Beating the Burlesque Blues: Part 1

Almost any performer who’s done a reasonable stint on the scene will have encountered the Burlesque Blues at some point. Working in the creative industry as we do means that our work will inevitably ebb and flow; both in terms of scheduling and the amount of work we are undertaking at any one time and our creative process. Just like writers, performers can find themselves stumped for ideas or struggling with a creative block at some point in their career.

So what do we do when we find ourselves in a rut? For all the glitter and glamour of the burlesque world, the vast majority of performers spend a lot of time working alone (aside from when they’re at a show obviously) and it can be hard to pull yourself out of a slump and find new motivation if you’re feeling isolated and suffering from the burlesque blues.

Find New Sources of Inspiration
If you’ve been on the circuit for a while, it can be very easy to slip into a certain style and find yourself doing the same acts / types of acts over and over again. You make your name for a certain gimmick or theme and it can be tough to move away from that. Or, you simply let yourself rest in the comfortable zone that you’ve established and can end up in a sort of stalemate. In order to keep evolving and growing as a performer, it’s crucial to seek out new sources of inspiration, especially from outside of the burlesque world

If you always opt for  pin-up style, why not try something new? (Image: Gil Elvgren)
If you always opt for pin-up style, why not try something new? (Image: Gil Elvgren)

The fantastic thing about burlesque is that it is such a multi-faceted art form, meaning that your inspiration can come from virtually anywhere. Try listening to a different kind of music than you’d normally use for example; it can make you have to change the way you approach the creation of an act, expanding your creative process and keeping things fresh. Or if you normally draw inspiration from a particular ‘classic’ era (eg 1950s cheesecake pin-up), think outside your usual box and try to draw ideas from another time period or style. By all means, work to your strengths, but don’t allow yourself to become too focussed or blinkered and always be on the look-out for inspiration; you never know where or when it might strike.

Rekindle Your Passion
Another potential stumbling block if you’ve been performing for a while is wondering where the passion has gone. As in many a doomed relationship, the feverish excitement with which you first launched into your love affair with burlesque seems to have gone AWOL at some point, leaving you perhaps not dreading a performance, but at least wishing for a quiet night in, or (heaven forbid!) a traditional 9 to 5.

As wonderful and exciting as burlesque is, for those of you that make a career of it, it is, at the end of the day, your job. You need it to survive. And it’s somewhere along the line, from newbie-hobbyist to part / full-time performer, that the zest becomes watered down. So how can you rekindle your passion? Best answer: get out there and see some good burlesque. I mean REALLY good, world-class, scrape-your-jaw-off-the-floor burlesque. Two of the most exciting shows I’ve ever attended were the Burlesque Hall of Fame and the New York Burlesque Festival. The sheer number, quality and variety of performers, coming from all around the world to create such amazing shows is quite like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. And it really does reignite that spark, that old enthusiasm and that fire in you, reminding you just why you fell in love with burlesque in the first place.

Trixie Little, crowned reigning Queen of Burlesque at BHoF 2015 is a fantastic example of an awe-inspiring performer who is always exciting and innovative in her work.

Join us again next week for some more top tips on how to chase away the burlesque blues.