A long while ago I did a survey regarding the “teaching problem” in burlesque, and having sat on the info for ages, here it is!.
We all know the issues with teaching in burlesque:
-Inexperienced performers teaching
-Inexperienced teachers teaching
-Burlesque graduates being too ‘cookie-cutter’ or not trained well enough
-Bad reflection on the credibility and quality of burlesque as an art/industry
And so forth.
Over the years, some experienced performers have looked into setting up a burlesque lesson curriculum of sorts, with the aim to get accredited. After all, other performance arts have levels, exams, and guidelines if not a curriculum. Why not burlesque? This has been quite thoroughly investigated, and the main problem is getting accreditation and who to get it from. We don’t really fit anywhere, not with dance or circus or acting or fitness organisations (although there is a fitness accredited burlesque instructors course, which “qualifies” you to teach burlesque, but more in the fitness realm than in theatre).
There are divided opinions about how teaching is best approached in burlesque, and any effort would need to be informed and supported by the burlesque world.
So I did a survey to find out what you all think: here is a summary of the results (happy to provide full results on request):
Burlesque Teaching Survey: 73 respondents
1. What do you think about having a set of broad guidelines for teaching burlesque?
60/73 felt is was a good idea, or a good idea with some conditions
7/73 thought it was a bad idea
6 made a comment without stating an opinion either way
“I think it’s an excellent idea – every other type of dance has developed these sooner or later. It helps the teacher, because (s)he doesn’t have to create everything from scratch and it helps the customers, because they know the teacher and the classes have at least some sort of standard.2
“good for those looking to learn basics”
“Better, you will know exactly what’s going on in a lesson you’re paying for”
“A good idea, as long as it’s not too strict – the whole point of burlesque is the celebration of individuality”
“good idea, or at least classification ie hen/fun party, beginners level, improvers, masterclass etc”
“I think this would be a good idea to protect the consumer and the integrity of industry as a whole.”
“To a degree I don’t really believe anyone can teach someone Burlesque, just the various principals/styles and allow the performer to pick what suits them.”
“I think there are good and bad points to having guidelines. I think it will hinder the creative side and make burlesque so generic and the same. it will also hinder developing artist and the development of ideas in burlesque.”
“Someone with little experience may be perfect to teach in their small town. Everyone’s expertise is different and unique. You cannot codify that.”
“I think it’s a bad idea. Burlesque shouldn’t have guidelines, performers shouldn’t all have to come from the same basic moves or where is the individuality and creativity we have now?! Who is to say what are even the ‘broad’ guidelines for what burlesque is!”
“Good idea in principal, but I think getting everyone to recognise them might be the issue, especially those not really in the know with the Burly scene”
“I am appalled at the idea of standardisation in the arts”
“I’m not overly convinced it’s necessary – is this not taking away the self-expression of the teacher and pupil?”
“I think it’s an interesting idea but as there is no governing body or qualification to oversee this it won’t actually mean very much anyway.”
“There will always be disparities in one class to another. The main goal you that should be strived for is teaching burlesque in a way that will enrich the pupils AND be true to he ultimate goal of progressing the art form of burlesque.”
“I think that dance , posture & movement should be the backbone, I think that the teacher should be qualified and have years experience in Burlesque for anyone to actually learn anything, It is an art form after all.”
“Should be very broad and not include “rules”
“A good idea. I think getting agreement on what the guidelines are will be difficult.”
2. What do you think a core basic burlesque course should cover?
Summary of the main points
Expressiveness- face and body
Walking in heels
Basic history of burlesque
Fashion, styles, hair and makeup
Simple end routine
How to create a routine
Peeling (gloves, stockings etc)
Shimmy, bump n grind
Promoting originality, creativity
Exploration of self and character
Warm up, cool down, health and safety
Parody, humour, character, story- the “mood” of burlesque
How to get work as a burlesquer
Body and self confidence
What not do do on stage, things to avoid
“I´d like to see a difference between “burlesque 101″, which would need to include all aspects of burlesque as a stage art, and the dance class type of burlesque which mainly concentrates on the moves and the tease and tone type, so to say. So that there would be a possibility to have burlesque dance as a hobby, without any prerequisites about going on stage ever; and also proper classes and courses from professionals for those who in fact are willing to step to the limelight.”
“It depends if you are teaching a course for people that want to become burlesque performers or if its just a course for the general public,basics are walking posing stocking removal,gloves,fans if possible,a brief history of burlesque,chair work and coming up with their own act /ideas.”
3. What advantages do you think having an accepted set of guidelines could have?
“More acceptability as an art form”
“Students would know what they are getting.”
“Helpful for teachers”
“Safer./fairer for students; knowing teacher is experienced or qualified, insured etc”
“No advantages as will not get rid of bad teachers”
“Promote understanding of the genre”
“Guarantees the basics yet allows for individual twist”
4. Can you think of any disadvantages to having a set of guidelines?
“Might not encourage creativity or development of acts”
“Burlesque will become like Zumba- still with bad teachers”
“Getting it to all teachers would be difficult”
“Fear that could lead to gatekeepers of the “best burlesque”
“Not all teachers have same strengths”
“If sounds too serious might scare off potential students”
“What about good teachers who do not have dance teachers qualification?”
“Might move focus to performance when many take burlesque just for fun”
“Anyone might think they can do it just by following the guidelines.”
5. If you already teach a class, would you be willing to actively adopt/support the guidelines if you agreed with them?
“Guidelines are mandatory in a teacher’s work”
“Syllabi for classes should have class description, assessment, course breakdown but content should not be quantified.”
“Guidelines would be a helpful starting point in planning”
“No- classes are tailored to student’s needs and wishes”
“Yes and would break them too, to develop personal style”
“Yes, as long as was not told there was one correct way of doing burlesque”
6. If you teach a class, what would be needed for you to accept/adopt the guidelines- any conditions/ stipulations?
“”Guidelines written by performers, dancers and teachers
“Broad enough guidelines so that each teach can interpret in own way”
“Qualified” should not be to do with time performing”
“Not every teacher wants to teach every type of burlesque”
7. Is there anything you think a person MUST have in order to teach a burlesque class well? (performing experience, teaching experience, dance/acting training etc)
“Dance training, teacher training, performed burlesque”
“Experience on stage”
“Ability to instruct confidently”
“Background in theatre”
“No dance or acting training is necessary”
“Depends on class type- for fun/.hen then dance teacher more important, if teaching for the stage then should be an experienced performer”
“Insured, professional, customer focused. Basic first aid, warm up and cool down”
“Be good at teaching-a fabulous performer does not make a good teacher necessarily”
“Knowledge of the genre”
“People should be able to learn burlesque from watching it, not through classes”
“Minimum 3 years experience for beginners, 5 years for anything higher”
“Teaching and lesson planning experience, don’t need to be a performer”
8. Any other comments?
“There should be more transparency about exact what you’ll be learning in a class. It is helpful for a potential student to know what they will be doing in a hip hop burlesque class for example. IE ‘Pinky Cheex’s (fake name) hip hop burlesque class will be doing a warm up, getting your cardio rate up with some moderate movement and then and hour of isolations on specific body part, then a choreographed class walk through for 20 minutes and then a warm down for 10.’ I like this. It may seem demanding, but a student is able to choose what to learn.”
“I think we need guidelines for burlesque classes otherwise we’ll have a bunch of ‘burlesque performers’ who will have the idea of burlesque being ‘Dance around a pole and dance on some guys lap till he gets what he pays for’ (I unfortunately know people who will accept this as burlesque) I’m all for the guidlines 😀 … Reading back on that comment I sound stuck up, but I honestly think we need a stronger divide between strippers and performers.”
“”I think that anyone in burlesque, whether teaching or performing, needs to set their ego aside and remember they are delivering a service to the customer, and making everything right for the customer is the single most important focus.
I think it’s a great idea in principle, as long as it doesn’t kill individuality.
“if you are going to produce some kind of requirement for burlesque teachers you must do this as fairly as possible. try to get in touch with other dance teaching organisations to see what they do. it is not enough that the teacher has performance ecperience in my mind, this will not necessarily make them able to break down routines for a newcomer, advise on safety such as warm up and down, foot placement, dangers of dancing on the wrong shoes, look out for potential issues such as clients with disabilities etc. at least a trained ballet dancer has gone through acredited dance training his/herself and will be aware of these things.”
“it may already be available but a list of classes and or teachers with a star rating would be good. Maybe an anonymous star rating. As much as you never want to spread malice, you may have gone to a class but not found it your cup of tea, only want to give it three stars due to the heavy exercise and fitness vibe and less of the glam and burly vibe… but you dont want your teacher to see its you.”
“”People place to much emphasis on how long some teachers have been ‘performing burlesque.’ I have seen some fabulous teachers who may have a dance or singing background who have grown up on a stage and make brilliant teachers for burlesque-just because you have been performing for 5 years it doesnt make you a brilliant teacher-or performer for that matter.
“Its up to whoever wants to attend to choose their class”
“I think (with the exception of just for fun/hen party style classes) burlesque should be taught as a theatrical form with the opportunity to include dance, comedy, striptease etc… too many ‘teachers’ are just fitness instructors who show you how to take off a glove in a sexy way… fine for hens but pretty pointless for potential performers.”
“The idea is lunacy and amounts to yet another iteration in the perfidious and importunate institutions that wish to control burlesque for their own profit at the expense of the prosperity of the industry and the creativity of performers.”
“My classes are more like workshops & the girls have to develop on the basic ideas. I am just there more for guidance & we do a section on body confidence each week which I feel is vital as I’ve seen the difference & the girls have commented on the difference it makes to them. We are all on equal footing without too much of a hierarchy. Good performers don’t necessarily make good teachers I think it’s more determined by someone’s own personality & character.”
“What’s the trend of late for trying to make burlesque in the *geographical area specified* to conform to a certain set of guidelines/rules set up by a small number of people?”
Make of this what you will! Comments welcome- Glo xxxx