(Khandie graphic by Em Eato)
Okay, so we all dread it – we work for decades (okay maybe not that long) on an act. We rhinestone the costume until our fingers are stumps, we bump and grind until we shuffle old women. Then finally the day comes when we debut the act. It goes well. We love it! HOORAY. We love our new act.
But then disaster – someone informs you that the act exists already. Disaster! Surely not? This act that you have slaved so long and hard over, the tiny idea that has now manifested into a vision of feathers, rhinestones and glitter! SURELY NOT!
Okay, I have yet (touches wood) to have this happen to me, but I have known it to happen to others. I have however been the act that already existed, which then plays on my mind – did she copy or imitate, or was she simply unaware that my act exists? Doesn’t it enter people’s minds to research? Okay, so not all acts are available on the internet, but it makes me laugh when well known performers are copied.
If you think you may have an act similar to someone else, it is a hard subject to approach with them. I have on occasion used the same music, and while most performers are aware of musical similarities existing on the scene, only one performer has asked me to change my tune to another. Granted, I doubt this performer owned the copyright to the music and therefore can’t make me change the music, but it is out of respect that I did. I was unaware of the act and must state that neither act was similar in any other way.
I believe that some routines will always exist in varying forms, (but this does not excuse copying) such as zombie, cavewoman etc. But it is how you go about it that sets you apart from other artistes. I know of a self-proclaimed burlesque teacher or two who have actively taught existing acts to students! COMPLETE OUTRAGE! Surely a teacher would know better, but alas it appears not. What is worse is that these students are either lead to believe the act is truly unique and continue to perform it, or that this is acceptable practice. I can’t quite decide which is worse. But the initial fault does not lie with the student, the teacher should know better.
Sadly, there are also some performers who seem content in the fact that they are performing others work. Whilst their audience may not be aware, other performers will be. It is not a pleasant thing to do to anyone and is really very disrespectful, in my opinion. One of my acts has been copied, and despite informing the performer that this act was created to help raise money for a charity VERY close to my heart, nothing came of it. The whole concept, music, staging, tassels and costuming are the same, so it is more than just pure coincidence, surely?! I am informed that the act is being still being used, and though initially upset by it, I feel safe in the knowledge that some people will recognize it as my work. That’s good enough for me.
If you are made aware of a similar act on the circuit it is not the end of the world. Speak to the performer and ask to see video clips and gain more information/insight. Whilst costuming/concept may be similar, the act may not be. It is always a good idea to research acts – and I mean research! Check the internet sites such as YouTube, Google, Ministry of Burlesque – to be honest the list is endless. Don’t be too upset if your act already exists. A lot of acts are out there and at times people do end up with similar ones. Just rework your act until it is unique and then it will stand out from the crowd.
Whilst imitation is the supposedly the best form of flattery I don’t think it necessarily applies to the burlesque circuit…
Love, Khandie x
For previous Khandie Kholumns, click here…