Ruby Slippers draws on her journey from student, to solo performer, to teacher, to winner of Miss Burlesque Western Australia 2015 to put together this easily digestible list of pointers for students and amateur performers looking to push themselves further in 2016.
The first class I ever taught! Giving Jailbird Sass at the July Fresh Faced Follies Grad Show in 2013.
Photography by John Leonard.
Resolution: I want to do a class!
Phwoar! You’re actually going to do it! You’ve been talking about it for a while but now you’re definitely REALLY truly going to do it this time. I reflected on my first ever classes and these pointers jumped to mind.
1) Stepping out – It’s great to have somebody to hold your hand so you don’t feel too daunted by the big scary world of burlesque, but this is also a great place to make friends and new connections, so don’t be shy about turning up solo! In my first ever class as a student was a gal who had recently moved to Perth for work, and she wasted no time in signing up for classes to meet likeminded people! We are still friends to this day.
2) Nobody is looking at you! When you’re learning a routine, don’t stress, everyone else is far too concerned about following the teacher (who is sometimes looking at you but that’s their job!) and making sure they’re doing the right thing – you should do the same!
3) This is a female friendly space! Burlesque was popularized by women and revived by them too! Now the art form includes all of the people from all of the genders, but for the most part your first classes will focus on feminine movement and shapes. Butts will jiggle, boobs will bounce, hips will shake – that all means you’re doing it right!
4) Get inspired – Phwoar! You’ve started classes and now you’re part of a totally awesome community! Chat to your teachers about which artists they love and check them out online. Watch videos of your favourite local performers, but remember nothing beats the atmosphere of a live show alongside your new family! Fringe season is approaching and it’s a great time to get amongst the action and witness some incredible local and international acts.
5) Express yourself – it didn’t take long for me to don a full time uniform of sparkly underpants, headscarves, flowers and heels when I started doing classes. It’s a joy to see students start out in sloppy tanks and yoga pants and slowly start to express their inner tiki goddess/Charleston vamp/vintage goth/etc/etc/etc aesthetic when they come to classes or shows.
Snaps (by my mother) from my first ever solo performance in September 2011! Note the shoddy costuming and extreme enthusiasm.
Resolution: I want to do a solo performance!
I mean it feels like the next logical step, right? You’ve been mulling on some ideas for a while now and your thirst for the limelight is unrelenting. It’s Solo Time!
1) Work to your strengths – everyone has something they feel more at ease with on stage. Got a strong dance background? Work that choreo! Are you the class clown? Ham it up! I’ve had solo students bring inspiration from their backgrounds in circus, swing dance, pole, singing, classical jazz, being a mother, being a university student…
2) Make it worth the money, honey – if you’re performing in a student graduation show, chances are people have paid money to see you on the stage. They’re not expecting the Moulin Rouge, but they do want to see someone with passion and drive. Make sure your act is rehearsed, give them loads of face, and let the audience know you really, really want to be on that stage, sharing your story.
3) But also save your money, honey! – Your first solo doesn’t need to be a bank breaking exercise. My first costume involved a sale rack bra that I adorned with lace, plastic gems, and a big necklace sewn to the straps. You don’t need fancy set dressings, painted backdrops, or Swarovskis to tell your story. Don’t worry, they can come later.
4) Take the praise! Your family and friends are going to be chuffed to bits for you, and if you’ve worked hard then you will have earned it. Everyone’s family is different – my mum was at my first ever solo performance, alongside my childhood best friends mother and my aunty. I’ve also had friends tell me that they would never feel comfortable watching me perform, so take your wins and remember you have a whole burlesque family who are excited for you too!
5) Take the criticisms! Speak to your teachers and people in the know about how you can improve. Be open to their advice, they are doing this because they care about you, and the art form. And, as hard as it can be, watch video footage of your performance. It can feel like torture, but it’s vital to your advancement as a performer.
Photography by Michael K.P. Robinson
Photography by John Leonard
Photography by John Leonard
*Please enjoy three years of photos of me not winning Miss Burlesque Western Australia (but having an amazing time in the process) in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Resolution: I want to do a competition!
Heck yes! This is a big step to take and I’m super excited for you. I’ll take the Miss Burlesque Australia competition as an example.
1) Time and money. Yup. It’s a big commitment. You might disappear off the social radar for a little while as you get together everything for this competition. You’ll be pulling together a gown and three entire costumes, as well as props and rehearsal/mentoring time. There are absolutely ways that you can be thrifty about it, if you’re handy with a needle and thread then fabricating some bits and pieces in your spare time is a dollar saver. Ruby DeLure and I have helped each other out with large embellishment jobs on more than one occasion, and it’s also a great way to see the people you’ve been neglecting because you’re working so hard!
2) Ticking boxes. It doesn’t matter if the audience loved your act, if it doesn’t meet the competition criteria then you won’t score well in that category. If you want valuable feedback, have a mentoring session with someone experienced in the competition and they can steer you in the right direction. It’s great that your mum thinks the costume is pretty and that it’s a very nice act but unless your mum is The Strawberry Siren then it’s a good idea to seek help specific to the competition!
3) Respect. RESPECT. Respect the competition. It’s actually a part of your contract (and common sense) that you are not to badmouth the competition. You may have paid to be on the stage but that doesn’t mean you deserve to be there. Prove it.
4) You might not win. Truth fact. This year 61 people did not win the title of Miss Burlesque Australia. So if you can’t walk away with a crown then at least make sure you walk away knowing you gave your absolute best and had a good time doing it.
5) Diva Free Zone. It’s cramped enough backstage so please leave your diva attitudes at the door. We all need somewhere to hang our costumes, a mirror to do our makeup in and a scrap of table space to put our hairbrush. Sometimes you’ve got an entire entertainment centre worth of dressing rooms, sometimes you’re using a kitchenette. Yup, not even a whole kitchen. Everyone backstage is under pressure and has a lot on their mind but a little bit of patience goes a long way. Remember that these are your sisters and no matter your level of experience or who made your costume or how much your prop costs, you are all in this together. Help someone do up their shoes because they were so flustered they forgot to put them on. Offer to put some extra pins in that headpiece. Loan someone your glitter spray. Grab an extra bottle of water from the fridge for the person you’re sharing a mirror with. Please look after each other because most of you are not going to win the competition tonight and when the glitter has settled, you want to be walking away feeling more in love than ever before with your amazing burlesque community.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! At the time I was announced I was slumped over a speaker backstage with my eyes barely open. It’s an exhausting experience, guys!
Crowned Miss Burlesque Western Australia 2015, photography by John Leonard.
Happy 2016, lovers! May all of your burlesque dreams come true.
Ruby x• read more •