So … I have been to quite a few burlesque shows over the last few years, and I’ve also been backstage at many burlesque shows as well (by the way … it’s a marvellous place to be!) and so I’ve come up with a few tips which, if you follow them, will make you a stellar burlesque audience member. And I tell you what – as an audience member, you can make or break a show, so get yourself a wine and read on my sparkly friend!
Dress up – this is for your pleasure as much as the performers. You can literally NEVER be overdressed at a burlesque show – the sky is the limit – truly. And that is a very awesome and liberating thing …. think about it – how many occasions are there that you can indulge your love of sequins, fabulous headwear, glitter, tiaras and whatever else tickles your fancy?! PS: there’s quite often a competition for Best Dressed too … so get your fancy on!
Good etiquette … yes these girls (and boys) are here to take their clothes off – and don’t worry, they will. But if you call out obnoxious, drunken and stupid things like “show us ya *****” they more than likely won’t. Their job is to tease, tantalise and seduce you – not bust everything out, give it a shake and walk off the stage. Performers put a great deal of time, thought and effort into their acts, and they don’t need some drunken punter ruining it for them (or the rest of the audience for that matter). Having said that though …
Encourage them! ... whoop, holler, whistle, clap, cheer. There’s NOTHING worse than an audience that sits there politely and doesn’t respond to the performers. There’s been many a time when I’ve been backstage and heard a performer come off stage, shaking their head ruefully and announcing “tough audience – hard to get them going.” Honestly, you will get a waaaaay better performance from them if you give them a bit of encouragement and something to play up to! And don’t be scared about them picking on you if you do that … they’re more likely to pick on you if you don’t!
DO NOT KEEP their things! If, during their act, you happen to have a costume piece flung at you, or near you – PLEASE for the love of God, DO NOT KEEP IT! Costume pieces are often handmade, cost a fortune or are difficult/time-consuming to replace. Costume pieces are an integral part of a performer’s act; a lot of thought and expense goes into them and they need them for the next time they perform. Performers in New Zealand don’t get paid much – it barely covers their rhinestones – they do it for the love of the performance and they certainly can’t be replacing costume pieces after every performance. If you do find something; either hand it to the stage kitty, who will be collecting the cast off pieces, or if you can’t do that, hand it to someone behind the bar or to the stage manager.
Embrace the inappropriate – burlesque is bawdy, comedic and sexy and it’s R18 for a reason. If you’re easily offended or have no sense of humour, do us all a favour and stay at home! But if you are up for a good night and can roll with the punches and innuendo (and let’s face it, not always just innuendo!) you are gonna have yourself a blast! One of my favourite MC’s, Piotr from Uzbekoslavia is totally inappropriate and it’s one of my favourite things about him!
Don’t take photos – a) it’s not your job – there is generally a show photographer hired to do that; b) the flash can distract the performers; c) performers have the right to control photographs of themselves in that situation and d) you’ll enjoy the show more, and annoy people around you less, if you just leave your phone in your bag.
Don’t expect Dita von Teese every time – burlesque is a wonderful, crazy, inclusive world where (mostly) amateur performers get to tease, tantalise and shake their booties a few times a year. They don’t have big costume budgets like Dita does; they don’t all have perfect bodies (and that’s the fun of it – they’re ordinary people like you and I) and they don’t have time to practice all day, every day. Burlesque is meant to be spontaneous and fun, and there are often bloopers – and they’re often the most fun parts of the show. Be kind and enjoy the spectacle – I can tell you, many/most performers are literally a bundle of nerves before they go on stage, where they somehow magically transform into the glamorous, confident performer you see. Trust.
So that is my guide to how to be a good burlesque audience member. Hope it’s helpful and remember – support your local performers by heading along to their shows whenever you can. They’re not expensive and you are pretty much guaranteed a fun night of entertainment, sass and the opportunity to dress yourself up to the nines!
So bust out your best burlesque ensemble and hop to it …