Showing posts from April, 2010

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:" Ask 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 d

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?

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! As

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: Here's an additional link on how to take care of ostrich feathers:

'News from New York School of Burlesque'

'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 I've also worked a lot with Murasaki Babydoll / Just yesterday this article came out about Asian burlesque performers: / Here's a video of Calamity Chang, who now runs Dim Sum Burlesque, performing in my student showcase last year: Ask me anything about B

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

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. / 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: 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://burl

Recommended Reading: Girl Show (Reposted by Request)

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 l

Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque

"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 cit

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: An interesting example of this was when the producers at

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 repugn

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: / 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! / Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Immodesty Blaize Presents Burlesque Undressed

"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 fo

In order to be a great burlesque performer does one need to be able to do acrobatics/gymnastics, or be very flexible? I can dance (I have had some training), but I can't do the splits, cartwheels, aerial hoop, etc. Will this hold me back as a performer?

Just do what you do and do it fiercely. I'm partially physically incapacitated from a series of car accidents, but I don't think anyone knows unless I tell them. Ask me anything about Burlesque!

can burlesque be performed to hip hop music?

Burlesque can be performed to anything, and hip hop moves are fantastic in burlesque numbers as well as hip hop music. You don't even have to use music if you're really innovative; Nasty Canasta does a fan dance to a car alarm: However, nothing beats learning to do the classic moves of mid-20th century style burlesque striptease to the type of music they used, because you can usually do a btter job of deconstructing something if you know how it's constructed first. Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Im a photographer and saw your photos at the "Unsung Heros of Burlesque" last year. I especially loved the candid backstage stuff. What would be the best way to approach a producer/performers about backstage access with out looking like a total perv?

Try shooting us from the front first! Then pick the pictures that look good enough to help us get other bookings and not the ones that show off your technique, give us copies of those incredibly flattering and well-executed shots, and THEN ask us about backstage. You can see some of my backstage shots here: / I'll also be taking a slide show of backstage shots with me for my book tour. Ask me anything about Burlesque!

I'm about to enter my very first burlesque competition. Besides your advice on finishing an act properly, have any sage words that may help me win?

Work on your walk. I am often the only person who gets to watchthe responses and listen to the comments of the judges at The Miss Exotic World/Queen of Burlesque Competition, and I can tell you that they are always wowed by a confident, powerful, joyous strut. Watch Perle Noir walk onto the stage: Ask me anything about Burlesque!

How do i reserve a spot for the 4/18 workshop? This is my third request for info and nothing yet.

I don't know why you're not getting responses, but the internet is weird sometimes. For future reference, the formspring account is not an alternative contact for the school of burlesque and is not the best way to get information from us, but if you've been sending emails and not getting through I suppose the formspring is the only way! Anyway, there is a hula hoop work shop and a how-to-apply-for-festivals workshop on April 18. The only way to register is to use paypal through the site. Hula Hoop: How to Apply for Festivals: Ask me anything about Burlesque!

I read an interview with Kalani Kokonuts where she recommended beginning burlesque performers work at strip clubs to improve. Do you agree?

I don't think there is any one experience a burlesque performer needs to have to improve; it depends on the individual performer. In fact, if you've worked at strip clubs and have gotten in the habit of looking down at one person in the front row, that can work against you in burlesque, where you need to include the entire room in your attentions. But, strip joint strippers have the experience of going on stage thousands upon thousands of times, and that gives them a certain je nais se quoi--"I don't know who will respond, but I know someone will"--a confidence that puts the audience at ease. A lack of self-consciousness is very appealing, no matter what kind of performer you are. A particularly interesting aspect of working strip clubs that I think about often as a performer is that strip joint strippers learn what works from audience response rather than a mirror. I notice this especially in bath numbers. A strip joint stripper will have had the experience of

Behind the Burly-Q with Leslie Zemeckis

I used to do a monthly event (now on an irregular basis) called "Behind the Crimson Curtain" where my students would do readings from the autobiographies of burlesque performers. Among the many burlesque stars who've produced autobiographies--Honey Harlow, Blaze Starr, and Gypsy Rose Lee, to name a few--we included Alan Alda, whose autobiography includes descriptions of his life as a child when his father was a "tit singer" in burlesque shows. These kinds of behind-the-scenes stories are at the heart of a new film, "Behind the Burly-Q," produced by Leslie Zemeckis. I've already got my tickets for the NYC premiere! Leslie was kind enough to take some time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions exclusively for this blog. All images used with permission. Check out the film trailer! Jo Weldon: What do you hope your movie has to offer people who know very little about burlesque? People who know a lot about burlesque? Leslie Zemeckis:

When filming for an application is it better to use live performances (where the stage space might be limited) or to hire a space in my own time?

As long as you follow the directions in the application to the letter, any film of your performance should work. And it's worth noting that usually those who are booking large festivals and contests are hoping to present the most fully developed numbers by performers, so if it's better for you to show it fully developed in a studio than a live performance from when you were first working on it, and the instructions in the application permit it, it's worth considering which presents the act the most as you really want it to be. If you're in New York, Angie Pontani will be presenting a class on how to apply for festivals and events: Ask me anything about Burlesque!

Hi! I will be in NYC from May 10 to May 13 with three girlfriends...I saw the school on the last What Not to Wear and thought it would be great for us to take a class that week - what would you suggest? Thanks! Sondra

Hi Sondra! We had so much fun on that show! Any classes that are listed are intended for beginners to intermediate, unless the listing says otherwise. You'll have fun in any of them! I especially recommend the Flirting with Burlesque class--it's part burlesque, part dance, part exercise. For another take on What Not to Wear: Ask me anything about Burlesque!

What body and face makeup will stand up to stage lighting and camera flashes?

Those are two different questions because it those are two different kinds of lighting! However, you should always wear false eyelashes (or, in the rare event that you just can't do that, enough carefully applied eyeliner that it has a trompe l'oeil false eyelash effect) on stage. Here is an article about false eyelashes and burlesque from my blog: Ask me anything about Burlesque!

What is the most common mistake new burlesque dancers make?

Not finishing their song! I mention this all the time--don't walk off waving, have a big fun finish. If you know your song well, you can nail every beat and finish with a big ta-da! Check out the ending of Dirty Martini's number here and see if you think it would be the same if she had wandered offstage hoping the DJ would notice and fade out the song: Ask me anything about Burlesque!

how much money do burlesque performers make in one night?

Negative money to tens of thousands of dollars. Depends on the show and the performer! / Ask me anything about Burlesque!

What do you think about burlesque dancers who lip-sync to the song during their acts? Do you think it's too much like a drag show, or do you think it works?

I don't have a preference. I do think, however, that anyone who does it should know that lip-synching is a skill, not something to slop your way through. I am sometimes horrfied by performers mouthing a random lyric or two while doing a number, as if they were talking in their sleep! In his new book, RuPaul recommends that performers not lipsynch unless they've had three years of showgirl experience! (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that RuPaul and I have the same publisher.) Ask me anything about Burlesque!