Burlesque: Tricks of the Trade Part 4

This week our Tricks of the Trade blog is back, with some very special guest advice. Professional Scottish burlesque performer (and former ABC student, many years ago!) Vendetta Vain has spent the last few years training as a circus artist in New York and London, and we’ve been lucky enough to catch her somewhere between a ‘back planche’ and an ‘Amazon’ (those are fancy aerial moves, for those of you not in the know) to find out what hints and tips she has to offer to budding performers who are looking to add other skills into their burlesque routines.

Burlesque Vendetta
Vendetta performing a classic burlesque striptease

Vendetta says “Sometimes when people come to burlesque they do so from other areas of dance, such as ballet or belly dance, and it’s natural to want to incorporate your existing skills into what you’re doing. It gives you confidence knowing that you’re using something you’re already good at, and it can add an exciting variety to your routine. It is important to think about the tone and character of your act, and to balance the burlesque and dance well so that your performance doesn’t feel disjointed, but if you’re clever about it, almost any type of dance can be successfully worked into a burlesque routine. A great example of this is Daiquiri Dusk’s ‘Bonny Scots Lass’ which brings together the worlds of burlesque and traditional Scottish Highland dancing. You would think it was impossible to mix two such contrasting styles together, but she makes it work fabulously, and it is one of my favourites!”

Vendetta has been a firm fixture on the burlesque scene since 2007 and has seen many different skills incorporated into burlesque routines. “I’ve seen acts using rhythmic gymnastics, poetry, lip sync, puppetry, escapology, stilt walking, contact juggling, fire, circus, and even baton twirling. The variety of skills used in burlesque these days is astonishing.”

So what tips does Vendetta have for creating a burlesque-fusion piece and making it work for you?

1. Think carefully about why you are choosing to incorporate a different skill into your routine. Try and ensure it adds thematically to what you are doing, rather than shoehorning in a random skill for the sake of it!

2. Make sure the skill you have chosen fits with your character; either it’s something they would do, or a way they would move or express themselves. Alternatively it can stands in for a transformation, but if it sits awkwardly without explanation your act could end up looking fragmented.

3. Balance your additional skill with the burlesque element in terms of time and focus within the act – don’t rush through your striptease or fan dance just so you can get to your kickboxing…  OK, maybe not kickboxing… but then again, why not?

4. Try to avoid learning a new skill just so you can put it in a routine. Dedicating time to a pursuit should be made because you are interested and enjoy it for its own sake. If you are looking to ‘up your game’ this is often better achieved by investing in dance classes or private tuition rather than learning a couple of tricks.

5. Remember that if you choose to add a ‘circus’ skill such as fire, acrobatics or aerial, then you will need to make sure that you have all of the relevant legal coverage, including appropriate risk assessments and insurance.

6. Above all things though, remember to have fun and be creative – it’s the best thing about burlesque!

'Aerial' Vendetta
Vendetta demonstrates her aerial rope skills

Some good solid advice there to consider before you take up your new skill. We’d like to thank Vendetta for being a part of Tricks of the Trade and we hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog.

We’ll be back again soon with more tips and advice, but in the meantime, do check out Vendetta’s online fundraising campaign. Sadly running away with the circus just isn’t like it used to be; it’s a costly endeavor which requires intense study and hard work – Vendetta is currently fundraising to take her place on the prestigious degree programme at the National Centre for Circus Arts in London. Please visit her campaign here: