What Burlesque Means to Scarlet Rose
Scarlet is taking over today’s blog to let you in on a little secret of what burlesque means to her. Grab a cuppa and enjoy…
If I’m asked what burlesque means to me, which isn’t often mind, I’m firstly a little bit stumped about what to say. This is partly because I’ve never given it much thought. Not out of any disrespect to the industry, which I want to know and learn as much about as possible, but because I don’t really know what it means to me. Apologies for how pretentious this sounds, but to be honest it always just felt ‘right’ to try and perform burlesque and I never really considered why.
However, that wouldn’t be a very insightful or interesting blog post. So in true qualitative researcher style (I’m starting a Masters this year around burlesque, you’ll have to forgive me for using this as an excuse for revision), I’m going to keep asking myself ‘why?’ until I get some more answers! Although a thorough insight may require a colour coded mind map of some sort.
I think my very first influence into burlesque was most likely the “Maison Derriere” episode of The Simpsons, where Bart Simpson has to work at a burlesque house to pay off a debt and when the house becomes public knowledge it causes outrage amongst the townspeople and leads to a catchy singsong. Obviously. But aside from that, a line that really appealed to me aged 8 was a distressed showgirl alerting the owner that it was nearly time for an America based routine and there was an issue to the effect of, “Miss Nevada can’t find her dice!” At which point Belle produces a spare pair of fluffy dice from a trunk and the show was able to go on. I always thought there was a trunk of spare costumes backstage at shows for several years after that. But more importantly, there was the excitement and rush of getting ready to put on a show combined with the camaraderie of sticking together with the burly friends you make backstage and always being willing to help each other out. I’ve been proven wrong and right about these assumptions over the last two years. Wrong in that there’s no excitement in rushing to get onstage seconds before you’re announced, that’s just stressful for everyone involved. But right insomuch as there can be a strong sense of solidarity amongst burlesque performers backstage. Forgotten your tit tape? Eyelash glue? Tassels? More often than not someone will offer up their own looking only for a thank-you (and to get them back). Furthermore in my experience the first audience members cheering you on will be other performers who are sympathetic to how intimidating it can be. And due to how much you’ll get to see of each other backstage (spoiler alert: it’s everything), in your local burlesque community you’ll often find yourselves willing to discuss ANYTHING. As I’ve heard fellow performer and much loved producer Miss Twilight Sparkle say at a few shows, “This is why we do it, for the banter!”
But obviously an excuse for a good chat with good friends is not the only reason burlesque holds importance to me, the second big important feature is that I get an opportunity to perform darlings. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am clearly a person that likes to be centre stage for a portion of time (I blame genetics). A friend’s mother upon learning that I wanted to be a burlesque artist said that it made perfect sense given previous career ideas. These include: ballet dancer, lawyer, actress and teacher. Notice a pattern? As to why burlesque specifically appeals, if I question myself on it I think it originated from the stylistic opportunities with costumes, hair and make-up. But as I learnt more and more about how your individual personality is actually very important, I realised that the more personal my acts were, the better. Within reason I could do what I liked! The creative freedom makes watching burlesque very exciting for me, you never know what exciting new act you’re about to see.
In relation to this emphasis on individuality, when I discovered Dita von Teese and the classic burlesque/pin up fashion at around 14, I realised this was the style that resonated much more with me than what was currently popular. Furthermore, Dita emphasised her pale skin and seemingly never stopped wearing red lipstick. An inspiration! (Though if you’re in your mid-teens and you’re reading this, it turns out vamp red lips on a 16 year old just look a bit creepy. Wait a few years and you’ll be fine). The more I try to immerse myself in the burlesque subculture the more apparent it becomes that really, you can look like whatever you want and burlesque.
Really, this long and rambling blog post is trying to say that burlesque means lots of things to me because it is a very individual experience. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the features that hold importance to me within burlesque. This is also why it can be so hard to articulate (my excuse for the rambling anyway). Because I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what it is about it that I love so much. It just feels innate, and on that rather self-indulgent and slightly pretentious note: I’ll stop. For now. Hand me the felt pens, I’ll get started on that mind map.
Love & Tassels