Every performer needs a stage name and it can take some time before you find the perfect blend of attitude and pun. To get some creative ideas flowing, we've created a simple and free Burlesque stage name generator.
It's fun, fast and free...really!
We work with many burlesque performers and troupes in town, and we always have a good time. One of the members of Black Widow Burlesque is the lovely, talented Betty Blue, who will be performing THIS Sunday at their annual Spanksgiving Show at Emos. She and I sat down for a fun little interview a few weeks ago, where I did my best to play journalist for an hour and get to know the person behind the stage persona. Enjoy.
Patrick: How long have you been doing burlesque?
Betty Blue: I have just celebrated my 2 year burlesque anniversary :)
P: What is your favorite style of dance?
BB: I love and appreciate all types of dance from classic tap, contemporary, swing, jazz, salsa and hip hop. Each style has so much to offer its performer and the audience. I find that no matter what style it is, those who have that spark in their eye and a love of performing are always more entertaining and engaging than those with perfect technique.
P: What is a favorite burlesque outfit that you have put together?
BB: I really like my Stray Cat outfit, especially because the "garbage can" I emerge from is pretty tragic, hahaha. Things went awry in the creation of that particular prop, but because it is so bad I love it even more :) It is also a really fun number to perform and other parts of the costume include a long kitty tail, cat ears and a toy mouse. Burlesque is just too much fun!
P: What do you think about just before you step onstage?
BB: I usually clear my mind and take a deep breath before I get onstage.
P: What’s the most surprising thing that you didn’t know about burlesque until you got into it?
BB: I had never seen burlesque before I started doing it, so there was a lot I did not know. The main part I was unaware of was that you do not have to look like a show girl to do it. That is always how I imagined it and I was so delighted to learn that gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes are performing this fabulous art form. I also did not know that you strip down to pasties, so preparation for my audition was pretty nerve wracking. Once I got in front of the ladies of Black Widow Burlesque and started performing I forgot all of my worries, felt really comfortable and realized, yeah, I can get used to this :)
P: Do you think you have to be an exhibitionist to do burlesque?
BB: I do not think so at all. I definitely am not shameful of my body, but I don't consider myself an exhibitionist. I think most people who do burlesque are just confident performers who love and appreciate the art form. For the most part the semi-nudity is an afterthought or even the punchline to your overall performance statement. It is more about the piece you have created and all of the intricate and carefully crafted elements of your overall performance.
P: What other burlesque performer do you admire the most?
BB: I love performers who really listen to use their music and let their staging, props and costumes tell a story. Those who use humor and intelligence to entertain their audience always stand out to me. My favorites are Eaton James and Shelby Mine of Queertini Time. I always look forward to their performances.
P: Who’s your favorite actor of all time?
BB: I would have to say Gene Kelly. He was the quintessential triple threat. I have always loved musical theater and I grew up watching old movie musicals. On The Town is also the reason for my undeniable attraction to sailors in their dress whites :)
P: What brings you the most joy in life?
BB: The things that bring me the most joy in my life are my relationships with people; my friends are very important to me. I also love performing. It has always been a big part of my personality and it has never been limited to the stage. I have given many impromptu living room and grocery store performances as a child, created dinner theater and radio shows with my sisters for my family growing up and I will take any opportunity I have to crack jokes at all types of social functions. The world is a stage, right?
P: Where is your most favorite place to be?
BB: This is a difficult one for me, because I love to travel, so I would have to say that my favorite place to be is wherever I am! I try to make adventure everywhere I go and keep life interesting. Right now, I have a very strong and passionate love affair with Austin, TX and I do not see an end in sight.
P: What advice can you give to up-and-comers?
BB: The best advice I could give would be to to always learn and grow in your performances, but do not lose yourself and all of the various performance styles and the creativity inside of you that brought you to the burlesque world. Burlesque is such a versatile art form, so there are various directions you can go in and there is a place for all of it. Never feel pressure to conform to the overall trends in your area or even your troupe, but instead let other performers inspire you and push you to be the best at what you do and continue to hone all of the wonderful things that make you different.
You can see Betty Blue, the entire Black Widow Burlesque troupe and MANY more burlesque performers in Austin, this Sunday at their annual Spanksgiving Show. We'll be there too so don't miss this one!
Listen up, because this is the post where I give away all my burlesque show photography secrets! Okay, well it turns out there aren’t any secrets in photography, just better results by people who pay attention, learn, and constantly strive to do better work.
The Most Difficult Lighting
Photography is about capturing light, and this type of shoot has got to be one of the most difficult because there just isn’t enough light in a club, ever. In our online store here, we have all these great photos of our products that are made to look like they’re shot in a club or an alley or whatnot. It turns out that they are all shot with studio flash kits that basically make the sun look like a dim bulb. But in a club, you are working with much much less light.
The two things that work for me are a very fast lens and forcing a fast shutter speed. Here’s a bit more detail about each of these:
Fast Lens - This refers to a lens that has an aperture setting somewhere between f1.0 and f2.0. Most run of the mill lenses won’t go below f2.8, but there are plenty that do; you just have to find one. The difference between how much light hits the back of the camera at f1.8 compared with f2.8 is HUGE, and with that extra light you can start to record enough information to make a decent photo.
Shutter Speed - I constantly see burlesque show photography that is blurry, and in my mind that looks bad. This is because the shutter speed was too slow and the camera or the subject were moving ever so slightly when the photo was taken. Photographers will often set their camera to “aperture priority” so that they can force the lens to stay open at the lowest f-stop (e.g. f2.8). The camera will then try to calculate an appropriate shutter speed to get a decent shot. It’s always too slow. Here’s what I do. Set the camera to “Shutter Speed Priority” and set it to 1/120. The camera will try to find an appropriate aperture to get a good exposure and almost always select the lowest aperture. I find that with digital, the exposure is in fact too low, BUT it’s enough light to work with, and you can compensate with a little adjustment in a photo editing program such as Photoshop.
This is where you get to be creative. People generally don’t want to see shots of isolated body parts, so I usually go for full body shots. People also have an innate sense of visual balance. If you always center your subject in the photo, it may look good, but if you move the camera just a little bit, maybe capture something else along the edge of the shot, the shot could be magic. I learned the rule of thirds, and constantly work to make my in-camera composition interesting. But of course, you can always adjust the composition later by cropping the picture if you didn’t quite compose it perfectly in-camera.
Distracting People and Things
Any person or thing can photobomb your burlesque dancer and ruin the photo. So I’m constantly watching a performance through the lens and seeing things come in and out of the shot, waiting for the right moment to click. I usually identify distracting things before the show even gets started, and at clubs, there’s alway tons of junk on the stage behind the dancers, and tall noggins in the front row. I just try to identify areas and things to avoid getting into my shots.
Okay, I’m not a professional by any means, so I take burlesque show photography lightly, and think of my goal as promoting the performers. I would do that anyway if I was a pro, because it helps me get good shots. The two things I think about while snapping shots are:
- What would they (the dancers) want to see of themselves?
- How can I showcase their performance?
Flattery will get you....into some shows with a press pass! :)
Editing Your Work
My editor is my wife, the other half of Kuhmillion Lingerie. She happens to be a trained and experienced graphic designer who understands art and composition. She also understands the value of editing a project. When I’ve done a shoot, the first thing she does is narrow down a “keepers” pile to about 10% of everything shot. By the final Flickr gallery, we’re down to 30-40 photos at most. But they’re the best of the shoot and most people, including the performers, don’t have the time to flip through much more than that.
I hope my rambling is helpful to some out there who are struggling to take decent photos at a burlesque show or any performance at a club. Good luck!
I went to the Burlesque The Vote show hosted by the fully fabulous and un-PC Jade Esteban Estrada at the ND on Wednesday 10/3. This was an ensemble show produced by Coco Lectric from the Jigglewatts to encourage voter registration and participation. I went to enjoy the acts, check out the burlesque outfits, take some photos, and drink one of the best Manhattans Austin has to offer at The ND's accompanying bar, The North Door. There were too many acts to cover them all here, but here are some of the highlights.
Sass E Delure offered a critique of the housing market crash with a clever prop/costume. Considering that the evening had a political sweep to it with the upcoming election, the act was topical and well done, right down to the sexy shimmy knickers and feather boa. Who knew that a crisis could be so entertaining?
Queertini Time did a theatrical number featuring a hunter and prey (a cute and sexy deer). I’ve seen them before at other shows and their campy style always plays great on stage at shows like this.
Roxie Moxie is just as sweet as sugar on stage and her look is quite versatile (just check out her Facebook photos). She did an appropriately current piece about the 1% (lucky duck rich people) of Americans. Her gorgeous sparkly two piece burlesque costume just worked so well with her auburn hair and green feather head piece.
There were three very talented aerialists from Sky Candy, and I managed to capture great shots of two of them. Aerialists are such a great addition to any burlesque show.
Below is Bethany Berg, who teaches at Sky Candy.
Pearl Lux and Goldie Candela brought their fun JFK themed number, with Pearl playing the part of Jackie Kennedy and Goldie playing the mistress Marilyn Monroe. As you might be able to guess, the two end up with not much in the way of clothing. :)
A new performer to me was Serese Brown. Her number was so athletic and quick-paced, and the theme was full-on patriotic. I wanna see more from this girl, and soon!
I had also never seen local performer Starlite before. She danced a lovely fan dance with some fab turquoise fans.
Jolie Goodnight combined her singing prowess with her formidable burlesque moves to create a great number. She’s just always so good and her sparkly blue dress was stunning. I Loved it.
Ginger Snaps from Black Widow Burlesque performed her gender bending “Lola” number to The Kinks' classic. This photo was just the beginning of the number, before she whipped out a big "surprise."
And Coco Lectric finished out the show with a superbly patriotic and feminist number choreographed to George Michael’s "Freedom," declaring sole ownership over her mind and body. It got a little emotional during the crowd's loud ovation.
There were many more acts in the show, and for everyone who I left out here, I'm sorry. You were all great, but sometimes my photos just don't capture it well. :(
Check out the entire set of photos from the show on Flickr
This past Friday, Beth and I set up a Kuhmillion booth at the Black Widow Burlesque "Unbound" show at the ND here in Austin. The show was MC'd by the always funny Nicole Lucas and billed as pushing the boundaries of what we normally see from the Black Widows. I have to agree, it was pretty avant garde, with each performer pushing her limits a bit. The crowd was loud and loved it all.
The ND is a great place for burlesque shows because of the nice layout of the stage, the bar and the open floor. Beth (wo)manned the booth and did all the work while I floated around taking photos. Here are a few highlights.
Zaftigg Von BonBon started out in this nice yellow swimsuit, but ended up in a kiddie pool of glitter with almost nothing else on.
If you want to see the glitter, check out our full slideshow on Flickr.
I just love Sailor Cherry. Wearing a simple burlesque corset, she performed a naughty jailbreak number with a chair and handcuffs, and showed the crowd one of her signature moves:
Did I mention there was a unicorn number with horn stroking? Yeah I just did. Bleu Magnolia seemed to channel David Lynch on this one and never took off the strangely life-like mask to reveal her face. Pretty cool though.
Guest aerialist Bethany Summersizzle of Sky Candy performed one "simple" tease on stage wearing a cute and classic pinstripe garter belt and stockings, showing off her amazingly flexible body.
Then she did an aerial number on a swing in the middle of the room. So impressive.
Betty Blue did a fun number with a lovely costume change tease behind a screen.
I was lucky enough to snap a shot of her just as she peeked out from behind the screen.
And Ginger Snaps performed her now infamous "Lola" number to the crowd's uproarious delight. I thought this costume was great with the striking black beaded fringe contrasting against the brilliant pink dress.
The finale was a dark group number contrived as a sort of funeral mourning, complete with all black dresses, gloves and veils. Each member took a turn to reveal a bit and bring their part in the production to a figurative and literal close.
A great show and a wonderfully eager Friday night crowd. We are always thankful to be a part of these shows and to see great burlesque performances. Thanks for having us, Black Widows!
If you want to see all the pics from the show, check out our "Unbound" Flickr set.