Burlesque competitions

This post was meant to be part of my “Award winning and critically acclaimed”, but I decided it should be a separate entry to bash the burlesque scene and burn down my shakey bridges all the way… *sarcasm*

Burlesque competitions

At the beginning I was so keen on these. Finally a chance to become that award winning performer I always wanted to be and stop being that *jaded bitter joy crusher* I have been from the very beginning…

I did two World Burlesque Games, the Milan Burlesque Award, an Aerial Silk national competition and a pole dance competition and became very, but very disappointed with competing as a whole…

Why?

In some cases the results were just premeditated in others just unfair, but never fully fair by my scale… (you know Im very critical)

My side:

My skills, my sweat, my tears, my bruises, my hours, my imagination, my costume making were all beaten by, well…. burlesque…. just burlesque…. sometimes pretty mediocre burlesque…

Someone shaking her titties in a rather cliché classic burlesque act vs. all that much more.

At my last WBG, I closed the night, and brought the house down, but I was not worth of being among the actual 5 acts (for 3 spots) that were given prizes… (here I need to say, that  I had a wee tangle at the splits, but that could count on a professional aerial competition not on a burlesque one… and I also insert that among the awarded there were also mistakes or “malfunctions”)

A badly executed split overruled the aerial oversplit in 5 meters…

But hey, I can go home and cheer up by struggling on to find the next gig, the next contract, while the part time performer goes home to the cushy fact of having another income and polish her prize and get a new body harness to be a little bit more like the others…right?

Categorize me

There is no proper category for a circus act in a burlesque competition, you are the odd one out eternally. At WBG I was constantly put in the international category which by the way had the most performers, while the Twisted Crown went with around 5 performers, so draw your own conclusions from there.

Proper circus vs. Circus themed burlesque act

Do I have to explain HOW disrespectful it is towards circus? You actually value in this case the “expensive” copy more than the original. A girl prancing around in a clown suit more than a performer that has some tiny thing to do with circus, like spending here LIFE there.

Story time:

You see, even I had a story with this, back in 2010 I was preparing my black clown act, a caracter based aerial hoop act ,and you bet the caracter was a clown! I was working with Chris Bull and Loco Brusca, so who better than this two to ask for advice, right?
Well, I learned a lot there. Chris got a rant on the topic that he almost made me cry, literally. I expected some nice advice and I got this massive rant about how NOONE who is not a proper clown should even put on a clown nose! Then Loco was a lot milder and just told me to do whatever I wanted, so I went on preparing the act, but maaan that rant just opened my little ignorant eyes about loads of things.
We cannot just say pick something up without consideration,  this is what all the cultural appropiation debate goes around about in fact.

Should we all do whatever we want?

Absolutely!

Should people get more praise for an imitation than for the original or authentic?

Not quite sure.

(So here imagine in parallel a performer with whatever different than white racial background doing an act in her grandma´s  traditional costume, honoring the ancestors, etc. vs. a full blown stereotypical/childish/stupid imitation and then the imitation getting the praise and the prize)

At the Milan Burlesque Awards things did went so far, that at the end I could hardly look my friends in the face, because of how I felt by the results and various circumstances.

For the pole dancing competition, while disqualified for wardrobe malfunction, I failed to realize, that whatever I was to do on that stage it was organized by one school and that school always had its own ideas. So it was literally said out “she would have come out second, if that malfunction did not happened” I mean, really? because they only saw 1/3 of the act struggling with my top, jeopardizing the whole choreography.

My aerial competition was railroaded (by my teacher, who was the organizer, too) from the beginning, so I ended up unprepared. From constantly telling me how my music was not right, to all other details upcoming the competition. I also failed with my the preparation of my big drop…

At the end,the music I brought first for my act, ended up the music of many acts choreographed  by my teacher for other students, and the drop and other tricks ended up becoming the signature tricks of other students. (Note, those tricks were not mine, but at the time fairly unseen.)

 

Reckonings over flexibility

Flexibility! Oh flexibility!

Are you on instagram?

Yes?

So apart of the insanely talented aerialists, that flow lika awwww and make up new moves as you blink, you also shove the flexibility success stories in your own face daily?

I bet you do!

So forcibly maintaining all the positivity…

You are not alone! Dear unflexy friend!

So here is : chick with a before picture of outofthisworld flexibility and *insert waytooshort timespam* and after picture of pictureperfect contorsionism…

and you, working your shitty little oversplit for like, the last 5 years…

Then everybody telling how you should try new methods, or that you might not work hard enough blahblah…

Well…

You are not alone my friend in the club of the stiff as a steel bar.

I started stretching at age 18, I was stiffer than a stick…

Obviously I had no idea how to do it, but this way I got till age 24 with at least some crappy splits…

Then came circus in my life and massive amounts of stretching… proper professional, good training, assisted by professionals…

I spent years stretching almost daily, in fact my rountine was 6 days a week, until I found Dasha, with her I managed better results with only deep sretching twice a week…

Anyway, pregnancy break, baby break etc.

I am pretty sure I am not the only one enviously looking at these success stories, that even put ‘oh I worked so hard for this…’ well, yes nobody really just gets that flexible (except maybe for Miguel, he was just born with an insane talent – now you ask who is Miguel, right?)

Point is:

You are not alone!

Dear unflexy friend!

I have worked my ass off for the last ten years (more or less intensely) to be flexible, in fact, if I neglect flexibility training I lose it so fast it is miserable.

and yes I want to better, and so I am all over the place with the resistance bend stretching!

Goal:

I would so be happy with my toes steadily touching my head, not just once in a while and upside down…

The bio monsta!

After spending months on renewing my website, my bio and all my professional presentations, I got to read the bio of a friend of mine which ends with this line:

“Hopefully you enjoyed this “About Me” as much as Dasha has enjoyed writing about herself in third person.”

I mean fuck yeah, true that! I fucking struggle with writing shit about myself, yet I cannot stop stumbling upon pathological liars and performers with hardly any professional experience in the glittery world of burlesque selling as if they had the career of Catherine D’Lish…

When I first looked into burlesque bios I had one thing clear, I wanted to be, just as a performer, “different”. I was mostly inspired by Trixie Little’s story-like bio (like a little fairy tale, very funny and entertaining, while OBVIOUSLY fictional), so I wanted humor, but also wanted to be realistic and hated, that everybody went by “she is like a true star of the silver screen” sceme… Fuck that I said…

Then we (ex-writer and ex-husband) came up with this:

“First off, let it be known that she does not resemble the pin-up greats of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s…cuz they’re all dead! It doesn’t matter where she’s from, it’s where she’s going that counts…”

Fucking genious I thought, then I saw how this bit was omitted from my bio on festival and sow presentations…

Well, go figure, the ever so forward thinking scene cannot handle a bit of sarcasm… (I also believe this bit has something to do with me never making to the BHoF weekend, but might as well be, that I simply suck… like I believe that, haa)

So as of now I’m going to nitpick on pieces of bios that really make my blood boil, but too many love to use…

The professionally trained dancer

Having taken ballet clases or any kind of dance clases in your far away childhood DOES NOT make you a professionally trained dancer… Having seen Dirty dancing twice either… and most all if you have no point or a fairly controlled set of movement then please just DO NOT.

The contorsionist

My personal favorite of the lie factory. I have such a huge respect for contorsionists, such hard work, discipline and pain behind, then you got girls that cannot show off a proper split going by as contorsionists. I would just like to leave a picture of what a real contorsionist looks like… (Dasha Sovik on the photo)
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The pin-up model

One of the least harmful claims, yet still model is a person who is getting payed for it.

The teacher, the menthor, the tutor or the likes

The fact that you run a burlesque class, or you put on your webpage that you do while not does not make you any of the above.

The “have been on stage since …”

Since the beginning of times… just add two more zeros to it, as you should. But for realz, why do we need this? I mean if you suck it gets even worse, because it says that you spent all these years not getting any better…

The cirque du soleil shit

Yes, there is some kinda database, but could we actually start referring to things that actually happened? So you are in that cirque database, but never did a gig with them or there is no evidence of your claim either, what does that makes you?

The festival queen

Was it for free or did you even spent money on doing it? Well, at the beginning it is great to showcase your talent, but the time comes, when it is not the case any more… So if instead of payed gigs all you have is self financed ego-boosts, there might be a question or two to face.

The taste of success

“El éxito no tiene sabor ni olor y cuando te acostumbras es como si no existiera.”

The Past

At the very beginning I had the luck to kickstart my aerial and burlesque career at the LBF in 2009. I achieved a whole lot more of a praise that my skills were to take me to.

I was very successful for a “beginner”

Until 2012 I could really not enjoy or live any of the success. It was a struggle of survival, until I could make it all work by the end of 2012.

2013-14 were years of progress and work and some failed dreams and friendships.

Conclusion is, that at an early stage you don’t even realize what you have.

Fast forward to now

For the first year of my son’s life I was planning to do an average 1-2 shows a month, and as a matter of fact I succeeded in that…

Yet I consider this last year a very hard one professionally…

When I got pregnant I had to cancel 3 months of work and events 5 months from the date, I can say I was on top of my game, working a lot and becoming a considerably “OK” (strong upper mid-level if you please) aerialist…

I did expect it to be physically hard to get back, but I did not expect it to be so professionally miserable.

I explain.

I’m terrible at selling myself, I am full of doubts, I cannot watch a video of myself without rolling my eyes and I cannot finish a show without at least once saying how SHIT I was.

I also did want to switch scene and focus on bigger shows instead of gigs and burlesque related productions.

And obviously, I did not expect the burlesque scene going to shit on the meanwhile either.

Visibility on festivals

There comes a time in your life, when doing burlesque festivals for less than free just don’t make it… but let us be honest… I said to myself, let’s try other festivals (not Lbf, which was a safe application process always), than you get the ‘oh thank you, but…’ message…

You, established, good performer… being explained how Kittiey Mc Tittishaker (lets hope nobody owns this name yet), a two year VETERAN of the scene, entrepreneouer daredevil extraordinaire with a hiper original signature classical tribute act has a bigger ‘IT’ factor when it comes to performing… classic burlesque…

So according to facebook and the scenario, I keep being the backstreet circus chick of the show… you know the one other performers are not eager to take selfies with… yet the one to mostly finish off the show as the “strong plate”…

It felt quite unsuccessful, all this.

In reality… with the one show a month I make more money than I did with various years before…

By chance or by luck I landed doing the Barcelona Burlesque Festival, which happens to be a paid thing and goes by invitation… (and I hope they keep it that way)

By conclusion I landed a half year contract with the theater.

This is the real success.

It was hard work, performing, pulling my acts back together, even making them better. Million email, proactivity, and all.

Does it feel like bathing in champagne already?

It is great, yet I only dare to whisper it…

I am the resident aerial artist of El Molino theater…

Feels like it just disappears the moment you say it.

Now, I did not substitute someone on a gig, I did not do a couple of parties or the Festival, noo! Im there and to stay.

Yet, does the burlesque scene cares?

I tell you what, if I feather up my bio and explain it… maybe… but in reality, no shit.

And this is how success feels in the “scene”.

Even if you make it, you need to fake it.

In the city?

It is a great reference, everybody knows it, I have a two page spread photo of myself.

In reality?

I see my osteopath almost every two weeks.
I juggle a baby, a household and my sleep deprivation.
I lost 10 kgs, since baby. (I do have some killer abs, though)

Altogether, I think I am at the right track.

The Struggle

I am a very booring person.

My topics: art, my struggle with art, baby, training.(or the lack of time for it)

I am also tiring with it, constantly analyzing, writing, thinking.

Alltogether it folds out to be some kind of a never ending struggle with the limits of my body and time.

I will never be the best aerialist of the world, in fact being the best in anything is getting impossible by the day.

So at this point I want to calm myself and set out reachable goals and stop eating my soul out with unreachable expectations.

I think I’m paranoid and complicated…

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We have all seen a million and one versions of this meme, right?

In the general artists’ psyche something similar happens, and apparently I am not the only one.

You open facebook, our artists’ websites and you see and read an overflow of glamour and of “Iamthebest” attitude.

As for myself I am desperately insecure in my art, 200% aware where and what needs to be bettered (everything, everywhere, obviously!)

To begin with, being a mostly self taught artist is pretty tough, not having the guidance of a proper program or school backing me up. Never knowing if what I feel right is right at all, other than it works or not.

Asked for CV… uhmmm so what do I put in? “The Honeycup Circus Academy”, a.k.a whichever squat I frequent? Or the unfinished law school, that is completely unrelated?

Up until the past months I constantly told myeslf I was almost, but not quite there yet.

Where is the “there”?

“There”, or pro enough. Where is it? Will I be pro enough when I can heel hang or do that funky spinny move, drop 5 meters on silks, or I wont be shitting my pants whenever I need to work over 10 meters? Be hired by a very recognized company?

Hard question.

Find a pretty good answer here:

Are you ready to go pro?

So obviosly it is all in my head. By this standard I’m obviously professional, yet I keep questioning myself.

The way I see it in circus you have the completely amateur performers, who are happy to even have a chance to perform, and for any money, on the other end of the scale the Cirque du Soleil level of multi skilled acrobats, that can do literally anything, they won’t have my problems, because their skills and talent are unquestionable, so they must be full of work and success…
And like 80% of circus artists I’m in between, in this great sea of questionability of good enoughness…

Paranoias:

What if a coreographer one day asks me to perform a trick I cannot do?
What if I am asked to work on 15/20 meters height and I can’t cope?

What if I cannot do the final trick?

What if I am asked to perform whatever superhighclass dance act and I cannot spin? (never mind I am no dancer)

All paranoias, and what changed?

I sat down to edit a showreel for myself.

Up until the past months I constantly discarded my videos…

Reasons: not skilled enough, not fast enough, not slow enough, stupid face, hoop not spinning enough, a single fail of the point or the knee, a “bad”, that is for me not pretty move with the arms, not enough on the acting and I could go on and on… All in all never perfect.

I was desperately procrastinating.

I was in this bubble of making myself to believe that once I will be “good” enough, work will just flood me unsolicitedly.

I was told, and at the same did figure out myself, it is not like that, even the best acts have to work to get work…

Here comes in, the magical world of marketing yourself…

Circus girl in the burlesque world

A special paranoia. of mine.

another post.

The casting call monster!

I bet you are registered at trillion and one casting pages… Me too!

Burlesque performers, circus castings, variete castings, variety jobs, entertainment casting, etc.

But you know what?

I never ever had a job from any of the pages!

In fact I only got outrage and indignation from strolling these pages!

So, now, I am just going to pick apart some of the casting calls that have made me want to jump off the roof of a building.

Since some go back as far as 2-3 years, I won’t quote them exactly.

I am aware that with this post I am likely to loose my last chances to work with mentioned producers that can recognize themselves…

Looking for a multiskilled artist, who have costume making skills as well… for Dubai…

Basically they were looking for someone who was an actual costumier, not someone who could sew a button on.
So yours truly, aerialist on 1-2-3-4 disciplines, pole dancer, posses a fair share of flexiness and obviously even can learn a basic dance coreography, and by the fucking waay is a costume maker…

After about the 4th attempt of contact I get:

“So what else can you do?”

Maybe perform brain surgery while making a chai latte hanging upside down while sewing a button on you ass with my feet?

Looking for aerial acts to perform in a circus show, this is not a nightclub casting, please apply if you can/have experience…

Is there something like a nightclub aerialist? What is that?

Basically implies that you need to be an aerialist, not someone who had touched an aerial hoop a couple of times…

Let’s have a closer look:

An aerialist by deafault can do a show, and the girlfriend of the gogo coordinator dude is not a god damn aerialist! A chick sitting on an aerial hoop or trapeze is not an aerialist! And btw, regarding the inherent danger of the job, no gogo dancer should be sitting around on aerial apparatus on a height higher than 1 meter as most.

work 6 days a week but only perform in the shows (one a day) as there are no other duties.
You will be provided with a room for the full contract.
Fees payed include 3 meals a day, accommodation, travel and 1000 euros per month.

And be like MULTISKILLED!

OMG! Ive been dreaming my whole life about this job! 6 shows a week, needing multiple skills, but I get room and food and some pocket money! And you bet, the waiters would get a higher salary…
1000 euros a month for 6 days a week work! But you only need to do the shows! Easy-peasey, I mean you surely never need to warm up or rehearse ever!

…It’s unpaid but promises to be a great day …

I am sorry, I though that at least we were working for a couple of beers?

TV appearance

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11 am, my phone rings… referring to one of my very good friends, Tv show… they want me to perform live…
More specifically they want me to perform pole dance topless live on Tv… I’m sorry at most I could do a burlesque themed pole act that would go down to pasties… THEY WANT TOPLESS!
Btw, how much is the pay and when would be the shoot, if I am to think about it?

Oh you would get a lot of exposure and the shooting would be in 3 hours at the studio.

Comments on casting calls

We are /insert whatever they are looking for/ but oh we are /insert another town from the same cou try/ ah well, maybe some other time…

Congratulation sweetheart you just prooved, that you never ever had a professional gig!

We have our own equipment and costumes and can rig ourselves…

Since when there is a need to say that? Are there acts who cannot then? How do you work without own apparatus?

another favorite of mine:

Costumes clearly bought from the sex shop down the road.

This is the please don’t, there are so soo many costumiers around in all price ranges, just please drop a dime and get a proper costume for fuck’s sake people!

So as for professionalism I would like to direct y’all to this very well written piece:

Are You Ready To Go Pro?

Annndd Laura on costumes:

Cirque Costumes: Not To Be Confused With Your Underwear

Please note:

I’m not trying to be on the high horse here and pretend I am so perfect, I was an eager newcomer once, I still am not half as good as I would like to be, but I always respected the industry and never underpriced myself miserably.

If we all tried to be the most professional we could be the whole thing would work out so much better.

Award winning and critically acclaimed!

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I would like to start my post with this quote from this great man. (thanks facebook)

This post has been festering in me for quite a while. I am one horrible critic, and I do not spare myself either of it, also I am way too harsh in my expressions.

Award winning

Award winning is something more of a tangible thing, yet critically acclaimed is harder to grasp.

Award winning suppose an actual award to exist and suppose that the person actually won that award, prize, title, etc.

Obviously in London/Britain each and every performer has won some kind of an award, even being a part time performer not to mention bad performers, yet on the mainland we performers hardly ever get an award, even if we maintain ourselves by our art.

Then you can go and make shit up… distort information and such.

In my home country we have a lady, that a couple of years ago decided that pole dancing, stripping, aerials, and whatnot belonged to her personally. So she made Tv appearances and claimed to be a world champion stripper… Well, great, but there is no such title as is!
Obviously people in the burlesque scene would refer to the Burlesque hall of Fame and the Miss Exotic world title, but she never even competed there, so nope. Then in “stripping” (as of butt naked, or more sexual stripping – no shame, just specifying) there is a million and one competitions, with a lot less art involved.
Anyways this fair lady won a Miss Nude Canada and returned home as a world champion stripper… you see the contradiction here. (Later on she surfaced in a far away burlesque festival as well, you know just because…)

So what is this all about? Marketing! Shameless marketing…

But, at least she makes a damn good linving out of it! She is a major celebrity and even has quite some contacts and shows internationally…

So, I get it!

Yet, I cannot understand people who does this without any apparent benefit… being “famous” with nothing… getting attention, only… that is quite a trainwreck attitude… (at least for any of us trying to make a living here…)

Anyways, turning back from general shittalking about others to the point in the burlesque industry…

Award winning…. all new awards and titles and competitions popping up and guess what?

Bumm! It goes mostly to the very same people, who already had some…

So either you are a newcomer and may win something in that category or straight up forget about it, if you do not already own a couple of well polished awards up your award shelf.

Critically Acclaimed

By whom?

We all know about the marvellously written press releases, right?

I mean, you know, written by your best friend or a payed writer to put the best quotable line out there about you…

Then, let us be honest with ourselves, there is no negative criticism our so beloved community, it just cannot exist… Even when we express negative opinions we wrap it in pink so carefully, making sure we don’t burn up the bridges behind us and don’t loose precious contacts in the scene…

Nobody wants to be the troublemaker

Also the faux-positivity surfaces, as you are the badguy, when God forbids you name the person who ripped an act of yours off, because say something nice or don’t say anything at all…

You see a shit act, and nobody dares to say it out loud, you see a rip-off act and hardly nobody dares to say it out loud, yet everyone thinks the same.

All the critical good words I have out there are from LBF, and are mostly blogs…

Why?

Because, who the fuck cares about the chick from the other end of Europe, while we can review the well-known, friend of many friends local performer?

So the conclusion is that while there is not a panel of official critics that do need to review everything they actually see, and by what they actually see, this is also just another dead end street in burlescalandia.

What is success?

We jump back to the basic fact, that life is on social media. Nowhere else, but…

Or really?

Performance art is live art, and sure we can tape it, but it will never ever be the same, as it is live. In my view it looses somewhat 80% of it’s poise and energy. Therefore it is very hard to convert or to translate it into social media terms.

And here comes the tricky part, how social media gets to distort the skills a performer might have.

Well, in the world of circus, skills rule the scene, and that is hard to fake, even a photo is showing a whole lot to another professional, so evaluation is easier, there is less playing around. Surely there are differences between the success of same skill level artist with different talents in the artistic side or plain marketing.

But with burlesque, it is just insane what have been going down in the last 7 years! (read my post on the burlesque top 50… from over a year ago, yet just NOW, bigger names start to pick the topic, carefully wrapped in pink schiffon, of course, because saying it is all bollock would be too harsh…)

To answer the question.

For me, success is being able to be a full time performer, earn over 80-90% of your income from performing. Preferably performing, what and where you actually like.

Then again it is not all. Now, I absolutely can see the benefits of stepping back from full timing in order to better as an artist.