(Khandie graphic by Em Eato)
Do you teach burlesque? Where can I learn?
These are often questions I get asked at shows. It has made me stop and think lately whether there is ever a right time to teach. I mean my style is unique (or as one performer said recently ‘manic’). Would I be the right person to teach traditional show girl inspired burlesque moves? Or should I stick to my slightly comedic style?
I myself have taken lessons and will continue to do so as I feel that it is always a good way to develop as a performer. I have actually given one or two lessons but I am always open and honest about how long I have been performing, where I have performed and my style.
Just because someone calls themselves a burlesque teacher does not mean I am stood ready with my money in my hand ready to pay!
I often see posts on social networking sites and over the wider web about burlesque workshops/lessons. But alas, after some attempts at background research on the teachers I often find them to be people trying to earn a quick buck by latching onto a popular form of entertainment/dance. I am all for people wanting to earn money but would you want to learn burlesque from these people? When did experience lose out to such people?
Offering lessons after a few performances yourself does seem ‘odd’ (to say the least.). Understandably, stating in an obvious place that you have little or no experience would not be good for business, but then why teach? Offering to show ladies (and lads!) how to shimmy like a star and remove a glove like a diva is great, but if you have only done it yourself a few times, why would you charge people for the privilege of your limited knowledge?
My view is that you should take lessons from someone who knows what they are talking about. It’s all well and good to offer lessons, but I feel that experience is needed. I wouldn’t want to learn how to make a dress from someone who has never made one, or learn to drive from someone who has never driven! Okay, a wee bit extreme, but I was stumped on burlesque related analogies!
There are many places out there where the teachers are experienced, qualified and insured. It would be better to part with your cash with these people than someone jumping on the burlesque band wagon. I do not wish to tread on toes with this article, but having seen the question of teaching burlesque crop up time and time again on various forums; I felt it’s the right time to address the issue. I have devised a small check list (though not extensive or exhaustive) to follow when booking lessons:
1. Are they/is the venue insured adequately?
2. What experience do the teachers have (look out for flaws in CVs such as claiming to perform at nights that don’t exist or vague details. If in doubt contact venues/organisers)?
3. What qualifications do they have? This is not always important as some performers have gained a wealth of knowledge though their own experiences performing.
4. Ask for information on the classes e.g. what will be taught?
5. Speak to other/previous students.
If in doubt you can always contact a performer you admire or the many forums on the internet that will, I am sure, offer advice on established classes.
Just remember to research anyone who asks for your money in return for lessons just so you know you are getting a worthy product. The burlesque community is a great place to be but be careful not to get ripped off. Happy tasseling sweeties!