I feel that this may be a subject that quite a few of us in the Burlesque community are dealing with. I’ve been hearing a lot of rumblings about performers being disappointed about not getting booked in certain shows, and the recent notifications for BHOF seem to reveal it as an ongoing theme in our community…
I have been performing in the burlesque community for the last ten years, the most recent seven of which I have made my living solely on performing. I have been flown all over the world to perform, perform 4-5 nights a week (on average), make a comfortable living, and know that I am good at what I do. I enjoy every success that comes my way and I feel proud of what I have accomplished… And, as a part of this process, I experience rejection on a regular basis.
Yesterday, I was notified that I was not accepted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame, again. In the grand scheme of my career this should not be as big of a let-down as it happened to actually be. I have enjoyed many successes because people enjoy my performances, and my ultimate goal is not to win a crown, but to continue on a path to keep growing as an artist/entertainer/passionate stripper!
So, why does it bother me (and us) so much? What is it about this particular event that we all seem to fret over so much? I had to really stop and think about it. And something came over me yesterday after the notification. First, it was disappointment and a feeling of “what am I doing wrong?” and then it hit me… And with it, a feeling of inspiration and utter relief washed over me. I am clearly not doing anything wrong - my career is proof of this! It’s not about winning one competition (or even getting in, for that matter) it’s about winning at my CAREER! My career is not one show. It’s a decade of shows, and hopefully another decade to follow that one!
I (like all of you) submitted a piece that I was proud of. I trust in my art. A host of judges may, or may not, be into what I’m feeling and am inspired by this particular year. Or they were seeking more than my vision was offering. But as long as I stay true to myself, I can continue to make meaningful and inspired work that I enjoy making and sharing. I feel absolute euphoria when I’m onstage. And I would be honored to share that feeling onstage at BHOF, in a theater filled with my peers from all over the world. But it simply isn’t my time, or the judges were into something different. I have faith in my art and I have passion for my art. My rejection wasn’t personal. None of the rejections were personal.
I always dreamed of being a dancer. I spent most of my life in dance studios and ultimately in a performing arts conservatory college for dance. I spent literally 8 hours a day in the dance studio studying technique, choreography, the ins and outs of the body and how our muscles work, over-and-over. In all of those classes I was constantly picked apart. My teachers told me DAILY that something I was doing was wrong, and to “fix it.” It is a hard thing to hear at first, but after a while, like anything you get used to it. I knew that my teachers weren’t “out to get” me - they wanted me to be the best I could be. And how was I going to be the best if I didn’t know what I was doing wrong? It was positive criticism. And it wasn’t necessarily always told to me in a nice way. I think this is true for all arts educations. You are constantly being critiqued and told what to do to make it better. All so that you can leave school and go to audition after audition and compete against hundreds of other dancers for ONE job.
Yesterday, I realized that rejection in the burlesque community might be a similar thing to the rejection and criticism in the arts education. I never took it personally when a choreographer didn’t pick me out of the sea of other dancers in an audition. I got disappointed, but I understood that maybe my body wasn’t the one that was going to see THEIR vision out. The same goes if I don’t get hired for a Burlesque show that I really want to be in, I may not do work that that specific producer wants for THEIR show. But, as long as I am working toward MY vision and getting stronger and working hard at what I love, then I am on the right path.
The jobs and acceptance letters will come when my vision happens to fit the producers or judges. I would be doing myself, as an artist, a disservice to not focus on my vision because I think that it might not be what they’re looking for. Just being the best you you can be is all you need to do. Keep making work that you LOVE and everything else will follow. The cheer of the audience after every show you do, large or small is more important than anything else! Relish in the sea of love from your next audience, and be proud that you have brought joy to them. That’s what is truly important!
A group of judges are not responsible for your feelings of worth. YOU are responsible. Your feeling when you’re onstage is responsible. Your undeniable passion for your audience is responsible. The joy that being onstage gives you is responsible. It comes from within you! If you are working toward someone else’s’ vision (be it a beautiful one or not), it’s still someone else’s’ vision and may not be yours! Why would you work toward someone else’s vision? If what YOU do fits then that’s awesome!! If not, you should never change who you are as a performer to fit in. (this goes for ANY job) Just be your amazing self and enjoy everything that that brings you!
We are soul strippers, strippers forever, and forever growing!