rocket doll revue

How to Keep the Glitz, and Add the Weird!

By Kelzey QuickLee

Burlesque is about a lot of things, but somewhere at the core is sexuality. So, it stands to say that becoming a burlesque performer involves becoming acquainted with one’s own sexuality. One must also come face-to-face with one’s self-view. Are you a diva? A queen? Are you submissive? Subversive? Commandeering? Coy? Deviant? Furthermore, what is your character going to be like? Is he/she a glamorous stage presence? A goofy clown? A cheesecake pin-up? As you build your character you must figure out what of your personality and sexuality you can comfortably fit into that mold.

My stage name for the very first Rocket Doll show was Sin Dee Licious. It didn’t suit. I am not that overtly sexual. I am not a fuckin bowl of ice cream. I discovered that what i really wanted to do was avert the attention from sexiness. I aim to make people nearly forget about my toplessness – or even to be disturbed by it. This aesthetic is in direct confrontation with the presentation of classic burlesque, which, as we Dolls like to say backstage, is all about making people LOOK AT IT. Classic burlesque is about detail, glamour, sheer confidence, epic costumes, small, beautiful dance movements, long pauses, slow peels. So, how does one combine that with the weird, character-driven, often “ugly” aesthetic of Neo Burlesque? It took me a long time to figure out how to get the raw feeling i wanted without scrapping all of the glitz from the stage (because there should still be some glitz). Below is some of the best stage advice I’ve stumbled into after 5 years of being RDR’s resident oddball.

1) WHAT WOULD YOUR CHARACTER DO?

This is the first question of neo-burlesque. With neo, one is 8/10 times creating a character and a storyline. You will refer back to this question often. Just keep it close and use it often.

2) GLITTER

Let’s talk glitter. I hate the shit. Boyfriends hate it. Girlfriends hate it. Roomates find it in their goddamned lettuce. Let me fill you in on something wonderful: you DO NOT have to wear glitter. Refer to step one. The question is: would your character wear glitter?

3) RHINESTONES

Another burlesque staple that you do not HAVE to use. However, open your mind up a bit on this one. Would your character use rhinestones? No? Okay, what about the stage version of your character? Better yet, would rhinestones add shock value or visual appeal to your act? Let me give an example: One of my trademark acts features a corporate pig. He has no use for rhinestones on his suit (he is not Vegas Pig, he is Corporate Pig) but, his belly calls for attention. Lots and lots of attention. Hence, rhinestones.

4) MAKEUP

The makeup tips for a neo act differ greatly from the makeup tips for classic, beautiful stage face. But, i would venture to say that makeup in a neo act is one of the most important touches. Refer to Step 1. Now, RESEARCH. Go all out. Do not be afraid to look messy or over the top. You probably do not – you probably look like a character deserving of a stage. Invest in spirit gum and liquid latex.

5) HAIR

Sometimes I feel a little weird when the other gals have their hair all curled and did and mine is… Not. DO NOT GET IN THE HABIT OF NEVER DOING YOUR HAIR. Your hair is still important, no matter the act. That does not mean that you have to do all the classic pinup styles. It DOES mean that your hair should suit the routine. Put a wig, mask, or hat over it. Tease it, twist it, braid it. Just do something to it.

6) FABRIC

If you decide that your act does not call for so much sparkle, try to add some interest with texture. Use various fabrics to create interesting focal points.

7) STORY

If your body and your presence are not to be the purpose of the entire experience, then your story and your character must be. Ask yourself if the story you are trying to convey is relatable. Create a beginning, a middle, and an end. Maintain the character throughout OR develop a change in character. This also translates to the striptease. In a situation where you are not simply a beautiful glamazon there to take them on a magical journey of the flesh, the audience must understand WHY your character is taking off their clothes. Don’t just get onstage dressed as a giant donut and take off your clothes. Use music choice, dance, and narrative to make the strip make sense. Examples: Trini Bikini has a signature act as a gigantic cheeseburger. She uses the song “Any Way You Want It” to create narrative. I have an act as a cyborg. I become human and use dramatic music and dance to create the feeling of breaking free.

8) DANCE/CHOREOGRAPHY

Dance is an important aspect to all of burlesque. There are many different levels and types of dance represented in burlesque. But, no matter what level you dance at or what type of routine you are creating, it is important to choreograph the main bits. Know when you will take things off/put things on. Know when you will look at the crowd and when you will look away. These little nuances can pull together all of the story.

9) PROPS

Props can be fun and even important. DO NOT USE TOO MANY. Until you have had quite a bit of experience – and sometimes even then – props have a way of making an act look messy. Limit yourself to 5 – and even that might be pushing it. Do not be afraid to mime! Miming can be magical.

10) COMMIT

Be your character. Know your character. Know your story. For the 2-5minutes you are onstage, DO NOT stop being that character.

11) HAVE A GOOD TIME

… Dammit!