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Burlesque Etiquette

The Burlesque Handbook has been out since June, and people have been very kind in their reception of it. Interestingly, one of the chapters the more experienced performers have told me they appreciate has been Chapter 10, “Backstage Etiquette: How to Win Naked Friends and Influence Nude People.” In this chapter I discuss how to get involved in the burlesque community, how to get booked to perform, and how to behave if you want to get booked more than once. The following excerpt is from that chapter. —Jo Weldon, Daily Burlesque 03.31.11

1. Ask before you take pictures, and be genuinely willing to not take them. People who don’t mind being photographed doing all kinds of wild things onstage may not want to be photographed checking the crotch of their underwear for clitty litter. Or they may wish to be photographed only by professionals. This is not necessarily uptight of them. There are a lot of issues around photography and burlesque. And for god’s sake, if you post a photo online and someone asks you to take a picture down, do it!

Backstage at the Vital Theatre
Backstage at the Vital Theatre. Yes, I asked before I put this photo in my book.

2. If someone is making a documentary about you, tell the show producer about it when you first discuss your booking rather than springing it on them right before the show. Most performers seriously don’t want your camera crew or photographer backstage, unless it is part of a carefully developed art project or prestigious news show, and sometimes not even then.

3. Do not perform numbers that are messy without prearranging it with the producer. If you leave water, confetti, glitter, wax, food, etc. onstage, you are affecting other performers. If there has to be a long cleanup between your act and the next one, you are also affecting the performers, so don’t assume it’s okay to make an unannounced mess just because you brought your cleanup crew—especially if your crew would be taking up valuable backstage space.

4. Don’t get drunk before the show unless the producer seems to be heartily endorsing it. I for one will not allow drunk performers onstage during my showcases.

5. Consider carefully whether or not eating backstage is a good idea. Protein bar, yes. Plate of spaghetti, no.

Peekaboo Pizza
Peekaboo Pointe backstage at the Slipper Room, showing how to not get pizza on others’ costumes.

6. Until you get to know people, listen more and talk less. I am naturally loquacious, but I try not to make other people nervous with it.

7. Brush your teeth, chew gum, drink water. Everybody loves fresh breath. And bathe. Really. Even if your life partner has a fetish for stinky armpits. Please.

8. If you are genuinely upset about something, decide carefully whether you need to express your feelings immediately or if it can wait until after the show. Everyone is in a fragile and self-absorbed state immediately before and after performing.

Acceptable levels of groping include knowing the people you are touching very, very well.

9. Even if someone asks you, don’t critique them in front of anyone else. No matter what they say. Save it for a workshop.

10. Ask before bringing your dog backstage. And your boyfriend or girlfriend is probably even less welcome backstage than your dog, which at least everyone can pet.

Our Dressing Room, Tease-O-Rama 2003
The sign on our dressing room door at Tease-O-Rama. Close quarters–just the way we like it!

You can ask Jo any question about burlesque here.



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