My Mother once told me I was dancing before I could walk and it was probably true. My first memory is of me dancing. I was simply present. And I was enjoying it.
Now I was never a precocious stage kid who wanted to be the center of attention but more of a quiet observer of people and emotions. I had a burning desire to perform and secretly fulfilled this fantasy by choreographing and practicing dance routines in my bedroom. At the age of 14, I started training at a local youth theatre specializing in acting, dancing, and singing and I honed these skills throughout my teenage years. After I graduated from college I carried on taking regular dance classes in various styles of dance and this is how I discovered the art of burlesque.
I initially started performing Burlesque after researching the history of the art form (‘Burlesque’ comes from the Italian word ‘Burla’ which means ‘a joke, ridicule or mockery’ and overlaps in meaning with extravaganza, as presented during the Victorian era of burlesque and cabaret) and was fascinated by the glamor depicted in places such as the Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse in Paris. Not to mention artists such as Gypsy Rose Lee and Dita Von Teese, one of the most successful burlesque artistes of the modern-day. The possibilities were endless. I could create my own act around anything that inspired me.
What began as a hobby became more serious when I was asked to produce my first show in 2011. When I started producing my own burlesque shows, I had no idea if they would succeed or not. We launched at the tiny, now-defunct theatre (3MT) which seated a maximum of 30 people and now have regular residencies at the iconic jazz club Matt & Phreds and The Richmond Tearooms both in Manchester, United Kingdom. Huge stages are an incredible experience for any performer but the smaller, more intimate venues really test a performer’s skill. I am also a perfectionist when it comes to all aspects of my business so not only do I perform at all of my shows; I also run my own marketing and I’m front of house greeting guests at the beginning of a show night. I want every single person who purchases a ticket to feel special as soon as they walk through the door.
I may be one of the main performers in my shows and do a lot of the tasks behind the scenes but I could not do all of this work without having a talented cast, stage manager, lighting and sound engineer, as well as the bar staff, security, and venue team. Each person’s job is just as important as the headliner on stage that the audience is coming to watch. No matter how big or small a show, every member behind the scenes and on stage are the glue that holds a production together. If a team member isn’t there, the entire show unravels.
As bizarre as the job of a Burlesque performer may seem to non-industry folk, it is also a way of connecting with a room full of people: whether in front of a hundred people on stage or one single person at home watching via a screen. When Covid hit and we were forced to go into lockdown, so many people turned to the arts to get through these uncertain times. It was wonderful to see creative people adapting, with large venues like the National Theatre in London streaming some of their most popular shows for free. Independent filmmakers, theatre companies, and cabaret shows also streamed their work online to keep their art alive.
Times are hard for the general public and they will only get harder after this year. So any help I can give that let’s people forget their troubles for a few hours each evening really makes my job worthwhile. What gives me a performance buzz is finding a way to use my body through movement to express emotion and, in turn, knowing that emotion is captured by my audience.
The most authentic performances from an actor or dancer are when they are totally submerged in the moment and to ‘live in the moment’, that’s the mantra I use in my everyday life. No matter what industry you work in, I believe this is a vitally important mindset to have from day-to-day. How many of us have been guilty of simply going through the motions to get through a day? I’m guilty of that, like anyone else. But when I’m truly present, I’m really thriving.
I know that not every person in the world has the desire to perform on a stage and it may seem alien to you, but having that inner ‘buzz’? That joy in being present? That’s what I wish for you, whatever your field or industry. Whether you’re developing code, marketing a product or launching a brand new start-up. Because even in these uncertain times, being able to tap into that at your job will make it that much more enjoyable. And hey, if your job isn’t perfect, here’s a friendly suggestion. Close your bedroom door, crank up the volume and dance to your favourite song. You might just surprise yourself with what you feel.