Let Me Take You Right Into The…
Five Common Traits of the Burlesque Top 50
I feel very fancy right now.
This month, I was going to write a whole tirade about peer reviews and my thoughts on the need for more self-awareness and criticism in our community, but then this magical thing happened and somehow, out of nowhere, I read my name at #34 on the 21st Century Burlesque “Top 50 Performers of 2014” list. Shocked and massively surprised to see my name there amongst inspirations like Jo Weldon, Iva Handfull, and Tigger!, I spent the next thirty minutes tearily staring at my computer screen as my social media blew up.
I can’t say for certain that I’m the “newest” performer on the list but I am definitely one of the least experienced, given that I only really joined the burlesque scene in 2010. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think that I don’t deserve it. I respect that. I won’t deny that every time I’ve done something completely dumb since then, I’ve giggled about it (making bad puns—34th in the world!! Doing the chicken dance in the subway—34th in the world!! Talking to my cat as though she is a world leader in international politics—34th in the world!!)
But whatever awkwardness I may feel about being, like, totally important and stuff on the internet, it really and truly meant a lot to me to know that I apparently affected my peers’ lives in a positive way and, moreso, to know that I *can* affect my peers so positively. I’m extremely proud of myself; I feel accomplished and I feel motivated to work even harder this year. So, really, thank you all so much for that.
You know, and then as I was having a grand old time being Super Awesome, I watched as people started to bitch about how pointless the Top 50 list is, and I had to roll my eyes. Just because the Top 50 List does not include you or your bestie, does not mean it isn’t valid. It is wholly and entirely voted upon by our global community of industry insiders, and it is populated by massively impressive people. You can’t pretend that these performers don’t deserve to be awarded the praise that they were awarded. Well you can, but then you’re being a dick. I’m not sorry. It’s true.
And so, I have decided that rather than telling you all about the magic of friendshi— sorry, I mean the magic of criticism— this month, I will tell you all how you can break onto the list just like I did. Ok, not just like I did; flailing your arms and screaming “World domination! World domination!” really only works once.
In no particular order, I PRESENT TO YOU:
5 Steps To Becoming One Of The 50 People On A List On The Internet That Means A Lot To The People Who Are On It And Especially To All Of The People Who Say That They Don’t Care That They Aren’t On It
1. Get Out Of Town
People say, “It’s a festival list!!! It’s a list only of people who go to festivals!!!”
Well, no. That’s not true. Here’s what is true:
Top 50 contenders travel regularly. They network like bosses. They maintain contacts and connections with people outside their own city and local scene. They probably then help those contacts and connections when they travel through their local scene.
Seriously, get out of your bubble. Your bubble is pretty and warm and spherical and potentially made of soap, but it has limited oxygen. Pop it and go breathe some fresh air.
2. Do Something Burlesque-Ish That Isn’t Burlesque-Ing
The vast majority of the performers in the Top 50 extend their burlesque involvement beyond the stage; by teaching, writing, producing, or costuming. If you want to be seen on a grander scale, you have to contribute more to the greater community.
3. Use The Force, Luke
And by the force, I mean the internet. The internet is your friend. The more you give to the internet, the more the internet gives you; it doesn’t matter how great your concept is or your moves are or your costumes look if noone knows about them.
4. Be Yourself With Absolutely No Shame
There is no one right way to burlesque. Do you your way—classic, neo, performance art, nerd, boy, drag, circus, whatever nichelesque thing you feel like doing, do it. Do it proudly. Do it without reservation. Julie Atlas Muz never said, “gee golly, if I don’t act like a pretty vintage princess on stage I surely will not be a success.” And equally, I bet you’d never in a million years hear Perle Noire say “Well damn, if I don’t make some weird act pulling blood and guts out of my naughty bits, no one will think I have any artistic integrity and they will think that I am just about prettiness and rhinestones.”
Just go out there and fuck that stage with your soul and don’t worry yourself about how other people are doing it. Yours is the only fucking soul that matters when you are on stage.
5. Be An Awesome, Nice, Positive Presence
When I first started performing in NYC, what struck me most was how most of the performers I admired most onstage—people like Tigger!, Minnie Tonka, Peekaboo Pointe, Dirty Martini—were also the sweetest, most positive and fun people offstage. Energy is infectious and it affects our perceptions whether we realize it or not. Just as I found most of my favorite performers were also great to be around offstage, I also found myself feeling like the performers with the most snobby attitudes were overrated and unaware of their own flaws. In so many words; negating other people’s accomplishments does not increase your own; but rather, in fact, does quite the opposite.
So, there you have it, your step ladder to a Top 50 future! But keep in mind, there are many ways to measure success and while this is certainly a high profile one, it’s not the be-all end-all. Your goals within burlesque do not have to be the same as everyone else’s; maybe you want to change the industry, maybe you want to win competitions, or maybe you only want to have consistent work. Hell, maybe you just want to have a good time. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, those options are what makes our industry… a real industry. But while you’re attaining your goals, do yourself a favor and have respect for everyone else’s- our end games may be different, but our worth is equal.
Now please excuse me, I need to go take a selfie with this thong over my face like an eyepatch. 34TH IN THE WORLD!!!
[HUGE congratulations to you, Dangrrr Doll, for this most incredible spot in the whole entire world! Enjoy it like nobody’s business.—Ed.]