About eight years ago now, as a university graduate wet behind the years, I stumbled upon the burlesque scene in Scotland: a Ministry of Burlesque performance in Edinburgh, as it happened. From there, my long-term love of burlesque – and corsetry/costuming – was born. At the same time, I also found myself in the lucky situation that my new editor (then writing for The Skinny) was keen to get me reviewing a mix of different theatrical styles – and burlesque was one of them.
During that time, I watched a lot of burlesque performance and started studying the different styles. I was lucky that although this wasn’t my permanent full time job, it was work that I loved doing outside of my 9-5: and spending my evenings watching amazing men and women perform an art form I love, then getting to write about it? I was in a pretty great place.
But when you watch that much burlesque, especially in a scene which was at the time, in Glasgow at least, such a fledging community, it’s only to be expected that you’re eventually going to come across some performances which aren’t to a professional level. I enjoyed going to the newbie nights, the chance for performers not yet established on the scene to get some feedback and and build confidence was great, and for the most part all the performers were well-rehearsed, with slick routines.
It was only natural though that I saw my fair share of performers who just weren’t ready for public performance. Whether they were under-rehearsed, the theme wasn’t clear or they didn’t have the spark to really hold the audience, these performers stood out for me.
I always wanted to perform. I loved the perceived glamour, the costumes bedazzled with rhinestones, the ability to captivate the audience with tongue-in-cheek or effortlessly glamorous routines. And in my time as a reviewer, I was fortunate to see some of the UK’s best performers. Yet it wasn’t until last year, 2014 that I finally plucked up the courage to get on that stage myself.
I stopped reviewing burlesque years ago, but kept going along to the shows. Yet it was the reviewer in me who held me back from performing. What if I couldn’t pull off my routine idea? There are many beautifully curvy women in burlesque, but nobody would want to see me take off my clothes, would they? And what if something went wrong on stage? Ultimately, I was just really scared I wouldn’t be any good.
Now I’ve been on that stage, I won’t ever look back. I probably won’t perform forever, but as long as promoters are still booking me and I’m enjoying it, then performing will still be for me. I don’t regret having waited so long – I needed the extra confidence in myself I now have to handle the fears I had in my ability, but it’s nice to have finally quietened down my inner critic.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Clare Sinclair is an occasional blogger, occasional burlesque performer (under the name Velma St. Clair), and a full-time lover of all things retro. Image of Dirty Martini via Diane Naegel‘s Flickr photostream. Image of Velma St. Clair by sandraanddaisy photography.)