How to Get More Burlesque Gigs

Burlesque in the U.S. is one of the few art forms that promotes the idea that “anyone can do it.” But in saturated markets like New York City and Chicago, two years into the business, many burlesque performers find themselves reassessing the profitability. If you are a performer looking to recharge your career or thinking of becoming a performer, take a look at the tips below to learn how you can book more Burlesque Gigs. This article assumes you have already begun working as a burlesque performer and the steps outlined are for the early career to mid-career professional.

Step 1:
Examine your strengths as a performer. It’s easy to spend hours focused on why you aren’t booking (too old, too short, too fat, too thin, not classic enough, not edgy enough), but focusing on these things won’t get you more work. Instead, focus on what makes you a good performer.

Step 2:
Write down what your weak points are. Yep, time to be honest with yourself. If you have no idea what your weak points are, then ask a friend who will be honest with you. Not good at dancing? Take a dance class. Not good at being on time? Learn to pack the night before and set your alarm to remind you to be at a show 30 minutes early.

Step 3:
Know what makes you unique as a performer. Remember, if you’re performing in a saturated market, then you better stand out or as the old Stephen Sondheim song says, “Gotta Get a Gimmick.” Okay, so you don’t have to “bump it with a trumpet,” but you should aim to be the best at whatever you do even if what you do has been done by many.

Step 4:
Make a list of the shows you want to get booked in. Once you know which shows you want to work in, take a careful look and see if those shows currently have performers that look like you or offer your skill. Ask yourself it these shows could benefit from your service. If you only do neo-burlesque and you want to work in a venue that only hires classic burlesque, then unless you are going to start doing classic, you may have an uphill battle convincing them that they need to add neo-burlesque to their line up.

Step 5:
Let people know you would like to be booked. Seriously, this may seem silly, but so many performers make the same mistake. They post on Facebook that they are available. They stop by a show and tell a producer, they are available. They wait for the phone to ring or the emails to come in. Sorry, but that doesn’t work for actors or models, so why on earth should it work for burlesque performers. Yes, it’s good to post on Facebook, but also, contact those shows you listed in the previous step and ask about getting booked. Sure talking to a producer in person is great, but if you are chatting at that producer’s show, then chances are they are talking to a lot of people. Follow up with an email letting them know you liked the show and would love to work together.

Step 6:
Ask yourself what you want to get out of the business. Do you still want those legions of fans? Are you hoping to make enough money to retire? Do you just want to make some extra money while making new friends? Do you want to simply feel beautiful? Understanding why you want what you want will help you to understand whether you can still get what you want from the business or if you will never get what you want. If you aren’t getting what you want out of performing burlesque, then you either need to repeat steps 1-6 or accept that it’s time to move on.


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