Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
The area designated to get changed in at Burlesque shows is famously weird. You’ll notice I didn’t say “Dressing Room.” I’ve got changed in kitchens, closets and on one memorable occasion in the alley next to the venue as I got so frustrated in the shoebox I was supposed to get dressed in. A personal favourite is The Cube, where I am guaranteed to snag my g-string on an errant high-hat stand at least once.
Even dancing at The Slipper Room, a glistening jewel in the New York Burlesque scene, meant superstar Tigger, myself and a boiler in a room about 4 feet square (they have moved in to a purpose built theatre since.) You learn not to be a diva. Seriously, if it’s good enough for Tigger and I’m blessed enough to be dancing in a show that has lead the Burlesque Revival, I’m going to keep my mouth shut and shake the kinks on out on that stage for a tough-but-fair East Village crowd.
But what about that rare beast, the lesser spotted “Backstage.” You know what I mean. A few chairs, some lighting, maybe a table. Enough room to swing a tassle. And most exciting of all, The Rider. Why is a rider so important? Because it shows attention and care from the show producer/promoter and management. I know you’ve heard that piece of Rock n Roll lore about Van Halen’s contract insisting upon, amongst many other things, a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones removed? The story is true. David Lee Roth wasn’t exorcising his Diva Demons through confectionery. They were running a show with complex technical requirements which brought many safety concerns. The M&M clause was buried in the contract with a simple purpose, if you arrive at the venue and see a bowl of candy with the brown M&Ms left in, you know the promoter has not read the whole contract and that you and your crew’s safety is in jeopardy. So simple.
And that’s what a good rider shows. A promoter who doesn’t expect you to traipse, mid-way through dressing, through the crowd, to the bar, to get a glass of water. A promoter who will respect your privacy, your space and your costume. It matters.
I put on a Dia De Los Muertos show at The Croft a while back. I booked the inimitable Lucy Longlegs who walked backstage, saw 6 other dancers in various states of undress, costumes splayed out, a room over flowing with booty, took one look at the table stocked with Champagne and shouted, “PEANUT M&MS, HELL YES!’
It’s the simple things that matter.