Creating an Act
Once you’ve considered your persona, you’ll want to move onto creating your first act. Having already determined your style and character to a certain extent, you have a good starting block upon which to create your first routine.
A burlesque ‘act’ (sometimes referred to as a ‘show’, although it’s not in fact a full-length show in the sense of other theatrical forms) generally runs anything from 3-10 minutes. The average act is usually 3-6 minutes in length, comprising one or more pieces of music. However, it should be noted that some of burlesque’s more high-calibre performers often do lengthier pieces, for example Dita Von Teese and Catherine D’Lish.
Where to begin: Music & Themes / Ideas
Different performers work in different ways; some begin with the music and build upon that, others take a concept or theme and go in search of suitable music. Whichever route you decide to go down, the best thing when starting out is to choose music or an idea you are passionate about. You might be working on developing your act for some time and you could end up performing the piece for many years, so common sense dictates that you don’t choose a style or idea that you don’t like!
Also, it’s advisable to choose a style or theme that fits you, for example, if you don’t come from a dance background, it’s probably not wise to aim for a classical ballet-style en pointe performance for your first show!
Developing your act
Having chosen your music and theme, it’s time to get to work on your act! Here are a few tips for developing that first piece for the stage…
1. Research! You may think you have the most amazing, wonderful, original & unique idea which nobody else could possibly have conceived before and you might. However, chances are, you’ll find that someone has done something similar at some point over the years and the last thing you want to do is unintentionally rip off another performer’s act. This is a major faux pas on the burlesque scene.
2. Rehearse! Undoubtedly a given, but the importance of practicing your routine and polishing your performance, style & delivery is crucial.
3. Experiment with different ideas and moves: while you’re working on your act, this is the time to try different things; what sort of movement suits the music & your character best? Does a particular move look better from this angle or that? Which reveal works best for your style of performance or music?
4. Familiarise yourself with the music, inside-out! You should be hearing your chosen track in your dreams by the time you’re ready to hit the stage! If you don’t come from a performance background, you’re bound to experience some nerves that first time, but if you know your music off by heart, you won’t get lost. It also helps if something does go wrong – if you know your track well, you’ll find it easier to improvise if needed.
5. Get another opinion; it might seem daunting to show your piece to a friend or dance teacher, but it can be really helpful to get an outside opinion on your work, as they’ll often pick up on things you might not realise or notice.
That brings us to the end of part 3 of our Getting into Burlesque series.