Burlesque – Afterthoughts

Burlesque – Afterthoughts

This is going to be a rather long, wordy and heavy blog post so feel free to grab a hot drink, a glass of wine or something to ease you in.

When I started in burlesque nearly a decade ago I loved every aspect of it. When we are new we don’t see the chinks and the dents. The sparkles and the glitter blind us. We yearn to be on stage as we think that is what makes us a success. It gives us purpose and we measure our quality as a performer by how much we perform. We get suckered into performing for free because of it. Without even some spends towards our fuel. We forget or choose not to see we are paying to perform. I know no other situation where I will pay to line the pockets of another person. A ticketed event and nothing comes to you? Doesn’t add up.


We ignore the late payers and the rings we have to run around in to get paid. We live for the applause, the people telling us we did good. There is NO SHAME in loving the stage. There is no shame is loving a happy audience. I adore it more now than when I did all those years ago. I cant deny that. But I can no longer sit quiet when people are late to pay me or abuse my employment. I have learnt business ethics, the rules regarding employment law, but more importantly that I have self-worth both as a performer and a person.

I recently wrote a post about a person known on the circuit as a bit of a twat (to put it bluntly). We (collectively and ambiguously) as a community spoke in whispers and via Direct Messages on social media about it all. We spoke in hush tones backstage, in dressing rooms and on our road trips. Yet we never publicly stated our experiences. We worried for our ‘careers’. Facts are facts. They can not be argued with so we should have had the courage to stand out and proud to say it. We didn’t. I did. I was abused for it. I appreciate the passion but many years ago I was assaulted by a promoter of sorts. (Now imprisoned for other crimes). When I mentioned it years later to a performer she said to me ‘oh yeah he did that to me too’. Wait. So had we had the courage to speak out, perhaps I wouldn’t have been assaulted. I even did a gig where another performer (since retired and disappeared) knew a client may attempt to ‘push me into things i didn’t want to do’ but she wanted the money more than my respect or concerns about my safety. I know we don’t like to speak out also for fear of not knowing the full picture, but sometimes we need to just say ‘hey this is not ok’.  I felt I should speak out to at least say: its not ok.  I used facts. I even consulted the police. The person actually thanked me for the post, even apologised for the abuse I got because of it.

KK_8135-EditI have always attempted to create a safe and friendly environment in burlesque. I have been abused and belittled by headliners, watched fledgling performers cry in corners but also seen the amazing talents of many showgirls. I have seen talents sparkle and shine brighter than anything under the lights. I fell in love with the show but never the politics.

Competitions are ridiculed by many and revered by others. Inhouse rivalries build and combust. Friendships form for life. Acts are supposedly stolen. Acts are created. We fixate on the glitter and for most that’s ok. But the glitter comes with a cost. Be that a pure financial cost or a personal cost: we gain/lose confidence, we open up to criticism and applaud. We get upset with a lack of bookings, that we aren’t making ‘progress’, that our name isn’t out there.

So many costs we forget the gains. I have seen former students of mine go on to headline, to gain confidence as quick as a lightning bolt and to stand on stage more proud than ever before.  Seeing audiences members smile and cheer and to see talent nurtured and encouraged.

Burlesque is more than glitter. Its more than applause. Its about community, its about history and its about individuals pushing it on.

Copyright Julie Arthur Copyright Julie Arthur

The last few months have made me rethink my place in burlesque. Should I retire now? Should I say goodbye? I am still thinking it over. I love my stage time. I love teaching. I love working. I have bookings rolling in. I would never like to leave because I cant get gigs.  I just don’t see the community the same way. It has amazing potential but someone recently emailed me saying that the burlesque community in the UK is terrible and needs to sort itself out. I hope its not true. We have a burgeoning community. We have a few bad apples but we are weeding them out (mostly passively) so for now I will remain, I think. If only to ensure I keep my end of the bargain up: keep the limelight forward facing and focused on the audience, the talent and the fair treatment.

I get messages of support and commendations on occasions (by the way…my website stores IP address so you should remember that when you send anonymous insults because when you wrote nice things a few months ago with your name…that was stored too.Easy to marry up). I have always been fairly outspoken and clear in my views. I will always be so. I will make bad decisions and good calls, I am human. I just dont want to see the community break down, the burlesque be forgotten or another performer be jaded by another.

Stupid Faces of Rabbit Stupid Faces of Rabbit

I love this thing called burlesque. Sure we fall out from time to time but I always forgive. Often burlesque forgives me.

Now drink that wine.



Khandie Khisses 2017 Up
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