Audience Etiquette at a Burlesque Show

Burlesque is as much about the audience as it is about the performer. As a genre of theatre / cabaret / dance (or however else you define it) the interactive relationship between those onstage and those in the audience is crucial and it’s what sets burlesque apart from other performance types. In an era when we so often take the role of passive observer, settling down to watch movies at home or at the cinema, we don’t actively participate, we simply observe; burlesque is the antidote to this. It encourages audience participation; it’s all part of the magic.

Given the importance of the role of audience members, we thought it only fitting to do a series of blogs dedicated to those whose bums are on the seats out front; those who have got dressed up in their very best to come and see the performers do their thing.
So far, we’ve offered some tips and suggestions for your attire for such a night out and last week we gave you a rundown on what to expect when going to your first burlesque show as an audience member.
This week, we’re going to take a look at what makes for good audience etiquette at burlesque shows.

What is Good Burlesque Audience Etiquette?
Etiquette for audience response depends on the type of act on stage at any given time, but as a general rule of thumb, burlesque is like pantomime. What exactly do we mean by this? Basically, we’re referring to the fact that it breaks down the fourth wall, actively engaging the audience and thriving off of the live, interactive relationship with the crowd. It is this which creates the unique atmosphere that is part of what makes burlesque so special.

General audience etiquette permits whooping, cheering, ‘oohs’, ‘aahs’, applause, whistles and general sounds of encouragement. Comedy acts will obviously raise a laugh (if they’re doing their job right!) But sometimes you’ll find yourself watching something built upon a magnificent, visual spectacle and in this case, you may well find those around you stunned into silence; literally. That’s OK, this is normal, and you’ll usually find the pent up audience energy explodes into a grand round of applause at the end for these types of act.

Bad Etiquette
As a general rule, the ‘don’ts’ when it comes to being an audience member at a burlesque show are pretty obvious.

*Don’t interrupt / disrupt a performer or the host. Talking over someone’s act is very rude not just for the performer but for others trying to enjoy the show.

*Don’t shout inappropriate comments. This should be another given but we have seen it happen; remember, this is a (relatively) civilised event, so try and treat people with respect.

*Don’t help yourself to a little ‘souvenir’ in the form of a costume piece or prop! Again, another one you’d think would be obvious, but we’ve known performers lose everything from a glove, to a shoe, to a very expensive, fully-customised corset, when some slightly less than honest audience member decided they’d like something extra special to remember the evening by.

A Final Point: Can I Take Pictures?
One final point we’d like to touch on regarding audience etiquette is the question of photography which can be a touchy subject! Some shows specifically forbid photography, aside from their own official photographers, whilst others may allow it, but ask people not to use flash.

Whatever the requirements for a particular show, please do follow their rules, they are in place for a reason. For example, flash photography could be distracting for certain acts, particularly those with an element of danger, so it could be a health and safety matter. Others might be down to the performer’s preference and again, you should respect their wishes. Many performers don’t want hundreds of blurry, out of focus, badly lit camera phone photos or videos of them on the internet and that’s their choice.

We hope you’ve learned something useful in this week’s blog. If you missed our previous audience-orientated blogs, you can check them out below:

ABC: How to Dress For a Burlesque Show

Attending Your First Burlesque Show: What to Expect