It seems like this keeps coming up in conversation and I feel like I should write about it while it’s still fresh in my head. I was having coffee yesterday with Frenchie Kiss, one of my very favorite ladies and an amazing performer, and we got to talking about this idea of standards, competition, and professionalism in burlesque. And when older, more seasoned performers have something to say on the subject, my ears perk up. The reason the topic came up in the first place was due to a group discussion we had with Michelle during Starlets rehearsal earlier that day. Now, I’m not going to lay out all of the details of that group discussion because I’m basically of the opinion that if Michelle wanted the world to know the details of her conversations she wouldn’t be shy about it. As it is, I feel trusted with the insider information and it goes a long way to open my eyes to the bigger picture and I would in no way want to jeopardize that trust. But the gist of it was standards.
I realize better than anyone that my introduction to burlesque was unlike most. For better or worse (mostly better, I think.) Because I live in Chicago and had the dumb luck of stumbling upon her studio, I have trained and worked closely with one of the best performers out there. In the beginning, especially when I started achieving little victories here and there, this made me kind of cocky (or perhaps cunty?) But then I realized just how much work was required to perform on Michelle’s and Franky’s stage. It’s a lot. Michelle does not coddle us. She encourages us, she congratulates us when we succeed, but she gives no one a free pass. She holds her performers to a very high standard and because of ridiculously awesome numbers getting banged out by these girls, the bar keeps getting raised higher and higher. I know better that anyone how high that bar is.
And I respect the fuck out of that bar.
Because the thing is, I need a high standard out of my chosen art. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why it seems to be considered something repugnant by so many. I’m all for getting yourself out there and making yourself happy. If that means heading up to the local watering hole and flinging off your clothes to Motorhead then do it. God knows I have. But as a new performer, I have to admit that it’s a little discouraging when I see all of this outcry about there needing to be some sort of love blanket thrown over the burlesque community. I don’t want a love blanket; I want to see those amazing performers who inspire me recognized for achievement. I want to feel the burn of the fire that watching those performers lights under my ass. I want to know that The Burlesque Hall of Fame is out there, glittering in the sun like a pastie covered mecca, inspiring us to be the absolute best grinders and bumpers and twirlers that we can possibly be. Because if we’re not, the only way we’ll see it is through ticket master.
Getting into this has forced me to take some long, hard looks in the mirror and acknowledge some things I’d much rather have ignored. It was way scarier than that Bloody Mary game we played when we were 12. And scariest of all, I’ve had to face up to the fact that I might end up as just a local enthusiast writing a blog. That wouldn’t be so bad, but I hope not. I’m working really, really fucking hard to achieve something because I’m inspired by that high standard. If I ever make it, I want to have earned it through dedication and good old-fashioned elbow grease (Or perhaps boobie grease? Too much?) Not because I conquered my fears and got naked on stage. That’s a conversation for my therapist, not an audience.
I don’t mean to get all ranty. And for fuck’s sake, don’t look to me for answers because I’m way too verde for answers. I only have questions and mushy feelings at this point. I’m like an angsty burlesque 14-year-old asking “Like, what’s the point of the, like, world?” while I slather Manic Panic on my hair.
And as I finish this a thought occurs to me: maybe I would be better off keeping my feelings to myself and leaving this blog to discussions of kittens and penises. Well, there’s always next week.