermaid's Coney Island show highly enough!!Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Someone new in the scene ripped off my burlesque routine I've been doing for almost 4 years. What should I do?

Try contacting them and asking them about it, to be sure that they're ripping it off and not just responding to the zeitgeist. If you're already sure or not satisified with their response, keep doing it better, post more pictures and video of it, and file a cease and desist if you think it's warranted. And let people know if you think someone else is an intellectual property thief--you do no one in the scene a favor if you let them keep hiring an unethical performer.

I have been ripped off a bit and have had people feel entitled to my intellectual property. It's interesting as a teacher, where someone who has taken my class will teach a class that is essentially the same and then say that it's not a rip off because I didn't invent burlesque, ignoring the fact that I manage to work with burlesque teachers from all over the world without feeling that they are compromising my intellectual property. I'm a fan of The Art of War, which means I try to think of all …

Why do you think so many of todays Burlesque performers don't take pride in keeping their body in shape? Is burlesque really just an excuse for some out of shape women to take their clothes off and try to feel good about themselves?

The world is full of places where women are encouraged to feel bad about themselves if they aren't willing to diet and exercise into the condition the media says they should be. Feel free to go to those places, and stay in one of them.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

How did you learn how to sew and make costumes?

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I learned to sew in high school and I think anyone, whether or not they really want to make clothes, can benefit from basic sewing skills; but I learned to sew spandex and sequins and fringe in the late 1980s, when I was making costumes for strip joint feature dancers while my knee was too messed up for me to work as a dancer. Since every outfit was unique, and I was presented with unusual challenges like making a breakaway astronaut costume or a light-up skirt or gloves with wings attached, I learned to experiment. I learned that if you keep an open mind, you can make anything happen. Also, the dancers wanted their costumes to come off in interesting and unexpected ways; they didn't want to just take off clothes, they wanted special costumes that were more memorable, and inventive breakaways that made audience members gasp with delight. So basically, I learned by doing things I didn't know how to do until I did them successfully! But the basic sewing skills I learned in basic…

I'm trying to learn more about the neo burlesque movement, are there any books you would recommend?

There are a few. Michelle Baldwin's Burlesque and the New Bump N Grind is a book I would be honored to consider a companion piece to my own book. Dita Von Teese's book, Burlesque and the Art of the Teese, is a fantastic resource for understanding glamourous showgirl burlesque for our times. The Velvet Hammer by Michelle Carr is spectacular, and Chris Blakeley's book Tassels and Emerald's will give you a great sense of why I think Seattle's burlesque scene is one of the most beautiful in the world.

I also recommend videos. The Velvet Hammer DVD from itsachick.com and A Wink and a Smile on netflix are both amazing. Gary Beeber's Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque is intensely gratifying and gorgeous, and Immodesty Blaize's Burlesque Undressed is uber glam.

You should be able to find these on amazon.com, ebay.com, and google.com!

Other folks, feel free to make recommendations. I always accidentally leave out something I love!

See the trailer for Dirty Martini and…

Brian Smith, Photographer and Burlesque Fan

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Brian Smith is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer whose photographs of celebtrities and personalities have graced the pages of uncountable newspapers and magazines, including his picture of Pope John Paul II on the cover of Newsweek. So it should come as no surprise that for years he has been traveling to a goat farm in Helendale and later to hotel showrooms in Las Vegas to photographs burlesque queens of the 1950s for the annual Striptease Reunion of the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

What?

It's true. We at the Burlesque Hall of Fame have been honored by many of the people who have taken an interest in the organization, its personalities, and its events. But it's fair to say that Brian, with his talent, his reputation, his kindness, and his appreciation, ranks uber high in those honors!

I met Brian on a photo shoot for which I'd been hired to bring burlesque models for a promotional project for photographic equipment. I was so charmed, really touched, by his enthusiasm and in…

I saw where you recommended Polly-O shoes but I am curious if you have any other tips on shoes for burlesque performances, especially when its a dancey number.

If your shoes are comfortable, you'll dance better, simple as that! Rehearse your number in the shoes you'll be wearing onstage, not in your practice shoes. You need to know how the shoes and your costume will interact--will rhinestones or buckle catch on the hem of your gown? Will you be able to pivot and twist in the shoes you want to wear? If you're removing them to take off stockings, do they slip easily on and off, and is it any harder to keep them on once you're wearing the stockings? If you rehearse in them, you won't have any surprises.
I will say that I expect to see shoes in good condition, and I love it when they have been decorated to match the costume.
In addition to my love of Pollys, which you can purchase at Betsey Johnson and Patricia Field's stores, I am shameless about my acrylic stripper heels. They make everything easy!
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joweldon/357227494/&quot; title="My Shoes by Jo Weldon, on Flickr"…

Do you think it impacts how a dancer is viewed by producers, MCs, other dancers if their spouse shows up for every gig?

It depends on how that spouse behaves, of course! Generally speaking, burlesque is a community, and we definitely expect to see each others' partners and spouses at events at least occasionally.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

I'm a budding photographer and a fan of burlesque. What does it take to have a performer pose for me to help expand my portfolio and in turn, provide photos?

Performers get approached by photographers frequently. If you want to shoot them, you should be ready to provide samples of your work, and arrange how you will compensate them for their time. For newer performers, simply getting shots they can use for promotion is often excellent compensation; for experienced performers who have already built their own portfolios, they may need to charge a modeling fee. Every shoot is a different set of circumstances, but you should have an idea what you're willing to offer. Keep your appointments to shoot and always be ready with releases, and get images to them quickly. Usually if you are reliable and you understand that the photos have to flattering to them as well as to your skills as a photographer, you have a good chance of doing some shoots!
Check out the website of one of my favorite photographers of burlesque, Don Spiro, to see some shots we all love!
http://donspiro.com/Ask me anything about Burlesque!

What's the greatest compliment a viewer can give to a performer?

"I don't want to be on the list, I want to pay to get in and support the show."

Just kidding! Actually, the best compliment is always a straightforward expression of appreciation--"I loved your number" or "I was really moved by your number." And of course my favorite compliment in the world is, "Watching you made me want to do burlesque too!"

Occasionally people accidentally insult me or one of my friends when they are complimenting; they'll say, "That was so much better than that skanky pole dancing" (I love to watch pole dancing), or some compliment about liking my number better than a number someone else did. Any comparison should be left out, it's just not necessary! Just say what you like. I performed a burlesque fan dance number at the 2009 Pole Dancing Championship, after which Carmit Bachar of the Pussycat Dolls came up to me and said how lovely my number was. The pole dancer and the fan dancer should be friends!

http…

Me at the Mothers of Burlesque Show in AMNY!

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Click the image to view larger.

I recently bought a pair of feather fans from ostrich.com and have to assemble them myself. Do you have any tips for assembling them? I have read the instructions and it looks a little tough. I don't want to screw up since the feathers are kinda spendy

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Just go for it. The feathers are tougher than you think! Assemble it without the glue, though, because you never know when you'll want to change or add feathers. Take your time to make sure all the feathers curve in the same direction--lay it out without attaching the feathers before you begin. And I usually leave the lengths of string knotted between the staves to be about 2.5-3 inches. Check my facebook page, under the name Jo Weldon, to see if other folks have added other helpful tips to this post.
I love the collapsible fans! The fans I'm using in this photo are ostrich.com Junior Sally Rand fans:
/Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Hi Jo, I'll be visiting New York City for the summer from LA! I've never been to a burlesque show in the city, so where can I find out about all the latest happenings?

Whatever you do, don't miss the shows at Coney Island!
http://www.coneyisland.com
To find shows, I recommend Brooklyn Ed's burlesque calendar:
http://www.edbarnas.com/Burlesque/calendar/index.htm
And check out the Burlesque/Variety listings in Timeout NY, which has both a print and online magazine:
http://www3.timeoutny.com/newyork/tonyblog/2010/05/your-perfect-sunday-burlesques-moms-pork-and-chocolate-and-luchadoresAsk me anything about Burlesque!

Is it possible to copyright an act? How is it done? Do you think it is important? If a performer seems to be appropriating work, is it best to confront or ignore? Defend idea.. or take as compliment??

I've answered this question before, so this time I'll give the short version.

My tone is going to be a bit brusque, not towards you, but towards people who feel entitled to use whatever they see to choreograph, teach, or perform others' material.

1) In the US, we copyright numbers like so:
http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl119.html
If you don't have it in you to research the equivalent in your own locale, that's too bad.
Added note, the only legal advice with any value whatsoever comes from legal professionals. Backstage discussions don't count unless the people involved in them are legal professionals.

2) Most performers would rather be attributed and hired and paid than have their work "complimented" by "appropriation."

3) If you're thinking about doing a tribute to someone, the best person to ask is--BIG SHOCK--the person themselves!

4) Acts you think may be classic reproductions may not be. Acts you think may be original may not be. People you …

Once in a Lifetime Burlesque Show in NYC!

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Mother’s Day Burlesque Brunch
A Salute To The Mothers Of Burlesque
Featuring Legendary Burlesque Queens
DIXIE EVANS
TONI ELLING
DEE MILO

Performances by
ANGIE PONTANI
JO BOOBS
MSTICKLE
PERLE NOIRE
DR. LUCKY
THE WORLD FAMOUS *BOB*
RUBY VALENTINE
DJ MOMOTARO

May 9,2010
Show starts @ 1:30PM Doors open @ 12:30PM

Tickets and More Information

The World Famous *BOB* and Jo Weldon of The New York School of Burlesque will co-host this landmark event featuring The Mother’s of Burlesque, Dixie Evans, Dee Milo and Toni Elling. The event will feature a question and answer panel with these legendary Burlesque Queens, select performance and tribute numbers by Angie Pontani, Mstickle, Jo Boobs, Perle Noire, Dr Lucky, The World Famous *BOB*, Ruby Valentine and DJ Momotaro. This is the first time in over a quarter of a century that these legends of burlesque are being showcased in New York City. This is truly a one of a kind event, not to be missed.

THE CAST:
DIXIE EVANS - Nobody ar…

As a budding burlesque beauty how does one promote themselves? I just graduated from Trixie Little Burlesque Bootcamp and had my first performance. I live in the Washington D.C. area. Any tips?

Congratulations on graduation!
It depends on what you want to promote yourself to do! If you want to perform, put together a facebook page, create a few more acts, develop them as much as possible, film them any old way you can (rehearsal space is fine), and offer to help at other shows in order to get to know producers, performers, and venues. For many shows in smaller venues, people hire performers first because they are good performers, but also because they are reliable and easy to get along with, and this offers a chance to let them get to know you that way.
If you see auditions, go to them! Even if you don't get the gig, again, you'll develop a reputation for being reliable and easy to get along with.
Various cities are different, too, so this is just a brief answer.
Never offer to perform for free for gigs for which other performers are getting paid. Most producers are also performers, and will feel you're undercutting them. Plus, you'll be lowering the price for a…

Pastie adhesive. What do you prefer? I've been using spirit gum, but started to become sensitive to it recently. Looking for a less harsh alternative.

I usually use double-sided garment tape, which does mark me up a little. Dirty Martini always uses eyelash glue. Miss Indigo Blue uses spirit gum. We're all experts and we don't use the same adhesives. You'll find out through trial and error what works for your skin type, type of pasties you use, and the conditions under which you work.
For even more unhelpful contradiction, check out my blog post, "Paste Won't Keep your Pasties On:"
http://burlesquedaily.blogspot.com/2007/07/tape-glue-or-gum.htmlAsk me anything about Burlesque!

Is it really so bad to copy moves you see other dancers doing? It happens all the time. And chances are, the person most known for doing the moves, didn't originate it.

I teach people moves which they then all know and which many of them then do. Obviously people do the same moves.

As for appropriating a relatively unique move, or one that as you say the person doing may not have originated, it depends on how associated the dancer is with the move. If they are well known for it, you'll just bore people by repeating it, or possibly pale by comparison. Same with music--if someone uses a piece of music outside the typical burlesque canon, and you also use it, it may not matter; or you may pale by comparison, or they may pale by comparison with you. Of course, it depends on uncountable factors that make each situation unique.

There is a frequent misunderstanding about this, however. A move can't be copyrighted, but choreography can, in the same way that a note can't be copyrighted, but a series of notes that make up a song can. Choreography is a repeatable series of moves. A champagne glass isn't a copyrightable prop idea, but a specific de…

How do you deal with dancers who bring their friends in the dressing room? I don't like it. What can I do about it?

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As with everything, it depends on many factors, but most of the time we want as few people backstage as possible. Politely let them know it's your workspace, not your playspace. Before the show it's awful to have people's friends backstage. Most backstage areas just aren't that spacious, and sometimes right before we go onstage we're mentally running our choreography in our heads and have trouble being sociable. Most experienced performers ask first, if they even consider bringing anyone back. If someone's making a documentary about you, I'm pretty sure I don't want them backstage at a moment's notice--ask about photography and videography backstage way in advance, not the day of the show. After the show it may or may not be okay, but it's usually more likely to be okay than before the show.
If someone doesn't believe me, check out this picture of a backstage scene at the Slipper Room and see if you see a whole lot of room for guests!
Ask me a…

I bought a set of ostrich fans a couple of years ago, and I can't find anything on how to care for them. Some of the vanes have separated - is any way to comb them back together? Any suggestions on how to care, and properly store them?

I'm glad you asked! There is something I've been meaning to mention here, and this is a great opportunity.
It's really important for folks to know that burlesque feathers are just feathers, and burlesque rhinestones are like any other rhinestones. This means that cleaning techniques used on feathers that are not on burlesque costumes are the same for feathers that are. So, any google search for feather care or evening wear care, etc., will turn up useful results. This extends to copyright law (NEVER take legal advice from anyone but a lawyer or tax advice from anyone but a tax expert), ettiquette, prop-making, and so on. I mention this only so you know that there are people who have hardcore expertise in such things, and few of them are burlesque performers.
This is the feather care resource I cite in my book:
http://www.bishopmuseum.org/research/pdfs/cnsv-feathers.pdf
Here's an additional link on how to take care of ostrich feathers:
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/caring-…

'News from New York School of Burlesque'

I would love to go on a tour around the country. Are there clubs that routinely book burlesque dancers, and what are some of them?

One of the few clubs I know that is specifically devoted to booking burlesque, the Slipper Room, eagerly books out of town and international performers. However, they are about to close for major renovations. There may be similar clubs in other cities, but I'm not sure.
It depends on what you want to do. If you are looking to produce shows, you will simply have to do some hard research--google performers in various cities and approach them with huge respect for entering their turf, or google and call venues in those towns--it's freaking HARD WORK, I'm in the middle of doing it now. If you are simply looking for shows to drop into, you would contact the producers of shows, not the venues, to see if they have guest performers. Some do, some don't. Prepare to hunker down! It's amazing how much work it is!
Good luck, and wish me luck with my upcoming tour. I need all the help I can get! ;)Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Are there any Asian burlesque dancers out there?

Margaret Cho, who wrote the foreword to my book, is Asian.

I've worked with several performers from Japan, including Sexy Davinci, a boylesque performer who wowed everybody at last year's New York Burlesque Festival. I first met Erochica Bamboo, The Tokyo Tornado, at the Sex Workers' Film Festival in 2001, which occured in San Francisco at the same time that the first TeaseORama convention was happening in New Orleans. She became Miss Exotic World in 2003
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Miss_Exotic_World_Pageant_participants_and_winners
I've also worked a lot with Murasaki Babydoll
http://www.murasakibabydoll.com/
Just yesterday this article came out about Asian burlesque performers:
http://www.nwasianweekly.com/2010/04/%e2%80%98glamorous-elegant-timeless-revolutionary%e2%80%99/
Here's a video of Calamity Chang, who now runs Dim Sum Burlesque, performing in my student showcase last year:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UC8YL9Q35U
Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Hi Jo! I've been wondering, how often should a dancer change her act? I've seen dancers do the same act over and over for years, but I feel pressure to always present something new.

It depends! It depends on the performer and his or her goals, on the venues they're in, etc.

I have to say, I love to see someone repeat an act. Sometimes I don't realize how perfect an act is till I've seen it a few times. I could watch Bambi the Mermaid do her chicken routine another hundred times.

I think you HAVE to add numbers to your repetoire, but with care rather than urgency. I'm not a fan of ALWAYS doing something new because then the acts tend to be under developed. It depends on the venue though--if it's a weekly show, it can be fun to present new things that haven't required a ton of work but have great playful energy. However, people always ask me what big festivals and pageants are seeking, and they are seeking developed performers with finished routines.

At a high level of production, it can take over a year to put one act together. Immodesty Blaize is not doing a new act every weekend, and she gets flown all over the world to perform.Ask me anythi…

I'm a beginner and I have this idea for a number where I'd select a victim from the audience to sit in a chair on the stage, so I could center my dance around them, flirt with them, etc. I'm not sure how that would go over.

Many many performers do this, or some version of this. When it doesn't work it's because the performer is ignoring the audience; you're not on film with multiple cameras showing all your angles and expressions, you're on stage, and you have to think about what the viewer can see. Also, if you're a beginner, pulling a stranger from the audience...well...strangers aren't all on your side, that's all I'm saying!Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Do you think you'll perform striptease forever, or do you think you'll stop at some point, and maybe make an occasional appearance at events like Exotic World 2040? Do you think the burlesque performers today will just keep going?

My focus is somewhat more on teaching and writing than on getting performance gigs, but as long as people will hire me, I'll be grateful to keep performing! Some people might think that a performer should stop when they're "too old," etc., but I'm not a fan of the concepts that someone might be "too out of shape to wear those pants" or "too old to wear that hairstyle." I don't like it when "maintaining dignity" is defined as always avoiding the possibility of being considered laughable or inappropriate. Life's too short.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25640691/Ask me anything about Burlesque!

how should a burlesque newbie go about getting their first gig?

This is beyond the scope of a short blog post, but here are some tips from my old yahoo group: http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/ACHPS61AnwxYrPM5X6rvILtJIdrcHFJWptMrASeaFlntsuNCXKR68bdrd9UgDgDgtXCYGhNP1zx_ngzDhFDZog/gettingbooked.txt

Sometimes you will come across burlesque show auditions on facebook, craigslist, or burlesque message groups. You need to be careful not to be taken advantage of, or to fall for name dropping producers who may not be on good terms with people with whom they've worked. Often the best way to get into shows is to go to them, watch them, make sure you're a good fit for them, and then approach the producer. Some shows are based on a small pool of performers, some are a set cast, so not all are open to new performers; you have to ask around. A good way to get to know established performers is to be a stage maid or stage kitten; you learn more backstage than anywhere else! Here's an interview I did with a stage kitten who's now a performer:
http://burle…

Recommended Reading: Girl Show (Reposted by Request)

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Girl Show: Into the Canvas World of Bump and Grind
By A. W. Stencell
ECW Press, 2000

This is one of my favorite books about exotic dancing. It isn't strictly about burlesque--remember, both Little Egypt and Sally Rand started out a fairs!--but there is plenty of burlesque in it. Stencell describes the evolution of traveling carnivals from World Fairs and circuses. You'll love the photos and stories of Blaze Fury and Ricki Covette, and you'll get to see Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, and Carrie Finnell in this fabulous carnival environment. You'll get to see the hoochie choochie girls of the early 20th century, as well as the graphic chooch dancers of the late twentieth century. You'll be dazzled by Tirza, the Wine Bath Girl, whose act is still tributed in Coney Island. You'll get the inside scoop on girl show female impersonators from Jaydee Easton. You'll fall in love with Bambi Lane, "The Last of the Tassel Twirlers," who says, "I was the las…

Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque

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"DIRTY MARTINI AND THE NEW BURLESQUE explores the tantalizing world of the performers who created the new burlesque scene in NYC: Miss Dirty Martini and her friends Julie Atlas Muz, Bambi the Mermaid, Tigger!, World Famous BOB and others. Dirty is a classically trained dancer who struggled since childhood to overcome criticism of her size. Like Bette Midler, she became part of the downtown drag scene where she was finally accepted for her talent, and went on to develop her act in the East Village drag clubs.
The movie’s seductiveness comes from its sexy acts as well as its dark exploration of these performers’ struggle to pay their bills, their quest for romance and inability to envision life after the world of burlesque. In addition, many topics are explored such as the relationship between sex work, burlesque and feminism. The new burlesque, which is defined as performance art combined with modern dance and political satire, is exploding in New York as well as other major ci…

Is it ok to do "tribute" pieces in the honor of burlesque performers who are still actively performing, and if so, do you think it is best to ask for permission, or can you just do it?

Of course it depends. But generally, most performers would rather be hired than honored.


Sherry Britton worked with me on my tribute act to her. She worked on my costume, hair, music, and movement with me.

I think there are new performers who believe that many of us are doing acts out of a canon of burlesque acts, but most of us are doing our own numbers. Most of us would rather be paid than imitated; most of us would rather have the audience respond directly to us than to someone else doing a tribute to us. And even though many of the legends of burlesque are retired, their acts still belong to them, and it can be incredibly insulting to do a "tribute" without talking to them about your intentions before you begin to put the act together.

Recreating someone else's act is likely to be pure and simple copyright infringement. The US copyright office has a category that applies: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl119.html. An interesting example of this was when the producers at B…

Can you do a burlesque number where you go from say, a gown to a corset piece or a one piece and end it there? Or... does it have to be down to pasties and underwear or gstring, etc?

To me, a tease is not fully realized without an eventual reveal. I have to do it all the time, to do demonstrations for morning shows and in bookstores, to show techniques and the flavor of a burlesque striptease, without getting kicked out; but that's not in a SHOW. But I don't think it's much of a tribute to the history of ladies who really did strip to refuse to go as far as they did. To me, striptease is the element that was left behind when mid-twentieth-century burlesque circuits shut down. Their variety performers had the option to move into radio, film, television, etc., while strippers were left behind or quarantined into the sex industry. And pasties and g-strings, after all, are some of the most unique elements of burlesque costuming, so it's a shame to not employ them and then end up wearing something that could be worn in any old venue. And for me personally, the idea of casting myself as "ladylike," or as anything other than a stripper, is repug…

Does one need to be a burlesque performer to be part of New York City's burlesque community? It seems like everyone knows everyone here! I'm a fan of the burlesque that I've seen in the city, but I'm certainly not a dancer.

Not at all! We have fans who regularly attend shows very involved in our community, and we also have photographers, artists, costumers, and more who are definitely considered part of the family.Ask me anything about Burlesque!

where can you buy all those sexy get ups and tassels in NYC ?

We make our costumes or have them made, but you can get started at Halloween Adventure at Broadway and 11th, and you can get tassels from our good friends at Patricia Field's on Bowery! Check out the stripper stores on the north side of 4th Street just west of 6th Avenue. And glam your purchased costumes with trim and crystals from the Garment District, which is in the upper west 30s:
http://www.fashioncenter.com/about/publications/source-book/Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Selling it With a Strip

When I teach I often talk about how burlesque striptease turns up everywhere in popular culture, and how when I was a kid I would get excited whenever I saw a hint of it. Commercials are no exception. Here, a few commercials of my youth:






I notice that most performers like to glam it up with corsets, heels, and feathers. However, what if you feel at your sexiest sporting a suit and tie, a la Marlene Dietrich? Is it still acceptable?

You can wear whatever you want, as long as you take it off ;)Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Some shows I've been to have a girl just stripping to a rock song. What is the line between a burlesque act and just any stripper act? Besides the audiences being different, and the motivation of the dancer being different.

Sometimes the audiences and the motivation of the dancer are the only differences. Those are big differences!

However, what I like to see are references to the movements and mischief in vintage burlesque--not a throwback, but a flavor in the performance that indicates that the performer knows s/he represents a long line of undomesticated ladies.

And a performer can't really get to the next level, as far as getting hired goes, if s/he doesn't present some kind of glamourous spectacle or exciting story line. Otherwise s/he'll very likely just keep getting bar gigs.

Some performers, however, get flown all over the world to get gigs!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/joweldon/94826823/Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Immodesty Blaize Presents Burlesque Undressed

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"BURLESQUE UNDRESSED is a lavish and dazzling journey right into the heart of the art-form, featuring a compelling mix of live performance, interviews from burlesque stars past and present, captivating music and all-round show-stopping entertainment.

British burlesque superstar Immodesty Blaize peels back the curtain to reveal her world of high-octane glamour, and gives an exclusive peep behind-the-scenes to expose the work involved in the art of the tease to produce a signature act of perfection."

I first saw Immodesty when she performed at the New York Burlesque Festival in 2005, and everybody stopped and said, "Who is THAT?"

Kalani Kokonuts, me, Dixie Evans, Liz Goldwyn, and Immodesty Blaize at the reception for Dita Von Teese's opening night at Crazy Horse, Las Vegas.

If you watch this film, you won't know much about Immodesty's personal history or how she came to be in burlesque, but you'll know a lot about being a showgirl. In my book I focus o…