Monday, October 24, 2011

How to burlesque "connecting with your audience"

Someone once said 'there are two types of performers: presentation and cathartic'. Those performers who see burlesque as a fashion show will fit more in the category of presentation. No matter how the audience reacts, the presentation performer will continue with their act without the ability to interact. And then there are cathartic performers. They will follow a routine but always leave a possibility open for elevating the intensity of their routine by taking advantage of pique audience interaction moments. Over the years I've been involved in so many different club, social events, presentations, conventions, shows, and festivities, ranging in tone from formal, to big band swing, to bawdy burlesque show, to wedding.
When I think about all the performers I've seen, which sometimes come back in bits as memories tend to do, some rise above all the others. The talent rises above, but also so do the cathartic performers. Those who interacted with their audiences and made a special connection somehow stand out.
In burlesque we are entertaining audiences that are much more vocal and interactive than any theater crowd would be. The tradition of burlesque itself extends from vaudeville which was the working man's opera. The manners in a vaudeville hall are by no means that of the opera. "If a local manager decided to fire an act due to audience displeasure or disinterest, a damning report was sent back to the United Booking Office. So it is no exaggeration to say that from Broadway to Boise, audiences had tremendous influence in shaping vaudeville .[]. This is no different today unless in the case where producers are hiring their friends who are 'just doing it for fun' so they work for next to nothing or free just to get stage time, and are valueless as a draw to a show.
In theater and traditional forms of stage, the audience is discouraged from participating in the ongoing show. so that it can be a presentation. Unlike the theater, it is my theory that the most famous burlesque acts through time have all been cathartic. Whether a strip-tease act, a comedy act, or a stand-up comedy monologue, if the audiences element of surprise is tantalized or they are filled with a sense of wonder, the performer is leaving the audience with something they will never forget. It is great cathartic acts such as "Sally Rand", "Lily St. Cyr", "Abbott & Costello", "Gypsy Rose Lee" who pushed boundaries, made audiences expect more from their performer, and raise the bar of the genre that allows any size, age, or talent to get up for five to fifteen minutes and win the audience over, say something, make the audience have an experience. or open the imagination of the audience where it wasn't in existence. In essence, the burlesque performer should never leave the audience out of the choreography in burlesque, it is a long standing tradition to play to the crowd and give them something they never expected to see in their lifetime. It will be remembered. Many have said that burlesque is all about the personality and originality, not about body size or traditional classifications for stage. This is very old, when vaudeville loved it's curvy and bawdy.
Check out a local show and decide for yourself who are cathartic and who are presentation performers. I wish there was an all-incluse list or website to offer you but each one I view omits the other side of town's events, so just google search events in portland oregon, or contact me directly for my top picks of the week, via