Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
In October last year I was lucky enough to attend a show and workshop featuring one of my idols, Miss Dirty Martini. It cost money and time, and was not at all convenient, but it was an experience of a lifetime and I’m glad I did it. And I’m going to tell you why you should be doing this sort of thing too!
We all bang on quite a bit about getting out to see shows. Because the truth is, once you find yourself performing regularly it can be harder to make it to shows as an audience member. This could be because of time or money constraints, for example, where spare time and money is going into your character and act development.
But the reason we keep talking about it is because it is important. The more you expose yourself to the performance of others the more you’ll grow as a performer yourself. Inspiration plays a part, but also fire lighting. I’m not talking about being inspired by someone’s act and so using parts or all of it in your own act, but certainly look at how other performers perform. It is difficult not to watch Beatrix Von Bourbon and think “How can I move like that”. And so then comes the fire lighting – watching the acts of others can really rock complacency. When you see someone doing something that you wish you could do, whether a movement or a skill, then perhaps it’s time to take your performance to the next step – learn that style, dance or skill and work out how you can develop it into your own style and act.
But another big aspect for me, something that I hadn’t really thought about until attending what was my first show as an audience member (rather than performer or producer) for the most part of a year, was the enjoyment. It’s easy to forget what a show feels like from the point of view of the audience, when really this is something that should be constantly in mind and especially when developing new acts and even more so when producing your own shows.
If you are short on cash and time, then do as I did, save up your pennies to go to a show that you really want to go to – be these some of the more well-known shows across the country, or one that stars a performer you have been particularly keen to see. The show I attended was the Goldust Theatre Of Terror at The Winter Gardens up in Morecambe (a lovely weekend and awesome road trip with fellow Bristol based performer Delilah Di Sgrace), and the main reason was Dirty Martini. But the seal on the deal was the line-up as a whole. Missy Malone and Diva Hollywood are two performers I really admire, and have seen perform live several times but was happy to see them both again. I was really excited to see Leyla Rose perform, as I’ve rarely seen her live but love her style. Also, Velma Von Bon Bon who I have heard so much about but never had chance to see – none of the performers disappointed.
They were all amazing and we were treated to THREE performances by Dirty Martini. It was mesmerising, and a dream come true to see my idol up there on the stage. Three amazing performances, including a European premier of a new routine. It definitely made the trip worth it!
On reflection, being able to attend a show without any of the distractions that come with performing or producing was an education. Both as a performer and promoter it taught me something, and this sort of thing is invaluable.
Likewise with the workshop. It’s been a while since I’ve been to one, again because of time and money, but I do really believe in continually learning and pushing yourself. So again, I wanted to make sure I spent my time and money wisely and attended the workshop of someone I really wanted to meet, learn from and whom I admire as a performer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop, and it turned out to be a workshop covering the basics. What was interesting to me and a reflection of Dirty’s experience is that it still delivered. It’s been a while since I would have considered attending a basic workshop (the same is possibly true of several other attendees), but what was important here was the imparting of experienced wisdom. Although some of the stuff Dirty was telling us, I had already heard and have a good grasp of, it was the context that was important. Obviously, it was exciting and wonderful to meet Dirty, and she made the workshop a really fab experience, she has great knowledge of the industry and shares it generously.
We spent much of the workshop learning how to walk on stage, which sounds basic and was certainly something I had covered before. However, this was far from it – for one thing we were actually on a stage, which allowed us to really immerse ourselves in the lesson being taught. Moreover, unlike any previous workshops I have taken on the matter, Dirty put it into a different, much more experienced context.
When I first took classes back at the beginning of my burlesque journey, we spent weeks on “walking”, it was mind numbing, and really of no interest to me at all, as it felt like it belonged to the sort of Classical style routine I would never perform. But when Dirty broke it down for us she explained not just the how, in greater detail, but the why. The actual logic and in a sense, science behind the walk – where to walk from, how to present yourself whilst walking, and how to finish it off with a pose – the lesson was not actually how to walk, but how to use that walk to engage the audience. It made me realise that in some form or another there is a place in even non-classical routines for an contact moment like this, whether a walk or something similar. It is something I can see I already do in a number of my acts, less so in others because it didn’t seem to fit. But now I will look again at those acts and whether they need something like this slotted in.
It does go to show that even a back to basics workshop with the right person can teach you something regardless of how long you have been performing. Which highlights that point that we should all continually be refreshing our skills and techniques by attending workshops. Sometimes it is easier said than done – back to the time and money constraints – but that just underlines the fact that we should all exploit these opportunities when they come along.
As part of the Bristol Burlesque Festival in October 2013 we put some of our performers in touch with our friends at the Pink Kitten Dance School in order for them to share their skills, knowledge and wisdom. The workshops worked well and we were so excited to have the likes of Diva Hollywood and Khandie Khisses make themselves available to our Festival audience (and beyond). From our experiences there and both mine and Tuesday’s own personal experiences with workshops (mine with Dirty and the apparently amazing workshop that both Tuesday and Ally Katte attended with Matt Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz when they were in Bristol with their Beauty and the Beast stage show), Tuesday and I are keen to have even more workshops at the 2014 Festival. We want to ensure that the Festival isn’t just about showcasing the talents of performers with that Bristol feel, but also creating access to workshops from which local performers can really take the opportunity to workshop with some amazing talent.