I got an email recently from one of my students who moved back to the Midwest to be close to her family:
Hello from the Middle Coast! I need your advice: the burlesque groups in town, as it turns out, are a wee bit pretentious and won’t let me in their clubs. I want to keep dancing (the ideas are piling up) but just don’t know what to do at this point. I have a very good friend who said that I can dance with his band or do guerrilla performances at his shows but how do I get started?? What to do with that fear factor?! I miss you guys!!!!!! And the giggles!! And the pasties! And all of the skin that one normally doesn’t see in most hobbies and professions!!
This is not the first time I have had students who moved away ask me how to handle getting started all over again in a less-than-welcoming environment after leaving our cozy San Francisco scene. My advice is to swallow your nervousness and just jump out there and start performing on your own. “If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em!” or something like that. Don’t let anyone else keep you from doing what you love to do. Call your friends and get yourself some gigs! Some non-burlesque-show gig ideas include: opening for bands, performing at art openings, or grab your boom box and take it to the streets for some street performance (G-rated acts only, of course). Use your imagination and don’t let a performance opportunity pass you by! Every event is better with burlesque – at least in my humble opinion.
If you are afraid of going it on your own, don’t be. I would be very surprised if you are the first person who has approached these troupes and been snubbed, so you may be surprised by the number of people who come up to you at your performances and ask you how to get started. Make friends! Start working with those ladies and you’re well on your way to creating a movement! Soon you’ll have all the giggles and pasties and skin that you can handle. You can be a mover and shaker (hehe) in your new town and start your own little scene.
For more advice on dealing with the fear factor, read my previous post on stage fright. Going it alone can be scary, and performing at events that are not specifically burlesque shows can be a totally different vibe, but like I said, I don’t think you’ll be doing it alone for long. So if you can get through the first few shows, the momentum will take you from there.
Since you will no longer be relying on the name and reputation of your troupe to get you gigs and bring people in to see your performances, it is very important that you work on building up your name as a solo act. Here are some basics you will need to think of, and I will go into more detail about developing your name and promoting yourself in future posts, so keep your eyes peeled…
Big things to do when you’re building a name for yourself:
- Get a website up! Myspace is great for meeting people and promoting yourself, but people will be much more likely to find you and you will look much more professional if you have a real website.
- Design and have business cards printed. Give your cards to everyone you meet (when appropriate, of course). If you don’t know where to go for cards, ask me and I’ll refer you to my printer.
- When performing at your friends’ events, have them list your name on the flyer and distribute these liberally. If no one else is making a flyer for an event, make your own and distribute them!
- Create a mailing list. Pass out a clip board with your sign up sheet at every event, or set it out somewhere conspicuous and make sure people know about it.
- Be friendly to everyone, even the people who snubbed you. You never know, they might loosen up once they see that you are serious and are making things happen for yourself.
If you’re still feeling nervous, put on your favorite version of “My Way”, whether it’s Frank Sinatra or Sid Vicious, get dolled up and sparklized, and then practice that new number you’ve been working on that you can’t wait to perform. All dressed up and nowhere to go? That will get you motivated to get out there and shake it for a crowd, no matter what it takes! So call your friends and make it happen!
I will leave you with the lyrics for “My Way”
And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
“Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way”
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!
Yes, it was my way