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Another Routine To Santa Baby or The Whys and Wherefores of a Christmas Routine
It’s that time of year when many in the burlesque world roll their collective eyes to yet another routine to Santa Baby. Harsh? Maybe, but to make my point I ask you to go on youtube and search “Santa Baby Burlesque”. You will find a stream of videos of performers using this song. I’m not saying they’re no good but after a while they get samey – the issue is not the song, or the performers using it, but the sheer saturation of it.
As a tune to learn a Christmas routine to it is fab, it’s well known and has a great tempo, so can make the perfect performance at a workshop or showcase, but there comes a time to step it up to the next level, and up there Santa Baby has been done to death.
Following on from my previous Seasonal Routines Dos and Don’ts post, let’s get to grips with the specific problem that is the Christmas routine.
The thing is this, there are so many ways to get it wrong. I don’t mean that you’ll necessarily perform badly, but the chances are the audience will get bored, they may have seen it before – possibly several times already in the show your at!
Want to try and make a memorable routine that promoters will love to put into their Seasonal Show? Here are a few ideas:
Music – Don’t use Santa Baby!
Or for that matter the first Christmas song that jumps into your head if at all possible. Say no to Let It Snow and don’t even think about that Winter Wonderland. These may all be great songs, and they may be just right for the choreography you have in mind, but there’ll be a bevy of other performers using them and you may not stand out to a promoter.
The exception to this rule is those that have more to offer than a straight strip to a song everyone is using. But it has to be a LOT more! Something truly funny, or doing something new, a different spin on it – something that the audience will be hard pressed to forget for all the right reasons!
An example of this would be Red Sarah’s routine to Miss Piggy’s version of Santa Baby, in which she embodies Miss Piggy herself. Known as ‘the Mistress of Make Believe’, Red told me more about her routine – “I’ve been performing as Miss Piggy for 6 years. I chose the song as I have the Miss Piggy character and was researching songs she sings and found it years ago.” Her use of this song with an unexpected twist takes the routine to another level.
Violet Vayne’s Christmas routine is another good example – Vi uses a mambo version of a Christmas classic to give a more exotic feel to the season and really stand out.
Music – Be obscure!
Sometimes even an obscure version of a well known song isn’t enough, sometimes you have to take it to a place the audience aren’t expecting. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, but this is exactly why I enjoy Tuesday Laveau’s Christmas in New Orleans routine – it has all the hallmarks of a Christmas routine, but to a song that is pretty unfamiliar to a British audience, which makes it fresh and appealing.
Another routine I’ve seen at a Christmas show in recent years and thoroughly enjoyed, is Suzie Sequin’s fan dance to Dulce Jubilo. Never has there been such a fun routine to this tune since Pan’s People! It’s a tune not many would attempt to use thanks to its massively upbeat tempo, but Suzie attacks it with such energy that it looks like no exertion at all for her!
Costume – Be Creative!!!
Please do not fall into the trap of thinking red/green/Santa/elf equals a Christmas routine. If done well, maybe you can make a costume of Christmas nuances (who doesn’t love the little bells on the hips of Violet Vayne when she performs her Christmas Mambo routine?), but more often performers just end up looking alike.
Experiment – think about what you can do to play on the expected, how to make it your own. But whatever you do, don’t get up on the stage wearing your Ann Summer’s Sexy Santa outfit, or those plain red and black undies you picked up from Primark, without thinking “is there something I can do to make these different?”. This is something that plagues burlesque at any time of year, but it seems rife at Christmas, perhaps because all those Christmassy undies are just too good to pass up! Burlesque is not always cheap, you need to put money and/or time into your costumes whether that is taking something and spending the time and money on embellishing it, or having something bespoke made either by yourself or someone else. Primark and other similar places are great as a starting point, but embellish it where you can, add those sparkly little bits and pieces that caught your eye – put your own personality on it as much as anything. Use that creativity that drives you!! If you’re at a newbie showcase then the pressure won’t be so great, but once you start taking newbie slots on bigger more established shows, possibly alongside renowned headliners, then try and step it up to the next level and get more creative!
This should be common sense to all burlesque performers, but often the key is research! See what is already out there. Remember use it for inspiration, not imitation, but also take a look at what’s already been done and think what you can do differently. If a well known performer is already using the music you wanted to use, maybe think again. Same goes for costume and props. Obviously, in burlesque there will always be accidental cross over, people can easily have the same idea independently. The difference with Christmas is that it can be a microcosm of those ideas and so it is very hard to be original and unique, so research is a good way to think on how to make your routine really stand out!
Why bother at all?
I know I’ve discussed in my previous blog, but again, think about whether you even want to bother doing a Christmas routine. And I don’t just mean don’t do one at all, but think outside the box. Personally I have been putting together a Solstice themed routine, but there are other ways you can go –
Other winter festivals – Solstice/Yule, Hanukkah or Diwali for example (though please consider cultural appropriateness)
Winter itself – another example I’ve used previously Beatrix Von Bourbon’s gorgeous Winter routine.
Or Vicky Butterfly’s beautiful snow queen-esque, turn of the century inspired Winter Bride.
Or another aspect of the festive season – a routine focused on partying and such, for example Missy Malone’s champagne-themed balloon pop goes down well at Christmas, as it embodies the fun and party atmosphere without being at all about Christmas itself.
So what’s the answer to this time old issue? The same as any issue in burlesque – get creative! In reality you can do whatever you like, but if you want people to really remember it, make it special. Dig deep into those dark crevices of your brain and find that spark of an idea that will make your Christmas routine one to razzle dazzle the winter crowds!