Burlesque burn-out: Why does it happen and what to do about it?

burn out

I want to share a secret: for a while now, I haven’t been feeling right about performing.

There are always positive moments in any experience, natch, but overall, for a while now, I have entered a show with great anxiety and come away with a feeling of inadequacy. And its not just that- ANYTHING to do with performing makes me anxious, even checking facebook.

So I make an appointment with Dr Cabaret (who by the way is a cat), and this is how it goes….

Dr Cat

Dr Cabaret: “Back again, Ms Gray? How about you explain your symptoms to me?”

Me: “Ok, here goes:

– I am anxious, dreading my next shows and feeling bad about the last ones.

– I am increasingly critical of my performances and fear I have lost my ability.

– I feel inadequate

– Things about burlesque which previously didn’t bother me or which I could tolerate, now really piss me off.

– I have lost my creativity, ideas and general motivation for burlesque.

(Mr Hanky feels like crap)

What the heck is going on? Am I losing my MIIIIND?”

Dr Cabaret: “Ms Gray, I am sorry to tell you that you have BURLESQUE BURNOUT”


Me:  Blimey. So what should I do, Dr C?

Dr Cabaret: “Well, Ms Gray, you need to work out why you have burn-out. It is usually due to a collection of things.

-Doing too many gigs with not enough down-time: its great to be busy but if, over a protracted amount of time, you consistently have no free time because all you do is gig, then this can creep up on you.


-Travelling a lot and being away from home. If you are someone who recharges in your own space with your family, travel can take its toll.

– Burlesque unpleasantness: the bitchiness and competition can really drag you down.

– Pushing too hard: its good to challenge yourself but if you constantly force yourself out of your comfort zone, it can be emotionally exhausting.

– Other life stuff: Other life stuff or personal stuff can get in the way of your enthusiasm or creativity

Me: Oh, well all those apply to me. Suppose I should’ve seen it coming, really.


Soooo- I have burlesque burn-out.  Question is, what should I do about it? Well,  I have decided to take a partial break- still do my existing gigs but not actively seek more, have some chill time, follow up on some other projects I have ongoing like book writing and photography exhibitions. I also know I need to address another issue I have, which relates to the way I see myself and my body, but I am saving that for the next blog post!

There isnt really much point in flogging a dead horse, so if you feel like burlesque is doing nothing for you, going nowhere in particular or making you unhappy, but you don’t want to give up entirely, taking some time out is a great idea. Burlesque is pretty darn intense and you have to work so hard at it, plus there is always some facebook post ready to remind you that someone is better than you in some way- no wonder it takes its toll.  Taking time off can be scary, because everything moves so fast in burlesque. You feel like if you drop back, 10 more performers will spawn to take your place, and you will be left behind.  The truth, though, that its easier than you think to get back into it when you are ready to return, and in the meantime you can go to shows, or work on other things, or just totally chill, so when you do get back to business, it is with a fresh perspective and a bunch of new plans! Rock n Roll!


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