A Basic Guide to Becoming a Memphis Burlesque Dancer
Becoming a burlesque dancer anywhere can be confusing, especially if you don’t have any connections to burlesque dancers. It really intimidates people when they find out that they have to take classes, sew their own costumes, do their own hair/makeup, and model at times. Never fear – if you take it one step at a time, are truly dedicated, and respectful – you can one day become a burlesque dancer.’
Step One: See a Burlesque Show.
This sounds like a no-brainer but I’m not just saying go to one show and be done with it. Start going to every show that involves burlesque. All troupes and shows are different. Seeing local, live shows helps you see what kind of performers your town has. It is a great chance to make your presence known amongst the performers just by saying hello. However, they will be busy mingling with everyone so don’t get discouraged! Pro Tip: Google is your BFF. A quick Google search of “Memphis Burlesque” or “Memphis burlesque classes” can really help you out.
Step Two: Take a Class.
Even if there are no burlesque classes in your area, you can still take almost any dance class to improve yourself. I have seen some of the best burlesque involving swing dance, hip hop moves, and other random dances. You don’t need to be a classically trained ballet dancer to be in burlesque but classes can make you go from awkward beginner to professional fairly quickly.
Step Three: Research.
Again, this is where your Google-fu needs to really shine. It’s one thing to just Youtube Dita von Teese videos but it’s a whole other level to research popular burlesque artists of today and yesterday. One book that I have on my nightstand is The Burlesque Handbook by Jo “Boobs” Weldon. It is one of the best resources for burlesque that I’ve ever found. Don’t forget to look up the burlesque legends, either. Also try to look up costumes of other performers to get an idea of what you’ll have to begin making.
Step Four: Save Your Money.
This is a step that I wish that I had known before I started burlesque. About three to four years ago, I remember seeing the Memphis Belles on stage. One of them made a joke, “If you want to make money, become a stripper. If you want to lose money, become a burlesque dancer.” Costumes, travel, etc will run you dry in your first couple of years if you don’t have a small nest egg at the least. Stock up on stockings, gloves, stage makeup, and pasties, too!
Step Five: Become An Intern/Stage Kitten.
Most people start out as stage kittens or stage maids for a few months if they can’t afford show tickets, classes, or just want to get involved before hitting the stage. Having this backstage view of events is pretty paramount to finding out if you’re in this for the long haul. You get to see a lot of behind the scenes work that you wouldn’t normally even consider is a part of burlesque.
Have more questions? Did I leave out anything? Comment below or check out this handy dandy FAQ about Memphis burlesque here.