Reviews & Feedback- What are they good for?

Burlesque is a very supportive world. We praise and encourage each other, we cheer each other on. Constructive feedback is rare and any reviews tend to be either descriptive or uncritically glowing.

It is quite an unusual situation, as most other creative scenes are known for their brutal feedback and often unflinching review process. So what are the positives and negatives of reviews and feedback? Does it matter that we don’t really have these things?

Feedback
In some ways, the lack of critical feedback makes it harder for us to see our performances clearly- if everyone constantly tells you that you are AMAZING, then you will probably think you are, even if you are not. Alternatively, you get the situation where if people don’t tell you you were good, but just don’t say anything, you interpret that as “you were crap”, and get paranoid and frustrated because it is so uncertain (if you are me!).Feedback, delivered in the right way, allows us to develop and improve as performers, and have a more realistic idea of our abilities as performers. But not all feedback is equal; what makes it good?

Experience Feedback from someone who has seen a lot, made a lot of their own mistakes, can be valuable. An experienced person is better placed to advise, than someone who is not. Peer review, even if your peers are not particularly experienced, can be useful too, but is likely to be more based on opinion.

Constructive All criticism should come with an explanation and a solution. It is not enough to say “that doesn’t work”, it needs to be followed up with “and this is why” and some suggestions of how to solve the problem. And its not about being told what to do- a good act doctor will work with you to find the best ways to do things. After all, it’s your act!

The shit sandwich; all feedback should a mixture of what works and what doesn’t, because you learn from successes as well as failures.

Impartial Feedback should be without agenda! Choose carefully who you ask for feedback, because even a performer friend might not be able to be impartial, if they are in competition with you for shows. A teacher, an impartial performer or someone you trust implicitly is best.

Reviews
Reviews are a similar kettle of fish- if done constructively and well, they can be useful; if written from inexperience or with an agenda, perhaps less so.

Up to press (with one or two notable exceptions), reviewing in burlesque has mainly followed the same pattern- it is either purely descriptive, overly negative, or too nice, which is of limited use. How can we use reviews to our advantage as performers?

A good review will be impartial (to the extent that this is possible; reviewers are people with motives and predispositions, like everyone else). It will not simply describe a show, it will look at it critically, mentioning good points, bad points and points for improvement. It should give you an idea of what to expect from a performer or show. It will do more than describe a show or act; it will analyse. But what use can we, the performers, make of reviews? Here are a couple of tips.

Take it with a pinch of salt

A review is just someone’s opinion. If they say you are AMAZEBALLS, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are. If they say you are TOTAL SHIT, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should sack it all in. Learn to spot the constructive points and use them, but beware of absolute statements about your crapness or brilliance. Just because this reviewer loves you, doesn’t mean the next one will and just because this reviewer hated your act, doesn’t mean the next guy will. 

Use the comments to develop

If its a proper review it will have some comments you can use to your advantage. If the reviewer says your narrative was rushed, or your striptease was clumsy, or your jokes fell flat, consider it. The point of being an entertainer is to please the audience, so although you should take it with a pinch of salt as mentioned above, don’t dismiss comments out of hand. You may be convinced that they are wrong for not understanding your narrative or for disliking the way you take your gloves off, but maybe there is something you can learn from these comments. Be brave, and consider that this time you might not have hit the nail on the head. F*cking up isn’t the end of the world, and you can always do better next time.

Don’t take it too personally

It can be really harsh if you get negative criticism in a review, particularly if it only points out the bad stuff with no constructive comments. You may be tempted to go online and complain, you might want to challenge the review or send an angry email to the reviewer (remember in Friends when Monica stalked the guy who called her Mahi Mahi “awful awful”?). DON’T DO THIS! This person is entitled to their opinion and entitled to publish it. Getting dodgy reviews is part of show biz. Take a deep breath, see if you can extract anything useful from the comments to improve your performance, then move on. Just because Lydia Thompson allegedly beat up a chap who gave her a bad review, doesn’t mean you should. 

All this sounds brilliant! What is the problem? Why are we not all over feedback and proper reviews? I will tell you why: BECAUSE IT FRICKING HURTS!

Boy does it sting when someone criticises your work. Your act, your brand, you product; its your baby. Its your creation. It is not easy to have someone come in and tell you that it is not a brilliant as you hoped. But no one can get it totally right all of the time, and you can learn so much from buggering up. If you have a problem in life, you go to your wisest confident for advice, right? And the same in burlesque- 2 expert heads are always going to be better than one. Even if you reject the feedback ultimately, it can only make you more aware as a performer, to find out about other points of view.

In some ways, the supportive, uncritical nature of burlesque is fortunate. It allows the tentative and inexperienced performer to find their feet and develop without their confidence being knocked. I personally avoided proper feedback for years because of my own lack of confidence, but when I actually got it, it did me good. We need to learn not to fear feedback- YOU DONT HAVE TO BE FLAWLESS ALL THE TIME! MAKING MISTAKES DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE NOT A GOOD PERFORMER, IT JUST MEANS YOU MADE A MISTAKE.

So there is a lot to be gained from feedback and constructive review, as scary as it can seem.

But just to prove that reviews are not the be-all-and-end-all final word on your worth as a performer, here are some funny review comments I have encountered that show that reviewers can be less than credible…

“The lead singer had the most atrocious and unbelievable fake French accent” (the lead singer was genuinely French)

“The dancers were terrible and not professional” (they were trained ballerinas)

<pThe women had really bad make-up, really overdone" (its called stage make-up)

“witless and synthetic” (first review of Les Miserables the show)

 

The Promotion Problem: Should you fake it til you make it?

I was recently talking with a friend of mine about “faking it til you make it”- projecting the illusion of success until so many people believe you that it becomes the truth. This got me thinking about the ethics of promotion and marketing (if such things can ever go hand in hand!). What is promotion, and how can we put it to best use without going too far?

Whilst most of us would be uncomfortable with using lies to promote ourselves, or even with too much exaggeration; most of us could also probably stand to be a bit more forward when it comes to self-promotion. It would be great to be able to hire a real PR wizard, but the majority of us can’t afford this, and we have to do it ourselves. Its up to us how we represent ourselves, so where is the line between dressing up the truth in a sparkly dress and taking it out on the town, and putting sequins on bullshit?

Promotion is necessary-that is how we advertise our product and get work. So how do we get it right? How do we make sure our promo is not too dull, not too over the top? Wikipedia clarifies PR as follows…

“What good PR really does is find the great stories, information, perspective and achievements that are already there…s

So PR is pulling out the great things you do and are, and making sure everyone knows about it, rather than inventing something that is not there, leading others to believe something that is not quite true.

As I have said in many of the burlesque advice sessions I do, its definitely good to project an air of business and success on line. Seem busy, seem productive, seem in demand, by blowing your horn about what you are up to. And when writing blurb- don’t undersell yourself, promote your good points, be dazzlingly factual. Easier said than done, right? Most of us have horribly buggered up our blurb and promo stuff at some point- underplayed ourselves so no one would want to book us, or grossly overblown our own merit etc. When I think of some of the bloopers I have written in the past… cringe! But its a learning curve, and its bound to happen.

Here are some examples of different ways to present yourself on-line:

You meet your friends for lunch. They are performers in their own right who run a successful show in a nightclub. They ask you to perform in a couple of months time, over lunch. How do you sell this?

Post 1. The everyday post

“Went for lunch today with @Rosie Lips and @Dita Goodrack #burlyteaandcakes”

PR impact: Not huge, it lets people know you have been up to burly stuff but is pretty functional and descriptive

Post 2. The rose-coloured tint post

“Great lunch today with @Rosie and @Dita, interesting conversation and wonderful ladies, some exciting projects coming up soon! #excitingburlesquetimes”

PR impact: Good, keeps people interesting and makes you sound busy and exciting. Yes, this kind of post is also a bit annoying sometimes, but it does the PR job.

Post 3. The overblown post

“So honoured to have been invited to lunch with international showgirls @Rosie Lips and @Dita Goodrack, and to have been specially selected to perform at their no 1 show! #successfulshowgirlsuperstarsOMG”

PR Impact: Strong but use with caution, can backfire if overused/misused.

Obviously the line can be very fine, and its not always easy to decide if your promotional statement goes too far or not far enough! You sing a couple of songs at some small gigs, should you market yourself as a SINGER? You do a few TF shoots, are you now a SUCCESSFUL MODEL? And so forth.

Things to think about…

Who are your audience?

Who are you aiming your promo at? If you are pitching to the burlesque world, it might be worth considering that people will be able to spot hyperbole, to an extent, because they know you, they know the scene, the shows, the agents, the bookings, and each other. You can still make yourself sound good, of course, but outright fibs or huge exaggerations might be counter-productive. But if it is an outside audience that doesn’t know you from Adam or Eve, then perhaps be a bit more grandiose can work better.

What are you trying to achieve?

Have a plan. Have a brand and play to it. Think about of what you are trying to convince people, what you are trying to achieve. What is your marketing goal, how do you want to be seen? As suggested by Ivy Wilde, it is good to remember that things like social media are a tool and what you put on there, represents you as a professional product as well as a person. Are you drawing attention to your achievements? Are you bigging yourself up a bit, making yourself sound good? Do you want people to think you are doing well at what you do? Great, that’s PR. If your promotion would lead people to think you are way more accomplished, successful, famous or whatever than you are, or that you are doing things that you are not, then it might be worth a rethink. Because if you make the people who are paying expect more than you can give, it could backfire. You don’t want to disappoint your bookers or the viewing public.

BUT!!! And this is a big but (huh huh), it really is possible to convince people that you are what you say, especially if you are pretty, charismatic, and they are drunk/or don’t know a lot about whatever it is you are claiming to be queen of. I know it is controversial and we don’t like the idea that success in life doesn’t necessarily come from hard work, skill and talent, but you CAN become famous just for being famous, by pretending to be famous. Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lydia Thompson, they were shameless publicity hounds who would not let a small thing like the truth stop them from marketing themselves as the queens of burlesque, and eventually they became the queens of burlesque. Obviously, they were all marvellous, but you get my gist. I am sure we can think of many celebs who got where they are through clever marketing alone. And to be fair, being a PR evil genius is a talent in itself! Shameless self-promotion is part of burlesque history.

I love how home-grown burlesque is, how hard we work to get where we are. We practice, we slog, we devote ourselves, we work our way up from the ground, and we hopefully see rewards. Perhaps it would be a shame to see all that left behind for a culture of slick marketing and a glossy schtick. Perhaps it would encourage art less if we all start valuing fame over art. Or maybe that is how burlesque will move on. I personally want to earn my way to success then get noticed, not blag my way to the top THEN get earn it, if you get what I mean. But I am aware that this is probably not always the most effective way to do things, in a cut-throat media-soaked world. After-all, a certain Mrs Marylin Manson marketing herself cleverly was a big reason why the modern revival got a kick-start in the first place!

Other viewpoints welcome, please comment!

Fraud Syndrome and being a bit sh*t

Recently someone asked me for my opinion about why we get bullying in burlesque. The obvious (and age old) answer is jealousy (natural, understandable and something we have to acknowledge- see previous post https://lifeisaburlesque.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/the-jelly-problem-what-do-with-jealousy/), but the other key things are people just feeling really worried and crap about themselves and their ability as a performer, feeling inadequate, feeling like you have snuck on stage and someone will eventually realise and scream “You! Get off the stage!! You are not a proper performer!”

 Fraud syndrome, I call it (and yep, I have it).

I think burlesque is unique (except maybe for stand up comedy??) in that it allows people with no background in performing arts, no training and no skill to get on a stage in front of paying audiences and perhaps build a career out of this. And thank god for that cos if it didn’t  I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing 7 years later, for I was one of the “No training no skill no background” new performers.

What do I mean by skill? People often get very uptight when this is said, I assume cos it isn’t clear what is meant by skill. To be a skilled performer, you have to have a skill, and usually you will have trained for a long time to have that skill, circus school stage school performing arts qualification ballet school etc. You will be a dancer, a juggler, an aerialist, a singer and so forth. However, by saying “not a skilled performer” I don’t mean the performer is crap. Saying someone is not skilled is NOT AN INSULT!!. Nor am I saying you cant learn to be skilled at burlesque without having trained in a specific discipline. So you can be a good performer, an entertaining performer, without being skilled, trained etc.  I am not particularly skilled, though am more so than I was at first.
 
So many of us come into burlesque without any background in performing arts. It doesn’t mean we aren’t good or that we wont do well, but we will be aware of the gap between us and those that are trained and skilled.

I remember vividly the first time I performed in a theatre (theatre lounge but still), the Royal Court in Liverpool, back in 2008. It was for Retrotease which pre-dated the Martini Lounge. As I sat in the dressing rooms, looking at the actual lights round the mirrors and listening to the stage sound being played to us through speakers, I could not believe I was there. And in part, that has never gone away. Perhaps for those of us who don’t have the theatrical background, we will always feel a bit like we have snuck in the back door and shouldn’t really be allowed. Perhaps trained people feel that too, I don’t know.

Anyway, there is a point to this, here it comes: if we have fraud syndrome we can be very sensitive about receiving anything but positive feedback. I know that it took me 4 years to work up the courage to seek out brutal, honest feedback from an experienced person. If anyone had given me that before that point, I think it would have knocked my already-fragile confidence to the point I would have given up. Because I felt I shouldn’t really be there. 

So there is something to be said for the supportive nature of the “oh you were great” burlesque culture. It allows us to build our confidence in an area where usually we would not even get a look-in. 

But all the support is not necessarily good either. With constructive and honest criticism, we can grow. An act that 2 or 3 people have advised you upon to WILL be better than one you create by yourself. Without this kind of feedback, we risk not giving ourselves the opportunity to develop and improve as performers. 

 (not sure I agree totally with this Bambi pic but you get the gist)

Why is it so hard to be honest with ourselves about the times we are shit? We are all shit sometimes. No one, hardly anyone anyway, is consistently brilliant. Fraud syndrome is key, I think. I also think that because our routines are created by us, our inspirations, creations, our babies, part of who we are, it all becomes extremely personal, difficult to be objective about. It is too easy to create a couple of good acts and think that means we are good all the time. Some acts work, some dont. Some acts draw on your strengths, some dont, etc. 

If we got to a point where we weren’t afraid of constructive advice, but valued it and sought it out from the very beginning, we would be better all round, more honest and more realistic about our abilities, and we would feel more confident. No more fraud syndrome, no more defensiveness, nicer community. Maybe. 

But how can we get there? How to combat that fraud feeling, without making burlesque less accessible to people without the performance training? Its probably a whole culture change- and not just for burlesque- we live in the “some people get everything without working for it/being good at anything” culture, thank you reality TV… 

And we need to recognise the distinction between skilled, professional, amateur etc. Its confusing cos you may enjoy a small show in the back of a pub with new performers just as much as a big show with professionals. But its recognising that you can be entertaining without being skilled, and that there is a difference. Yes, we want to be entertained by burlesque shows, but once you get to professional level shows, you also expect to see people doing something you couldn’t, to see people who are clearly skilled. If you put that rip roaring fun newbie show from the local bar on an opera house stage, you would get complaints- from people who would probably enjoy it in the bar! 

So I keep saying to people, don’t be afraid to be shit. It doesn’t mean you will always be shit and you should sack it all in, just work on it! Its advice that, I admit, I struggle to follow myself. I get really despondent when I feel I haven’t performed well. 

And fight the fraud feeling. Never feel you don’t deserve to be there. Successful promoters aren’t stupid, although they do have their own preferences, they pick you cos they think they will at least break even with you on the bill, and the audience will enjoy your performance. And if you really think you got in on an epic show cos your mate runs it and chose to sacrifice the quality of their show and their own money and reputation just to give you a break *, well, start working harder on your act so next time they do you that favour, you can feel you belong there. 

*We all know that people sometimes get booked for reasons other than or supplementary to their ability, but only to a point- see above point about money and reputation.

This blog was originally written a year ago and posted elsewhere, if it seems familiar!

Burlesque and Feminism: Give it a rest!

Sometimes I get so sick of being a feminist. Not because I don’t want equality for all genders and so forth, but because being a feminist sometimes seems to be more about arguing about what feminism is,  and who is doing it “right”, than anything else.

Children arguing

Yesterday a video surfaced of a comedian doing a bit about burlesque, in which she appears to be derogatory about burlesque.

It gets shared about, and the burlesque world aint happy with it. Facebook and twitter heard our wrath, I tell ya! More about that in a bit, but first,  why was the video so controversial?

The comedian Nadia Kamil describes seeing a burlesque act on a night out and how she and her mates found it “gross” and out of place at a comedy event . She then goes on to do her own version of a feminist burlesque act, stripping to reveal statements such as “Equal Pay!” “Pubes are Normal!” etc, sellotaped to her body.  I don’t want to write any more about what may or may not have been intended by the act (if Nadia Kamil wants to do that herself I am sure she will)  or reactions to it, as lots has already been said on social media and in this blog by cabaret singer Lili La Scala. The whole thing is problematic, and of course I have my own ideas about it, but I will leave you all to make your own minds up.

https://lililascala.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/feminist-burlesque-dont-make-me-laugh/

What I want to talk about is the sense of deja-vu I got watching the video and reading the responses to it.  We have heard it all before.

been there

I love and respect the way the burlesque world fights its corner and stands up for the art form in the face of what often seems to be overwhelming prejudice and opposition. I got annoyed at first about this video just like other folks did.  But some of what annoyed me was not what the comedian was saying about burlesque, but that (so it seemed) here was YET ANOTHER person holding forth about burlesque in a misinformed way.  Saying the same old tired things as if they were new and incontrovertible truths, from a position of privilege (white, educated etc).

keyboard_warrior_by_njastar-d4jn9qq

The thing I couldn’t help but wonder was this: how many more times are we going to have this same argument?  You know the one I mean, it goes like this:

Burlesque Detractor: “Burlesque is *just stripping,  middle-class stripping, boring, sexist, demeaning, objectifying to women, male gaze yadayada”

Burlesque World: “Burlesque is *an art form, not just stripping, stripping is not bad, its not objectifying, if you don’t like it don’t come to watch, its performed mainly for women, its performed mainly by women, its performed by men too, you clearly don’t know much about burlesque etc etc”.

Burlesque Detractor: “You are wrong and don’t realise it”

Burlesque World: “No, you are wrong and don’t realise it”.

Every. Single. Time. Same argument.  How many times have I seen this over 7 years? Lots. But its not just the burlesque revival that has had this argument ad nauseum, its been going on for-frickin-ever!

“Degrading!” “Demoralising to women!” (Feminist and Theatre Critic, Olive Logan on burlesque, 1870)

olive logan

“Obscene” (Women’s Cooperative Alliance, 1925)

Careful now

“A corrupting moral influence.” (Mayor LaGuardia on burlesque clubs in NYC, 1935)

Fiorello

That’s right, we have been having this argument since the 1800s. Isn’t it about time we changed the tune? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for spirited discussion and standing up for your beliefs. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have the discussions, there is value in discussion, but it has to be ultimately productive. It has to move on, but so often it just goes round in circles. We can’t keep doing this same back-and-forth forever and getting nowhere.

Im right youre wrong

So what is the answer? Is burlesque feminist or not?

Burlesque can be feminist and not feminist at the same time.  It is not inherently feminist. It is also not inherently anti-feminist.  Some people find it feminist, some don’t.  Burlesque can both support and damage the feminist cause because the variable is the audience. Performance art can’t happen without someone experiencing it, and within those hundreds of people experiencing an act, there will be some which feel strengthened and empowered by it and some who take it as objectifying and demeaning. How they interpret the art will depend on their existing identity and mind-set.  Burlesque is as feminist as the observer believes it to be, and that’s it. That is why two people can watch the same act but one finds it empowering and the other finds it demeaning.

Same with feminism. Its diverse with lots of different schools of thought within it, some of which are almost diametrically opposed. How you interpret burlesque as a feminist will depend on what kind of feminist school of thought you buy into. That is why one person can find an act feminist and the other absolutely doesn’t.

There is no one truth to prove. THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER TO THIS DEBATE!

Orly

When you have been having the same argument for over 200 years (after realising that you are most likely never, ever going to agree) your options are as follows:

– Agree to disagree and get on with your separate projects

– Continue to tear each other apart

– Go around the issue and try to find a way to move forward

Could we try and think of a way out of the endless circle of bickering? Could we come to understand the opposing point of view, even if we don’t agree? Explain our side to them so they understand us better?  And maybe, possibly…could we find a way to work together instead of against each other?

Friend

Because really, we should be on the same team, right? The end goal is the same.

There is not one single way to be feminist, because there is not one single way to be a woman, or a human being. One size does not fit all, and never will. If we want to move forward with feminism/equality we need to acknowledge that we are never all going to see it the same way.  Your way is just the one that works best for you. Trying to force people to do it your way will never work. Feminism will not work that way.  And I want it to work, don’t you? That’s my end goal.

Plus, I sure as hell don’t want to be having this same argument every 6 months for the next 200 years,  and be no further forward than we are now.

there yet

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”

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.

Exhausted

-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!

The Re-Rise of Burlesque Competitions?

They sure have been controversial, burlesque competitions. I wrote an article a while back with a bit about them in This is Cabaret, from the angle of “Paying to Play”.

Image

http://www.thisiscabaret.com/money-for-nothing-should-burlesque-performers-pay-for-exposure/

I remember a few years ago when there were a flush of competitions that were asking people to pay to play, and it caused a bit of uproar. They seemed to die off, and the popularity of competitions appeared to wane a bit. Then we saw the Burlesque Idol competition start up in London, and although it took a while to find its feet and build a good reputation, it is now one of the most respected new comer competitions in the UK. We also have the Burlesque Baby competitions, which have also earned a good reputation.

ImageImage

Perhaps it is off the back of the success of these two (or perhaps I haven’t noticed until now) but I seem to be seeing more and more smaller competitions pop up. Not necessarily a bad thing, but in noticing this, some thoughts have sprung to mind.

What makes a competition credible and worthwhile?

Feedback: getting good feedback from experienced, professional and established performers can be really valuable and helpful in developing as a performer.

As long as:  the judges ARE actually experienced, professional and established, with years of performing and/or producing and/or teaching behind them. Otherwise it is just peer review- which can be very helpful but a peer should not be positioned as a judge, if they do not have the background to…back it up! Baby gotta have back, yo.

Image

Exposure: It is possible that you might be seen at a competition and get gigs from it, especially if you win. This is particularly true if it is one of the bigger, established competitions.

As long as:  the competition is exposing you to people who can offer genuine work opportunities. You might just be in burlesque for the lark, in which case a competition can be a good networking opportunity for other small-scale shows, sure. However, if a small event, organised by people with little background in burlesque, claims “great exposure! The biggest and best show! The hottest and most upcoming starlets” etc, I would investigate further, as it is quite time consuming and expensive to do something which does not deliver what it promises.

Image

Prizes!– Ok, few of us can argue with prizes! Although only the winners get them, those gits.

Make sure you– Check out the experiences of others who have won the competition and make sure the prizes actually materialised, because sometimes they never do!

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A Title!: Being dubbed “Queen of” something is great, especially if you get a wee sparkly crown and maybe some bubbly. And it can be used to boost your marketing potential.

Just remember: Being “Queen of” or “Best of” has varying degrees of meaning. It depends on the credibility of the show, the experience of the judges, the judging format, the quality of the other performers. If you win something, be happy, be proud. But also be realistic about what it means in the long run, and make sure you are happy with what you are being asked to do, in exchange for the chance of winning a crown (in terms of what you pay to get there, time and effort etc. I don’t think you have to worry about the whole “casting couch blowjob” situation haha).

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Why am I doing this? Be self-aware about why you are entering competitions. Do you want the performing experience and useful feedback? The fun, excitement and networking opportunity? Are you a competitive kind of person? Do you want to win to boost your burlesque success? Great, go for it.

But: If you find yourself bouncing from one competition to the next, ask why. What can you gain from doing this? Stage time, sure. More feedback, sure. But success comes from work and practice and time and money and just doing a shit-load of gigs, some of which will be brilliant, some of which will be bloomin pants. Winning things is great but it is not what being a performer is about. Being seen as successful in the scene and having lots of bookings all the time (regardless of quality or pay) isn’t what is about (although the illusion of success can breed success to an extent). The point of being a performer is to entertain your audience the best you can, and that is where you will find your confidence and your success.

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Competition Organisers– the onus is on you, too! Make sure your competition offers real worth, real experienced judges, real exposure, and it will blossom and bloom.

So- do competitions, but make sure you check them out thoroughly (against a UK canvass, not just your local scene where small fish can seem large). Do that, and if you win, BOOM! Wear your crown with pride, get drunk, post selfies.

And if you don’t win- BOOM! Who cares! Competitions don’t really mean much when you think about it- there is no “best” burlesque, the genre is too diverse, and individual preferences are so different! Even within one show, what the burlesque community is currently favouring can be quite different to what the audience enjoys most on the night, and they are unpredictable buggers!  Winning a competition might mean you are a good performer, and its a wonderful validation, but not winning doesn’t mean you are any less good, have any less potential, or are any less entertaining. So take the benefits, don’t get too high or too low because of the results, and keep entertaining, bitches!

 

The Jelly Problem: What do with jealousy?

Ever wanted to tear your hair out because performer X got that gig you really wanted? Or got given shit by someone because you were the one who got the gig? Jealousy- its awful when you’ve got it and awful when it comes after you!

Green eyed monster

But you are not alone-everyone in the burlesque world gets jealous or gets affected by jealousy at some point, and its responsible for a lot of the bitchiness and unpleasantness we see.  Just today I have heard about a girl getting hate mail, another quitting burlesque because of people resenting her success, and seen several passive aggressive comments that most likely stem from gelatine-based emotions.

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When I’m jealous, I usually feel a mixture of these things;

– Wanting something that someone else has

-Feeling it is unfair that someone has something and I don’t

-Feeling that they do not deserve this thing or have achieved it for reasons other than merit

-A fear of being supplanted or overlooked in favour of someone else

And you know what? Its bloody awful! When you feel jealous, you feel crap, inadequate and angry. You can feel your inner dark side wanting to break out.

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And if you are the target of jealousy, watch out!

Snowman jealous

So why do we feel jealous? To be honest, you can hardly hope to avoid it. Thanks to facebook, we are always getting a face full of  SOMEONE’S better fortune. As Chandler said to Joey, “Sooner or later, somebody’s gonna come along that slices a better cheddar. Then where you gonna run?

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And in burlesque, the fact is, we are all competing against each other, for the same jobs, for recognition, for a title etc.

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Things to remember when jealousy strikes!

1. Don’t go Wicked Witch of the West

No matter how annoying and unfair it seems, you can’t stop the thing that makes you jealous.  And as tempting as it is; don’t bad mouth them or try to sabotage them.

Witch jealous

2. Its alreet to be jelly, like

Its always supposed to be such a flaw to be jealous.   But is not. Jealously is totally normal, its totally understandable, and it doesn’t mean you are a bad or shit person if you feel it.  So admit you are jealous, if even if only to yourself.

Jealous egg

3. Facebook is EVIL

Burlesque making you feel shit? Facebook making you feel shit? Get offline, take a break from performing, don’t get involved in social politics. Hide that annoying person from your news-feed. Spend time with proper friends, family, pets, who love you. Remind yourself of who you were before burlesque consumed your life.

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4. Don’t be inadequate cat cos you’re not

If you are feeling crap about yourself, after taking a break (see point 3), start working on yourself. Do a class, put together a new act, take a new direction. Do something that gives you back your confidence in yourself as a performer, or that makes you feel you are working towards something. This can take you out of the inadequacy spiral and help you start afresh.

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5. Remember the only opinion that really matters for an entertainer….

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This guy is always going to be around, but he doesn’t have to rule our lives, or ruin our lives. If you look him in the eye he doesn’t seem so important!

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