Workshop for Pro Performers with Miss La Vida (23rd July 2010)

Miss La Vida, a prominent burlesque and cabaret performer based in Auckland, had contacted all title holders from the Miss Burlesque NZ 2010 several weeks ago, informing us that she would be coming down to Wellington to perform for the Burlesque Masquerade Ball this Saturday. Having recently returned from the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in Las Vegas, she was buzzing with excitement from meeting many famous performers and wanted to impart what she had observed and learnt there to us so organised a Workshop for Pro Performers tonight at The Studio especially for us. Cost $35 per person for the 1.5-hour workshop and several familiar faces were there including Grace and Amy. Catherine popped in and out of the room where we had the workshop in between teaching her burlesque class, and we also had belly-dancer Tria Manley from Christchurch who’s recently relocated to Wellington.

Victoria Grimshaw aka Miss La Vida, is the woman behind Miss Chief Events in Auckland, a company that organizes events such as burlesque nights, classes, workshops, parties for ladies for special occasions and of course, booking Miss La Vida herself to perform at private events. Having been to Minsky Malone’s workshop earlier this year, I was expecting Victoria to be all dolled up in burlesque attire as her alter ego for her workshop but was greeted by a petite English lady dressed in casual attire and no make-up instead. And I was getting worried that I was dressed too casual for the class in my t-shirt and jeans – this is great! The workshop itself was very relaxed and casual, us girls chatting and giggling together over wine on our performing experiences and discussing through the notes from Victoria’s handout sheet of the dos and don’ts of a burlesque performer. Occasionally, Victoria would show us how a move is done but there was no practical involved in the workshop i.e. we had to show her what she has just taught us. Not quite what I was expecting though I enjoyed and appreciated it being so chilled out after a flat out week at work and volunteering at NZFF.

I’m not sure I dare call myself a ‘pro performer’ having little to no burlesque background (Martini who? A burlesque handbook??) – I was absorbing like a sponge listening to the others drop names of famous burlesque performers and sharing some tricks of the trade (did you know that wearing skin-coloured fishnets makes your legs look smooth and cellulite-free?). One item we discussed that was definitely outside my performing comfort zone was the increasing trend of performers wearing merkins (pubic wig – patches like nipple tassels but for the pubic area) instead of g-strings. Seriously?! NO!! I’m not even wearing a g-string for performances (ruffle knickers, thank you!) let alone merkins! I don’t know – the longer I sat in the room, the more I wondered if I was really cut out to be a burlesque performer. I love being the centre of attention, dancing, wearing costumes and playing characters but how long could I continue with routines and NOT take off my clothes? Even with tassels, I highly doubt I dare wear them in public. Probably take some time to work on my shyness…

Some key tips that I personally practice in my performances:
- Don’t just ‘go through the motions’ – perform FOR the audience and TO the audience
- Make eye contact and do not be afraid of the audience
- Work the stage – don’t just stay in the middle. Move around.
- Stand still or pose more – it gives the audience time to appreciate you
- Take off only 1-2 items of clothing. Don’t try to take off a pair of gloves, a dress, stockings, shoes and a bra in 4 minutes; you’re not teasing your audience!

Other new tips I’ve learnt:
- React to the audience’s reaction e.g. if one side of the room is cheering for you, go perform to them. Acknowledge them.
- If audience is not reacting to removal of costume, don’t take things off until they are. Repeat moves that are meant to be reactionary but which the audience didn’t respond to.
- Glitter – messy but like blings, they make you look shiny and worldly. Red glitter on lips makes them super sparkly!
- Don’t take off the same old thing. There’s nothing worse than watching a show where every performer takes off their gloves. Learn how to take your clothes off with your gloves on. Or construct a costume where a conventional bra isn’t necessary. PS: You should know at least 4 ways to remove gloves and stockings.
- Attention to detail – have matching jewellery, accessories, hair pieces.

Thanks Victoria for inviting me to the workshop and sharing the great tips! I’ll have to note to put them to use the next time I perform. I like Victoria – she’s lovely, has a great sense of humour and a straight talker, telling you exactly how she feels about things (it’s a positive characteristic and I appreciate the frankness). Looking forward to see her performance tomorrow night at the Burlesques Masquerade Ball!


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