I’ve been taking burlesque classes off and on for a few years now, mostly on for the past year. Last night was my 20th show since October 2015, and my first solo performance.
I feel like I approached doing a solo like I did doing a marathon. I waited until all my friends had done one, and then I was like, well if they can do it, I can too. And I made sure to do the work to do it well.
Shopping for fabric, rhinestoning costume pieces I already owned (finally, something I did myself!), figuring out how to wear cobwebs in a sexy/flattering way that also comes off easily, putting together choreography, figuring out the overall concept and arc and practicing my face to match … plus rehearsal, and the many classes and group performances I’ve done up until this point … I’ve spent a lot of hours preparing to do something that lasted 4 minutes.
I had moments of self-doubt while working on everything. So many moments of self-doubt. What am I doing? I’m not creative enough. This act sucks. The concept of my act is stupid. The choreography sucks. I’m going to look like an idiot on stage. I have no right to be doing a solo to this song (Lullaby by The Cure – a song that is well-loved, and most likely about some dark stuff).
But of course, I was my own worst critic. I showed the act to teachers and friends (including a non-burlesque friend whose opinion I trust), and they all not only seemed to like it, but all had really great feedback that helped me improve the act. It really takes a village.
I gave myself floorburn during rehearsal … and since I was wearing (a different pair of) fishnets, the scab came out in a fishnet pattern.
This might sound crazy, but I really should wear more make-up. When performing.
The night of the show came, and my nerves stayed surprisingly calm. I guess I’m getting pretty comfortable on stage, plus, the audience is on your side. Even if an act has a hiccup, the audience appreciates vulnerability, and wants to see you get through it and succeed. You win them over by showing up, it’s just a matter of taking them on your ride.
The arc of my act starts scared/hiding (behind the cloak) to shedding that security and finding cobwebs underneath (the crap that we cling to that holds us back) and then discarding the cobwebs to allow myself to be comfortable and confident in my own skin. The lyrics are about the spiderman coming to get/eat you. We are both the spiderman (our self-doubt and fear) and our own victims.
I finished the act feeling confident and amazing and the audience seemed to love it. I walked off stage feeling like I want to do this again … and again and again. Not just perform. but create solos … perform my work, my ideas, my creativity. Even if it’s not as creative and unique as other performers, it’s still me.
Telling Olive all about it … not really.
I think the thing I struggle with the most in burlesque is feeling like I’m creative enough to do it, which is probably why it took me longer than most (relative to my burlesque friends) to create and perform a solo. There are some incredibly creative and artistic people in this community. I’ve never thought of myself as an artist, but that’s OK. I don’t have to be the most creative, I just have to be me. And the amazing thing about this community is they will accept and celebrate me exactly as I am.