Running Muse School of Burlesque and every first burlesque performance teaches me new things. So many things I think are common sense, are really things I have learned from my peers and performance experiences. So if you’re getting ready for your first burlesque performance in a group or as a solo, here’s a few thoughts and tips on how to feel ready!
Nails – Get your nails done! It’s less stress than doing it yourself, and a nice treat to help you feel excited about the big day!
Waxing – if you are going to wax, do it at least a day before, not the day of! Otherwise shaving or not shaving/waxing is totally fine. Do what you are comfortable with.
Moisturise – Make sure to treat your skin regularly in the week leading up and possibly morning of the show. But NOT any later than the morning. Your moisturiser might make stockings, boas, feathers, veils or other costume items stick to your skin. But it might also stop your pasties from sticking!
Hair – Styling your hair? Don’t wash your hair that day. ‘Dirty’ hair takes and holds curls and styles better, for longer. Have your hair as completely styled as possible before arriving at the venue. Don’t spray hairspray backstage without first checking with other people in the space – sometimes it causes breathing difficulty for people.
Make Up – Give yourself plenty of time to work on your make up, even if you’re having someone do it for you. Have your make up as complete as possible before arriving at the venue. Use fixing spray in warm weather, if you have an energetic act, or if you are generally a person who sweats easily.
On the Day Tips
Eat! – Make sure to have regular meals through the day and a light meal before or at the venue. Make sure to avoid heavy, oily foods or anything that you know bloats you. Take some snacks with you, just in case.
Hydrate! – Make sure to drink water throughout the day and when you arrive at the show. Plan when you’ll go for a nervous pee before you put your costume on too!
Stretch – Make time to warm up and stretch before the show. Check if the venue has enough space for you to stretch beforehand. Otherwise plan in when and how you will stretch before the show.
Packing List – Write a full list of your costume from inner to outer layers, top to bottom, and all the props and items you will need for the show – including pastie glue or tape. Pack early so you have time to double check. Try and pack in to one bag, the smaller the better.
Mental Rehearsal – Listen to your music and imagine yourself doing your routine. You don’t need to physically do it, but reminding yourself you know how it goes will help keep you calm.
At the Show
Arrive on time – Your Producer or Stage Manager will have told you what time to arrive from. Plan how you will travel to the show, where you will park, or what public transport you will take to make sure you arrive on time.
Tech – If the show has tech, it is important to be there and ready at your a tech run time. You don’t need to be in costume for tech. Use your tech time to step through key points of your act including entrance and exit. This is the time the tech person will check your music runs properly, arranges your lighting requests, and you get a feel for the stage and venue.
Be ready – Your Stage Manager will advise when you will be on and how far in advance you need to be ready. However it is generally wise to be fully dressed and ready to perform 2-3 acts before your slot.
Pack small – Backstage areas are often small and shared with a lot of people. If you are able to keep your belongings together in as small a space as possible. Your bag should be big enough to carry your costume, but as small as possible to not take up too much space backstage. Once you’re in costume, close up your bag and keep it aside. Once you’ve finished performing, pop your costume back in to your bag and pack up as much as possible before you join the audience to watch.
Stage Hands – Sometimes known as Stage Kittens, a stage hand will set up your props before you perform and will pick up your costume pieces from stage and ring them to you back stage after your act. There’s no need to pick up your own costumes!
Curtain Call Outfit – Often at the end of shows the cast is called back on stage for a bow and a photo. You can choose to wear your costume, or you can take a nice outfit to wear back on stage – often people pick a nice dress or something with a bit of sparkle.
Photos – Most shows have a photographer capturing the show. But you can definitely take selfies and backstage photos. When backstage look in the background of your photo to make sure you’re not photographing someone who is nude or may be in pasties. It’s best to check with your fellow performers that they are ok for you to take backstage photos if they will appear in them.
Nerves – For your first burlesque performance, and many times after you’ll be full of nerves. And that’s fine. Make sure you’ve done the things above to help you be as ready as possible. You could listen to a meditation to calm down, listen to your music, or find a spot to close your eyes and run through your act in your mind. Take your nervous energy and shake it out through your hands and your feet, bounce and move your body to feel more connected with yourself. When you step on stage, if you’re still nervous, just give the audience a big smile and feel smug that you’re tricking the audience and that they have no idea you’re nervous. Fake it till you Make it!
Alcohol – A lot of people turn to alcohol to take the edge off or calm the nerves. While a drink before performing is fine, the producer and stage manager will not let you on stage if you are drunk. And you will not perform well if you have had too many drinks, you might even be upset with yourself. So keep the drinks to a minimum and enjoy them after you’ve performed. Just remember you still need to go on stage for curtain call, so enjoy in moderation and out of respect for your fellow performers.
Have Fun! – Remember it’s your first burlesque performance, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Burlesque should be fun, so make sure not to take yourself too seriously and go out there with the intention of having a great time, and sharing that fun with your audience and fellow performers.
Pop a pastie*, you’ll be great!
* many performers say ‘Pop a Pastie’ instead of ‘Break a leg’