Things to think about when constructing a routine…

We always get asked what we look for when booking acts for the shows and as Bluestocking run beginners burlesque classes, we get asked by potential performers how to construct a routine… so we thought we’d put together a few pointers (which we must just point out isn’t the ‘be all and end all of burlesque’ and are based on our resident performers’ style of character-driven, British burlesque)…

  • Firstly, what is your style of performance? Are you a glamorous neo-burlesque vixen? Is cheesecake more your thing? Do you prefer the comedy character acts? Find a style that you are comfortable in performing and the rest will follow
  • Are you performing for an audience / with an audience? (Frankly, we hope your purpose for being on stage is to entertain an audience as being on stage for any other reason probably isn’t going to make you feel as good as you’d hope!) Audiences tend to connect more to performers who have the attitude, not just of ‘here i am!’ when they make their entrance on stage, but ‘ah! there you are!’ as well! there’s nothing more special than being acknowledged as an audience member.
  • EYE CONTACT! And lots of it please! We always drum into the participants of our classes just how important eye contact is when you are performing. Eye contact not only says, ‘I’m confident’ (even if you are feeling far from confident!) it also informs the audience that you want them to watch you. There’s nothing that makes an audience squirm more than seeing a performer who doesn’t ever look up when they are performing, let alone make eye contact with anyone in the audience. Also, from an audiences’ point of view, it makes them feel like uncomfortable ‘voyers’ if you don’t invite them to watch what you are doing by making eye contact.
  • What are you trying to say to the audience? Is your act a visual masterpiece that’s a sight for the senses? Are you creating a mood (it’s okay to make people feel excited, in love, angry, in awe of the art, laugh, mesmerised, challenged, etc – in fact any emotion is good as long as it’s been your intention!!)
  • Do you have a certain skill that you can incorporate into the routine? (fire -eating [venue/producer-permitting, that is!], tap dancing, poi, ballet, fan work, belly dance, balance, gymnastic, singing, etc?)
  • Are you telling a story? If so what is happening? Who/what are your characters? Does your character under-go a metamorphosis in the act? if so, how are the characters different? What are the different facial expressions, mannersisms and other ways that you convey the difference in character besides costume? you need to convince the audience of the difference in character and (more importantly) you need to believe it yourself.
  • Is there a catalyst that causes your character to remove clothes? (We personally like to have a reason that clothes are removed in a routine but it’s not always crucial to a routine…)
  • What is your reveal? Is it a fantastic, skilled way of tassel twirling? Is it a ‘punchline’ on your pasties? Are you lurking in your merkin? And again, personally, we like to see reveals at the end of an act as if you reveal any sooner, what is there left to say? (it’s like continuing to tell a joke after you’ve already told the punch-line)
  • How does your music end? does it end with a bang (timed with your reveal) or does it fade out? Generally, fade-outs are not as effective as music that ends with a bang.

We could go on with plenty more, such as using tracks to highlight your story / editing them so that they re-enforce character change but on the whole, the main things to remember is to choreograph a routine and learn it inside out (and, if you’re a new performer, try and stick to under 4 mins long – very few can get away with an ‘interesting’ 15 minute epic routine…)

Really work on your routine and make it the best it can be before approaching any promoters. You need to know your routine inside out before taking it to the stage, not just for the paying audiences’ benefit, but for your own. This will help with the nerves before you go on and the “oh shit! I forgot my routine” moments that everyone has had at some point or another before hitting the stage as the routine will be ingrained in your muscle memory. It’ll also help if you lose your place during the routine itself as you’ll be able to find where you are again with a certain phrase of music… And don’t forget to make the costume as good at it can possibly be… you can embellish bras and pants (or bikinis) very easily. Plus costume is your choreography so it’s worth considering how it will come off/come apart and what you will do with it after is has been removed…
We’ll be putting up a few more posts on costume construction, embellishing, what we like to see in CVs, advice on performers music and more over the next few weeks! We hope we’ve been of some use!!
Good luck
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