Guest Blog: The Benefits of Burlesque Classes By Brandy Montmartre
Hello! I’m Brandy Montmartre. I’ve been a burlesque performer since December 2015 and I’m just at the beginning of my burlesque career. Before making my début I went to burlesque gigs frequently, but didn’t know where to start performing, even though I’ve been following burlesque since 2005.
My chance came when a space became available in a local show in Dundee and I went for it. I had three weeks to put an act together. I managed it and loved every minute I was performing. Although I’d been to a lot of shows (and had been one of those people who thought ‘I can do that!’) I realised there was much more skill to performing burlesque than first appears.
My feet felt awkwardly placed, my removals weren’t very smooth and I kept taking little looks down at my corset as I struggled with a knot. Something was missing.
Although my training in dance did help, I realised the art of striptease takes more than a good dancer. Burlesque classes would be a great way to find that missing bit to take it to the next level. I was bitten by the burlesque bug and could not get enough, so classes were also a way to fulfil that thirst for knowledge, whilst improving on choreography and technique.
My passion for burlesque drove me to improve my craft, and there’s no getting around it, good burlesque takes training as it is a skill. This training might not always take the form of classes, sure, but it always takes practice and lots of it. That said, just practising without learning from a skilled performer means there is a lot more trial and error involved.
If you’re thinking of taking burlesque classes it’s important to find the class that’s right for you, as every teacher is different. Before choosing my class I knew I wanted to train with an established performer who really knows what they’re doing. Burlesque classes are a gamble as anyone can teach and there aren’t any specific standardised qualifications, so doing your research before committing to a class is important.
I had a few choices in Edinburgh, but the beginners’ level course at Dancebase (taught by Gypsy Charms) appealed the most. I even went to see Gypsy perform before deciding her class was right for me. Gypsy ticked all the boxes as a teacher; she is an established performer, dedicated to burlesque and an active member of the Scottish scene. Gypsy is lovely and her passion for burlesque is clear to see. She gives you detailed rundowns of technique and snippets of burlesque history delivered with a brilliant sense of humour and a straightforward attitude, which all adds up to great quality teaching. By taking classes I’m learning new skills and improving, and it’s a lot of fun too. (HOTB – WE LOVE GYPSY)
Before starting classes, I didn’t realise what a different discipline burlesque is. I’ve had training in bellydance, flamenco and contemporary, but the American burlesque (a la Dita Von Teese) taught in Gypsy’s classes is a completely new way of moving. Even though I was performing before starting the course, the beginners’ level is a good grounding in technique and is not too easy.
I don’t think I would’ve progressed so quickly without going to classes. My lines and leg placement have improved tenfold and taking lessons has given me a repertoire of moves that are recognisably ‘burlesque’, which are noticed by fellow performers. I recently performed in Middlesbrough with Kiki DeVille, Trixie Blue, Ebony Silk and Scarlet Rose. Trixie and Scarlet both recognised my leg placement as a ‘Gypsy leg’. This was great, as my training showed. If your training shows, so does your commitment, which in turn means you’re more likely to be dedicated, reliable and bring a higher quality act to the stage.
This all helps to build a good reputation and may lead to future bookings. Taking classes are not all about learning techniques that will improve routines, stage presence and overall performance though, classes also help to build relationships with classmates and your tutor.
If you’re not taking classes, but are going to shows and training hard elsewhere then you may get the same result, but without the benefit of building the same relationships or, crass as it may sound, having the advantage of saying ‘such-and-such is teaching me’. Like it or not, networking is a huge part of the burlesque game when it comes to getting bookings. If you want the stage time, you have to work hard to improve and build up a rapport with performers and producers alike.
Be nice to people, as you never know who may be a producer in the future. Of course you can do this without taking classes, but training has provided me and my classmates with the added benefit of guidance from an experienced performer who is happy to help us find our way on our first steps into the world of burlesque.
So to wrap this up, it is true that you can do whatever you like in burlesque, and that is fantastic. However classes will give you a boost and strong foundation to build on and improve. Not only that, they are a fun way of honing your routines. Better quality routines not only help you as a performer, but also help to improve the burlesque community.
It’s true that one of the aspects that drew me to burlesque was its inclusive; that sense that anyone can try it. To some extent I’d say I agree, however it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be burlesque perfection when you first get on stage. That’s absolutely fine, but if you want to take your burlesque to the next level then the best way is to learn from someone with the knowledge and years of training under their shimmy belt. Going to shows also helps, and keeps live burlesque shows going too, which is also good news for the burlesque community.
That said, everyone is different and classes may not be your cup of tea. That’s okay. I can only speak from personal experience. Classes are giving me the skills I need to improve on what I love doing, whilst building contacts in the industry, which would have been very difficult without investing in lessons. As I’m learning, you really do get back what you put into burlesque, and it is definitely not as easy as it looks!
– Brandy Montmartre
A huge thank you to Brandy for her musings on burlesque. We thank you so much for being a fabulous guest blogger for House of Trixie Blue. Thank you all for reading and don’t forget to shimmy.
Love & Shimmies
House of Trixie Blue
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