Dear Danica: Making It


Each month Sydney burlesque artist Danica Lee will answer questions about all things burlesque! Danica won “most supportive” at the 2012 “Busties” (Australian Burlesque Industry Awards) and knows her stuff!




This month’s question:

“What’s the best way to break into the burlesque scene?”

− Sarah, Melbourne VIC


Dear Sarah,


With the rising popularity of all things burlesque related in Australia, many new performers are faced with the challenge of finding a stage to cut their teeth. Gone are the days of underground burlesque nights where a performer could throw a new routine on stage, half finished, and nut it all out on the fly.


With dozens of new performers trying to work their way into the circuit every year, there are some things that you can do to take those first few important steps towards the stage.


  1. Take a dance class. Understand how your body moves and how your own individual body shape works. It’s not essential to have a background in dance to be a burlesque performer, but it helps to know the basics of flow and movement.
  2. Go see a live burlesque show. Then go see another one. Then go see some more. You can never do enough research. Whenever I go see a show I’m not just enjoying the ambience – I’m taking mental notes on what I see and how I can use that to improve myself.
  3. Learn about the history of burlesque and understand why it is you are doing what you do. Don’t just read “The art of the tease” and take it as your bible. We have a rich history of burlesque in Australia too!


So you’ve done a bit of twirling, you’ve seen some shows and you’ve done the reading. In love with burlesque still? GREAT! Hold onto your feathers because things are about to get honest…


Unfortunately there is no easy way to ‘break’ into the circuit.


Remember all those new performers I was talking about? You’re all competing for the handful of spots available each week/month etc in those local shows you’ve spent so much time at watching and learning.


You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do some good old fashioned hard work. Rehearse, create, live and love.


The truth is, many performers work for years to establish themselves within their community. Most new performers will either go the hard yards, or they will throw in the towel after the first 12 months.


If the idea of trying to get your foot in the door in an already competitive market makes you nervous, fear not! There are still plenty of chances to feed your burlesque fever without putting yourself under the pressure of the professional circuit.


A few ways you can get involved and gain some very valuable experience are:


–      Stage kitten at some shows. Its a wonderful way to get close to the action and help you understand stage presence and timing. Kitty’s have to work the audience too!

–      Check out your local burlesque academy or school. Most States have some kind of dedicated learning arena where you can get to know the tips and tricks from actual performers. Many of these schools hold student showcases where you can get on stage ‘for fun’ and sow your burly oats.

–      Keep track of your local ‘newbie’ performer nights and when you think you are ready to tread the boards, ask about upcoming shows and available spots. Set yourself a realistic goal and work towards it.


Burlesque performance can be a truly rewarding experience. For me, it has given me the freedom to explore my own creativity and form without judgement. I truly love what I do. I can understand why so many people out there want to give it a go.


But let me leave you with these final words of wisdom:


There is a difference between wanting to try something for fun, and wanting to start a career. Just like any other profession out there, there is no easy way to break into anything. Any one who ever did anything professionally worked at it for years, climbing the ladder and gaining experience.

No one is ever appointed CEO on their first day.


Photo by: Kate O’Brien Creative



To ask Danica a question about anything burlesque related please fill out the form below. If you would prefer to have your identity hidden please say so in your message and confidentiality will be maintained.


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