burlesque tips

POSING 101: THE BASICS

Photo by Studio81

Photo by Studio81

Hullu M'dears!

I hope your day is fabulous so far. Now, the below information is just a small portion of what I teach in my classes - a wee taste, a teeeaaaassssseeeerrrrr (rather appropriate, don't you think?). Teehee!

!!NEWSFLASH!!

So... I've had to make a decision to do a blog post every two weeks. Trying to create new content with my already insane schedule is proving quite time consuming. Yes, I know it was one of my 2018 goals to keep a blog weekly, but I'm going to need to modify it slightly - self care, ya'll!

Now back to the good stuff...

I'm going to share with you the basics of posing. Whether you’re on the stage, on set for a photo shoot, or taking a selfie, these are the must-do things I swear by when posing. This is basically charm & beauty school 101.

NOTE: These pointers will work for any body shape, size, height! You do you, boo! 

Photo by Bruce Jenkins Photography

Photo by Bruce Jenkins Photography

1. KNIT YOUR TORSO

To create a long torso, have a neutral spine and pelvis (i.e. do not over-accentuate) and feel like you are zipping up through your core. Not tensing to the point you can’t breathe, but just enough to feel as though your pelvis and core are connected, like how you feel when wearing a well-fitted corset.

2. OPEN YOUR CHEST & PULL YOUR SHOULDERS DOWN

An “open” body gives off an air of confidence and flatters your physique. Think about rolling your shoulders back, while employing point #1, and bringing your shoulder blades back and around. It is important to employ point #1 here as you do not want your chest to “pop” out.

Photo by Froger

Photo by Froger

 

3. LENGTHEN FROM THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD

Pretend there is someone pulling your head vertically by a piece of string. Stand tall - even if you’re on the shorter side, this will help you feel and look taller. Basically, good posture ;)

4. LIFT YOUR CHIN

Again, with the “open” body - openness allows for you to have an air of confidence. Ensuring your head and chin are lifted (not like a snooty posh type, obviously, we don’t want to go that far!) will allow for your eye connection with the camera/audience to be cemented. If you do try a tilted chin (for a more femme fatale look) ensure your eyes remain on the prize.

Photo by Bruce Jenkins

Photo by Bruce Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

5. POINT YOUR TOES

Seriously, this will help. If you’re ever doing a pose where you have your legs elongated, even if sitting in a chair - this will help you limbs look longer, your acts more polished and give that air of dancers elegance about you.

Photo by James Yang

Photo by James Yang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. SOFT ARMS

Whenever you’re extending your arms - employ #2 & #3 and lead with the wrist. Soft elbows are lovely. What I like to do is think about moving my hands and arms through melted chocolate - it creates a slow-motion,  soft effect.

Photo by Fabian Meli

Photo by Fabian Meli

 

 

 

7. THE PERFECT PIN-UP HANDS

An old trick from back in my modelling days that never fails. Relax your hand, tense your middle finger (try to only tense that one finger, not all of them). This will give you an elegant hand and stop your fingers from curling.

Photo by Michael Craig for the New Zealand Herald.

Photo by Michael Craig for the New Zealand Herald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. BEND YOUR KNEES

Seriously, allowing yourself to bend into your knees when posing and/or dancing means more range of motion in your hips and allows more fluidity in between poses and movements.

 

 

 

 

 

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

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Be sure to enrol in my Bambina Bumpers 2 Day Beginner Intensive at Uxbridge Arts & Culture. You'll learn this, plus so, so much more! For more info, click here

And always remember in these situations WWTBD (what would Tyra Banks do?)

MODELLING HEAD TO TOE *click* *snap* ;)

 

Pro Tips on How to get Pro Tips!

Photo of Lilly performing at Prive by Peter Jennings

Photo of Lilly performing at Prive by Peter Jennings

The topic of what should you get paid in burlesque laps like the tide; coming in and out of conversations but nothing ever really gets resolved. So, I decided to do a blog on it! 

I'm sure every burlesque performer has queried how much they should ask for in regards to payment. I know I have! So I've broken down what you should ask yourselves when trying to quote for your performances. 

DISCLAIMER NO.1: 

These are my own personal thoughts and views on the topic. My own way of sussing out what to charge may be totally different than your own and that's ok! Different strokes for different folks. 

So, to start...

EXPERIENCE

It's a no-brainier that a brand new burly baby wouldn't charge as much as an experienced burlesquer, but how do you define that? Experience. Experience doesn't mean the amount of time someone has been performing burlesque (although it does factor in) but also how much training they've done, how much actual performance experience (i.e. treading the stage) they've had in shows, events, etc and how much they've grown as a performer. 

DISCLAIMER NO.2: ELITISM VS. EXPERIENCE

A quick note about elitism as opposed to experience, as this is topical in our industry currently.

Elitism is a state of mind that comes from a person and how they personally perceive and conduct themselves. If people think like that, then that's their prerogative and reflects their own (possibly deluded) values of self worth. Elitists see themselves as the 'creme de la creme' of the scene; they snob any one who isn't of their "ranking" and are generally rude and stand-offish, ALL THE TIME, not just in social settings (some of my friends suffer social anxiety and retreat into themselves in social settings, but would be HORRIFIED if someone felt snubbed by them).

If you choose not to associate with particular people in the industry because you personally aren't a fan of them or the way they conduct themselves, that's NOT ELITIST - for me personally, that's just me exercising self care. However, always be polite and civil, there’s no need to be unprofessional. This is an industry and if we want to be treated as professionals we should behave as such. Remember the ol' ego vs confidence rule - there's a VERY slim line between them. Always err to the side of confidence - always be humble.

If you have EXPERIENCE in something, and you offer your expertise or advice (if wanted and/or requested) to someone with less experience than you, that's not being elitist, that's being helpful. I’m making this distinction because I’m not writing this blog from an elitist point of view, but from one of (quite considerable) experience. I don’t claim to know everything but I feel I know enough to write this after so many years in the industry as a producer, teacher and performer.

Now, moving along...

My band of best burly babes and I were talking about this subject and how experience came into play with sussing out what to charge. So upon a lot of back and fourth conversation, we came up with categories on how to define the varying levels of experience in burlesque. I've listed them with explanations underneath. Starting from the bottom.. 

DISCLAIMER NO.3:

Throughout ALL of these categories, every burlesquer, no matter their experience, should always continue to learn, develop and grow. Professionals included.

Baby Lilly performing at The Burlesque Masquerade Ball in 2010 in Wellington. Photo by Sara Jane Austin.

Baby Lilly performing at The Burlesque Masquerade Ball in 2010 in Wellington. Photo by Sara Jane Austin.

ROOKIE

A Rookie is a burlesquer with 0-1 years experience in performing burlesque. During this time, they're honing their craft, learning from burlesque schools, private lessons, resources such as YouTube and developing their burlesque persona. A Rookie burlesquer, regardless of their experience, should get paid something - if not with cash, then with something with the same value such as a private burlesque lesson. 

NOTE: If you're a Rookie and performing in your Rookie/graduating revue, you shouldn't expect payment as this is part and parcel of your course. 

AMATEUR

An Amateur burlesquer has 1-3 years experience. They've done some training, they've got a couple of routines under their belt and are continuing to develop and grow as a burlesque artist. Payment wise, I'd say the same in regards to the Rookie. 

HOBBYIST 

A burlesque artist who identifies in this category is someone who has been performing for at least 2 years and purely sees burlesque as a hobby. Not as a job, not even a part time or casual job, a hobby. They do not perform for money, rather they purely perform for the thrill. As per the two categories above, regardless of their affiliation to burlesque, they should still ask for compensation. Note - some performers may stay at this level for their entire involvement in burlesque, and that's totally ok!

PROFESSIONAL HOBBYIST

There is two differences between a Hobbyist and a Professional Hobbyist. One is that the Professional Hobbyist performs casually (i.e. this is not their full time job, maybe not even their part time job) but they do expect to get paid for their performances. They will have also been performing for at least upwards of 3+ years. That payment will reflect their experience in the industry. They will expect money as payment rather than other forms of compensation. Two, they'll have an overall professional manner and market themselves as such. They will generally have at least a designated FB page and/or Instagram account for their burlesque persona as well as possibly a designated email address. Again, like the Hobbyist, a performer may stay at this level for their entire involvement in burlesque.

and finally...

An oldie, but a goodie! From L to R - The Magenta Diamond, Venus Starr, Australian and Miss Exotic World 2012 Imogen Kelly, Bonita Danger Doll, Leda Petit and Lilly Loca (moi!) pictured at Venus Starr's 'Carousel Cabaret' in 2014. Photo by Directive Photography.

An oldie, but a goodie! From L to R - The Magenta Diamond, Venus Starr, Australian and Miss Exotic World 2012 Imogen Kelly, Bonita Danger Doll, Leda Petit and Lilly Loca (moi!) pictured at Venus Starr's 'Carousel Cabaret' in 2014. Photo by Directive Photography.

PROFESSIONALS

The jump from Professional Hobbyist to Professional is quite substantial, and for the following reasons. A Professional Performer sees burlesque entertainment as their part time or full time job. They, like Professional Hobbyists, conduct themselves professionally, have social media platforms covered for their persona, but on top of this they will most likely have a website and YouTube channel too along with a designated email. They'll tend to have a certain level of polish, have at least 4+ years in the industry and have evolved their own particular style, brand and acts which they are known for. They will sometimes also have merchandise you can buy either online or at shows, which may include (but are not subjected to) posters, clothing, used nylon stockings, etc. Professionals will continue (like all the other categories - hopefully) to put money into their professional development and create high quality, polished acts with costumes, etc to match. Professionals will always expect payment for their acts and will charge according to their experience. 

Ok, so there's the different categories. You may agree or disagree, but that's what we came up with. 

You may notice I didn't put any actual price tags in there. Well, that's because you can't simply apply a stock fee for burlesque. It all depends on who and where you are performing, which leads to my next point.. 

WHERE & WHO YOU ARE PERFORMING FOR

I'm going to talk about these in categories as it's easier - what you charge depends on your experience + who and where you are performing, so let's have a look:

BURLESQUE SHOWS

Now, the kinds of burlesque shows I'm talking about here are the ones run by people within the burlesque industry, not ones created by event companies or by the corporate world.

Real talk - I've been producing shows since 2011. Each city has its own climate, and in the big smoke (aka. Auckland) the theatre and live performance climate has always been tough. A lot of the time, show producers are self funding their shows and depend on the profits of a show to pay their cast and crew. If we break even, we do a happy dance and get the party poppers out. If we make a profit, we crack open the magnum champagne! (jokes - who can afford them anyway?)

Some producers do what's called a "risk share" where every performer in the show, regardless of their experience, will get an equal share of the profits after expenses. This is a fail-safe way for producers to pay people, but they should always do a budget and have some idea as who what the minimum will be. An experienced performer may ask for a retainer, but generally so long as the producer is up front with you and if you are happy to do risk share, than so be it. Sometimes it pays off aannndddd sometimes it doesn't. Personally, I wouldn't do a risk share if I had to travel (I've been caught out before). If I wanted to test out an act and if it was a local production, sure, but I wouldn't be performing one of my more elaborate acts for a minimal fee. 

Otherwise, producers offer a set fee. The good thing about set fees is you know what you're getting from the outset, which is nice and handy for budgeting purposes. Taking into account the climate, which I chat about above, a lot of producers really do try to pay the best they can for their performers with the budget they're given. But don't be expecting $500.00+ per act as to put it simply, burlesque producers can't afford it. We do what we do because we're passionate about the industry, producing and showcasing performers as well as our own skill set. For an amateur, you'd be looking at between $50-$100 per performance. For a professional hobbyist or professional, $100-$200 per act. If you get a headlining spot, perhaps $200-$300 per act. That's just a generalized figure and may fluctuate between varying producers. 

Bottom line, in burlesque shows, don't expect top dollar. But regardless of experience, do ensure you do get paid. 

PRIVATE BOOKINGS & CORPORATES

You've received an email asking for you to perform at x place at x time for x long. Then they ask you "how much?". Well, how long is a piece of string?

Below are the factors you need to take into account when quoting for private or corporate bookings:

  1. Your experience - If you're promoting yourself as a premium product, but don't have the experience, you're going to stab yourself in the foot with a stiletto heel - and it will hurt. Do NOT over promise and do not say you can do something that isn't within your skill-set. Always be honest and price accordingly. If you are an expert at performing burlesque, and have the experience behind that to prove it, then feel free to charge top dollar. Also, on this subject, if you think you're not comfortable taking on a particular gig, or you think that your skill set isn't suited to what the client wants, that's OK. I often pass gigs on to my fellow performers who I know would be a better fit if I can't actually do what they're asking for (see my notes on saying no at the end of the blog).
  2. Time - How much time will this booking ask of you - now I don't mean this just in terms of time at the actual event, but in regards to rehearsal, packing, prop moving, travelling, preparation re. hair and make-up and then, of course, actual time you'll need to be at the event and how many performances. 
  3. Travel - This also merges in with time, but how much travel is involved? Will they cover your travel? Or will you need to sort your own? This also factors in accommodation, etc too. If the client will cover travel & expenses, then you don't need to cater that into your quote. If they don't, then you will. Note that this factor is more relevent for performers who are performing out of town.
  4. Who is booking you - Ultimately, you need to value your worth and review each client as a case by case basis. Regardless of it's a hens party wanting a fun, flirty strip tease act or a corporate body who want 2x highly glamorized burlesque acts with large props for their bosses birthday soiree with some mingling afterwards, you need to be the judge as to what you should charge by taking into account all of the above. 

So for these kinds of gigs, start chatting with fellow burlesquers and see what they would charge, then after analyzing the above, think of what you'd be happy with. Ask burlesquers from a range of different experiences so you can get a feel for what various performers charge. You can always be negotiable, but don't allow for a client NOT to pay you what you believe your worth. But again, take into account your experience. 

My final thoughts on this..

GET PAID 

I know I sound like a broken record here, but please ask for payment or compensation of some sort. If you don't, you devalue the industry and allow for producers outside the scene, private and corporate clients to expect more for less. If we want burlesque to be seen as an important, relative and serious art form, we need to treat it as such. 

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SAYING NO

Seriously, if someone doesn't want to pay you what you'd like, then politely and professionally tell them no. Simple. Don't do something for free because you're desperate for a gig. Again, that kind of behavior does nothing for the industry and those in it.  

This also goes for my point above regarding if you feel you cannot offer what a client wants/needs. Don't take a gig because you are afraid of missing out. There's so much to be gained from sharing opportunities with others and if you feel like another performer fits the mold better, then put them forward instead and graciously decline. But, always leave the door open. 

Phew, that was a long one! I hope you find this helpful and informative. 

Lilly x

Character vs. Persona

Lilly Loca as her original drag king character, Gary Krumbert. Photo taken by Peter Jennings.

Lilly Loca as her original drag king character, Gary Krumbert. Photo taken by Peter Jennings.

Character (n): 

1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

2. a person in a novel, play, or film.

Persona (n): 

1. the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others e.g. "their burlesque persona" 

 

I've often heard performers getting confused as to how to classify themselves - is who they are when they perform burlesque a character or a persona? To me, when people get it wrong, it irks me. Why? Well, because having performed in theatre and acting most of my life until 8 years ago when I first dipped my toes into the sparkly waters of burlesque, I was very much involved in character-based roles. I still am, and very much incorporate it into my burlesque career, but how I perceive a character may be a bit different to someone else who possibly doesn't have a theatrical background. I can't expect to get frustrated if someone is just a bit naive and thinks characters and personas are the same deal. So - I'm going to clear it all up for you! 

Important Note:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having either a character, persona or both! It's just important to get it right when selling yourself to a client or producer. If people sell themselves as a roving character, yet when push comes to shove, the "character" isn't fully formed, and when hit with questions from people your interacting with while in role like "So, who is your father?" and you can't answer it - that character isn't developed and you've essentially promoted yourself as being someone you aren't. If you're a persona, you are you, just an adapted version of you, so audience members aren't going to expect a fully developed, three dimensional back story apart from your very own! 

Character - How do I know if they are one?

As stated above, a character has the mental and moral qualities of an individual. Basically, this means your character should have a backstory. Here's a checklist of how you can figure out whether you have a character or a persona:

  1. Do they have a distinct name (that is separate from yourself)?
  2. Do they have distinct personality traits which act as a basis for all of their actions, reactions, conversations, etc?
  3. Do they have a particular way they physicality hold themselves (i.e. they are confident, so walk with a proud chest, tall stature and moderate tension)?
  4. When you are them, do you find that you fall into their mindset and let them drive the way you act, react, perform, interact, etc?
  5. Can you imagine a backstory for them? Do they have a family? what's their favorite colour? Are they married? Do they like seafood? 
  6. Do they have any particular quirks (i.e. allergies, a twitchy left eye, a distinct dislike for physical contact)? 

If you've answered 3 or more of these with "yes" - you've probably got yourself a character. If you've answered more with "no" or "I'm not sure", then it's probably safe to say you've got yourself a persona.

How do I develop a character?

So - how to develop your character (if you have one)? There are various character profiles you can download from Google - I've got them for all my drag king characters Jethro, Gary and Santago. I know everything about them from what high school they went to (or didn't) to what their preference in food is. It is fundamental if you're creating a character to have a well rounded, fleshed out, 3D one - especially if you're roving. Why? Because their history, personality, quirks and life experiences will be a huge influence on how they interact with people and the kinds of acts you'll come up with for them. Just like if you have a persona - the acts you create for your onstage persona are inspired and influenced by your own life! Same needs to happen with a character. 

Case Study - Me, Lilly and Gary.

Lilly Loca. Photo taken by Studio81.

Lilly Loca. Photo taken by Studio81.

To use myself as a case study, I'll take one of my characters Gary Krumbert and my onstage burlesque persona Lilly Loca as examples. Gary is a fully fleshed out, 3D character. He has his backstory, he in himself is a person. I am not me when I am him. I am fully, 100% in role as Gary. However I react to a situation in role as him, I instinctively know what to do and how to react because I know him so well as know his backstory well enough to be able to conduct myself accordingly. With Lilly - essentially, Lilly Loca is me. She is me, I am her. Lilly Loca is a stage name I fashioned myself to separate Nat Hugill, the mother, wife, theatre actress, producer among other things from Lilly Loca - the bawdy, silver tongued burlesque entertainer and MC. To complicate matters further, I say I'm Lilly Loca performing as Gary Krumbert, Jethro Jenkins, Santago Montego, etc. Why? Because I use my name Lilly Loca as an umbrella for all things burlesque - and if I want people to find me, or remember me, I need to link my characters to the name I go by in the burlesque industry. Weird, I know - but otherwise people think Gary is someone who isn't me - you have no idea how many times I've heard people say "OH YOU'RE GARY?!!! I WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN HAD YOU NOT TOLD ME!".

To complicate things further...

Lilly Loca as Absolem. Photo taken by Bruce Jenkins Photographer.

Lilly Loca as Absolem. Photo taken by Bruce Jenkins Photographer.

You can be in role in your persona. Yep - now, there's a BIG difference here between being in character or playing a role as your persona. Again, I'll use myself as a case study. 

So, as explained before, I, Lilly, am a persona. I am essentially Nat with a jazzy name. Lilly is my mask, my facade, but underneath it all, it's still Nat. 

As Lilly, I sometimes take on a role for a particular act. This is to say, they're not a character as they're not fully fleshed out or a person in their own right, it's me as Lilly taking on characteristics of a particular character to help achieve a particular emotion, feel, look, etc. Pretty much it's performer inception, haha! 

When I perform my Absolem routine - the routine is inspired by the character of Absolem from the famed Alice in Wonderland books. However I am not the character of Absolem. I take on qualities of Absolems character as Lilly to help the audience understand that the act is in homage to this character and helps them to understand the metamorphosis I go through in my routine from caterpillar to butterfly. It's like if a performer was to perform a snake inspired act - they'd take on qualities of a snake to convince the audience that that's what their doing (i.e. use fluid, snake-like movements when performing, use glaring eye contact, etc) but they in themselves are not the character of a snake. On stage, they personify the characters traits, but offstage when people chat to the audience, they're themselves, not in role. See what I mean? That's where it all get's a bit confusing. 

So, if you're ever in doubt as to whether you are a character, persona or a persona donning qualities of a character but aren't in themselves a character, read all of the above and ask yourself those questions to determine it. 

I hope this has been an insightful read for you!

Next blog: Goals of 2018 + review of my 2017 goals