6 Real Life Tips: How To Be a Performer for a Living

So you want to be a performer for a living?

I woke up this morning surrounded by colorful boas and opera length satin gloves
because I’m teaching Spellbinding Burlesque for the first time in 2014
on Saturday, May 24th in New York City.
(Yes, there are four spaces left, so get over here, YOU!)

And my mind was full of secrets
and new things to teach in class…
and it got me thinking about the things I want to share with the world about performing that have helped me,
not just burlesque, but I think these rules apply to all performing arts.

1. Know The History of Your Craft

Whatever genre you want to perform in – be it circus arts, fire performance, dance, or music…dig deep into its wild past. The internet is your friend!

Knowing the history behind the origins of what you are so passionate about is going to make you have a better connection with it and respect the art form more.

Trust me on this one.
In New York City at Houston Street and 2nd avenue, once stood the original Minsky’s Burlesque.
In 1916 and 90 years later, I was performing 10 blocks away in the Lower East Side at The Slipper Room.

Knowing the ghosts of my godmothers of burlesque got their start just a short walk away made it even more special for me.
I imagined them passing on the torch of seduction and shimmy….
and took them up on the dare to be bold.

The Incredible Jo “Boobs” Weldon

2. Go See As Many Shows as Possible (Jo Weldon’s Advice) and Have The Courage To Approach Your Performing Idols.

I originally wandered into the Slipper Room by accident and was blown away by what I saw.
I came back every weekend and took in the shows.
I watched the different styles, the different costumes and different performers interpret burlesque in their own way.
I originally saw Jo Weldon and World Famous Bob there.
Even though I was afraid to approach them originally, I pushed myself to talk to them and tell them how much I loved their shows.
World Famous Bob saw how much I wanted to do burlesque and dared me to perform at her New Revue.
I hesitated and she said, “GREAT! You are booked next month. See you at 7pm!”
She walked away before I could say no.
I showed up the next month at 7pm and got addicted.

Jo Weldon later asked me to perform in her show and got me hooked up with The Slipper Room which enabled me to quit my day job.
My burlesque idols not only inspired my love of the art,
but also were architects of my dream.

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In heaven on stage at The Slipper Room

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Once you book your first gig – practice, practice, PRACTICE.
Know every move backwards and forwards.
Remember that you’ll probably be nervous when the big moment arrives –
and if you are prepared – you’ll be less likely to forget your moves.
When working on a new number –
my headphones are on constantly
so that I can get the song into my body and my mind.

Don’t think – I’m going to just get up there and wing it!
Seriously, no.
It doesn’t work that way, even though all of us would like to think it does.
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4. Treat It Like A “Real” Job (because it WILL be if you do)

Show up on time.
Be where you say you are going to be.
Follow the rules of the venue.
Be professional and respectful.

5. Don’t Kill The Magic.

When I first started burlesque, I had imagined my “character” to be this glamourous and dangerous femme fatale.
In real life, I was awkward, nervous and had one nice dress to my name.
I needed to do the transformation at home.
I’d swipe on the drugstore red lipstick.
Curl my hair and slip on that dress.
From the moment I walked in the door at the Slipper Room,
I was the “Veronica Varlow” I wanted to be and project out into the world
both on-stage and off.
Each person is different,
but for me, I couldn’t show up in jeans and a t-shirt from my regular day job
and create the magic in the dressing room.
Living the whole fantasy of my burlesque persona from the moment I waltzed in the door
helped me gain my own self confidence and made others see me as the person I wanted to be.
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6. Fuck Competition. Encourage and Support Other Performers.

Of all these tips – THIS tip is the most important.
I cannot stress this enough.
There is only one you, and nobody can be that BUT you.
Be confident in who you are and what you can rock and
also appreciate what others are doing.

I love what I do because not only do I get to express myself,
I get to watch my talented burlesque brothers and sisters alongside me express themselves.

Over the years, I have gone through my own weird confidence/jealousy issues as I blogged about before,
but one thing I know about me is that I have alwaysalwaysalways supported and encouraged others –
no matter how shitty that I’ve felt
or what self-confidence issue I was battling.

Man, we are all in this together.
And there is room for us all to be successful.
Having a positive and encouraging attitude towards your performing family is JUST as important as your act.

Jo Weldon wrote “How To Get Into New York Burlesque Shows” for performers and her incredible book is The Burlesque Handbook, which is THE burlesque bible in my opinion.

Also, here is a very well-written and inspiring blog post about a performer starting out burlesque and her own journey….rock it OUT, Emmy Midnightingale!

Did these tips help you?
Are you a performer and would like to add tips that have helped you that I might have missed in the comments? Please DO!

Together we can create the amazing lives that we have always dreamed of living.


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