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Burlesque Business Advice - Chicago Burlesque Dancer Red Hot Annie Weinert
She really makes the wieners boil!

Red Hot Annie / Ann Marie Weinert
Date: 2012-11-13 07:41
Subject: Burlesque Business Advice
Security: Public

Just like any other close-knit performance art, the politics of burlesque can leave a lot of people wondering what the best way to approach any given situation is. Take a look at some advice I've given over the years.

What would you do?

Got your own question? Feel free to ask!

Q: I fell in love with a local troupe's style. I asked the troupe leader if they were looking for dancers and she said they weren't. I was approached by another troupe and asked to dance for them. I'm just not sure if I should settle for a group I am unsure about or sit on my hands waiting for the group I want to be a part of to ask me. What would you do if you were me?

A: In regards to being a troupe or individual performer, I highly recommend that you take a very honest look at your skills both as a performer and as a business person. You also have to consider the politics of the situation.

Troupes are really the best opportunities for people who are, first and foremost, team players. Not everyone is, so you really have to be honest with yourself about how you'll respond to people's quirks and varying work ethics. On the plus side, a troupe can be an excellent opportunity to really double-down on exposure, especially if the troupe has a strong presence and ability to promote each performer. It can be a great source of skill building, too - if a troupe can give you critique on your acts, you may find your skills as a performer sky-rocket.

On the other hand, if the politics of the situation are such that joining one troupe is going to upset your chances with another troupe later on, the best thing to do is wait things out and see what happens, or gather more information. If you are moved to make a decision one way or the other, it's important to clearly communicate your intentions about joining a troupe to other invested parties to avoid hurt feelings or unnecessary drama. It's polite and shows gratitude.

Is there anything in particular that makes you feel tenative about joining the second troupe? How certain are you that your first choice will have a place for you at some point? Again, it's important to be honest with yourself - does your preferred troupe have enough performers already or are they perhaps looking for a different style of performer? Perhaps there's another way to get involved with them while you work on your performance/business skills?

Q: I'm new to burlesque and took classes to get into the community. I belong to a troupe of amazing ladies. My problem is this: my head mistress suggested I wear full hose to hide my thigh cellulite. It may not be my favorite part of my body, but I'm comfortable with myself. Not sure I really want to hide my flaws. What should I do about this?

First of all, congratulations on finally taking the plunge! It sounds like burlesque is going to be a really fun experience for you! It sounds like you are very comfortable with your thighs (me, too) - I think it's probably something you can talk to the head mistress about one on one. She may not realize you aren't shy or self-conscious about it, so it's important to overcommunicate how you feel about even a conflict like this one. Also, part of the information that a teacher shares in class can be geared toward everyone's learning benefit, so she may have been sharing with you partially to make sure others knew that tights were an option. I'd be surprised if a short & sweet conversation (I'd suggest that instead email/text/phone) wouldn't take care of it.

Q: I was recently asked to perform at a local fringe festival. It's relatively new and they are having a fundraiser to off set the cost of the bigger event. They don't pay performers for the fundraiser but said last year the girls passed the hat after each act and made good tips. They do pay for the bigger event. Have you heard of this being done? From a personal standpoint I can totally handle it. More crowd interaction, a chance to say thank you? Sure! However I'm getting some disapproving looks when I mentioned it to a couple other people. Just wondering your take on it?

In my experience, passing the hat is an excellent way to bring in a little extra something for the performers. I don't personally see any issue with accepting tips, especially if they are collected in a way that allows the performer dignity (in Chicago, Vaudezilla has our pick-up girls do the hat passing, for example).

Different areas of the country have varying viewpoints on tips, though. I've been on stages where the audience threw waded up dollar bills on stage. It doesn't bother me, but some of my gals felt like it was disrespectful. As always, you can expect a wide range of reactions to money situations as they pertain to burlesque, but ultimately there are a lot of right ways to do tips and you should decide for yourself what you prefer.

Actually, the only major thing that gives me pause is that you're considering doing the show for "tips only" - I've found that this is usually a bad precident to set for venues/producers. Have you considered asking for a small minimum (in addition to tips)? Even just $15 to cover your lashes & stockings?

Unless the fundraiser is being thrown by someone you really know for a cause that you really believe in, you need to be aware that money is being made - and that the business savvy thing to do in these situations is to position yourself as a performer who is paid well for her work and is making an *exception* to take a lower guaranatee (even if that's not true, it'll be better for your future opportunities to make it a policy never to work for free).

Remember that every person you come in contact with professionaly will be making a generalization about burlesque performers based on what they experience with you - and no one wants producers walking away with an impression that "burlesque dancers don't need to get paid."

There are - of course - always exceptions, but make sure you are really examining the event prior to agreeing to do any event for "tips only."

Q: I am interested in fan dancing, but I have no idea what color to purchase. Since they are such a pricey investment I am trying to think of something that will go with everything. I was thinking black, but do you think that is to typical or boring?

A: I suggest red for your first fans - it's great for Xmas, Valentine's Day, etc, in addition to being a beautiful color that pops on stage. Black is nice, but remember if you perform on a black stage, they'll be harder to see.

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