By Vixen Valentine
I had the privilege of not only attending but also performing at the Munich Burlesque Festival which was an exciting opportunity at seeing a variety of burlesque performers from around Europe, Canada and the US. The four shows of the festival were spread over three days starting with the newcomer’s showcase on Thursday night, featuring up and coming burlesque performers from Munich while Friday was a burlesque comedy show that combined seasoned local performers with ensemble acts and Saturday held two showcases full of international performers.
One of my highlights as an audience member was watching the Friday night show because it allowed me to have a sneak peek into what I might find at a burlesque show in Munich and what I saw was inspiring. So I’ve compiled a quick list of what I learned at the show:
Routines Were Longer
When was the last time you saw a routine last 7, 8, 9, 10 minutes? These performers got on stage and stayed there for more than one song! I found that it helped me build a better relationship with the performer because they didn’t appear on stage and suddenly vanish after a few minutes never to return again until curtain call! Instead they took their time teasing out of their clothes!
They Incorporated Other Skills Into Their Performance
Whether it was the Charleston or belly dance these performers developed complex routines that combined a variety of skills that they wove together to present their striptease. They each masterfully gave their skills time to breathe before they began peeling off the layers and made seamless transitions into the different sections of the routine.
Comic Burlesque Incorporated Basic Comedy Techniques
This seems like a redundant statement, but there was a performer who leaned
heavily into the comedic side of burlesque. Not because the MC introduced her as a
comedic burlesque performer (and let’s face it, if he did I don’t speak German so I wouldn’t have understood it anyways) but because she incorporated some basic comedic techniques into the routine. Throughout the night she was able to build up a repoirte with the audience and because she knew the basics she had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand.
There was something delightful about seeing a woman come “on-stage” by entering in the back of the house, mic’d and talking her way onto the stage and interacting with the audience before climbing the steps to transition into the next part of her routine. Whatever relationships she built up with the audience, she continued to recognize and come back to throughout the rest of the night. I loved how she turned her entrance into introducing her character to the audience which was fun to watch play out.
After seeing the solo routines I found it engaging to watch the performers come together on stage to do a group routine. I saw the choreography, but I also saw the intricacies of the different personalities of the performers come out when they were together and it helped me see each performer clearly.
Every Costume Piece Was Not Encrusted With Rhinestones
I know it’s hard to believe, but these well thought out and masterfully executed routines were not encrusted in rhinestones. Don’t get me wrong, I love rhinestones as much as the next person, but the costumes were never about where can I put more rhinestones. Sometimes, the costume was just a shiny fabric or fringe and for me, they never looked anything less than a stage performer even without the extra glitz.
I’ve learned a lot from watching the shows at the Munich Burlesque Festival that have energized me to continue developing my craft. Which is what the key to all of this is, developing my craft. It’s my job to take as many classes as possible, to pursue the things that interest me, to read about different techniques, to watch videos, to learn what’s been done before in order to open the doors to what can be done in the future. What does sultry mean? What does funny mean? What is an exciting new way for me to take off my gloves? What do I want to say? Burlesque, for me, is about giving myself permission to be able to (re)discover new things for the first time and have the curiosity and courage to push myself to my own boundaries and then over them.
Vixen Valentine is a Seattle native burlesque performer, performance artist, and actress who currently resides in Arezzo, Italy where she is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Physical Theatre. Visit her at msvixenvalentine.wix.com.