Here at Burlesque Bible we love books and, knowing what an intelligent bunch burlesque fans and perfomers are, we were certain that you would love our new feature – Burlesque Book Reviews. Some months they will be by peformers that we all know and love, some months they will be by you – the readers! If you are interested in writing a book review for us, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Our first book review for you is an essential in any burlesquers library – The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon and the review is written by the lovely Ivy Wilde.
The Burlesque Handbook – Jo Weldon
I was thrilled when I heard that Jo ‘Boobs’ Weldon had written a handbook for burlesquers everywhere. Already being an avid reader of her blog and a huge fan of her work (in every aspect) I knew this book would be something special, and quite simply put, it is. The introduction is a thoroughly interesting read covering Weldon’s experiences in stripping and burlesque, following her journey and including a brief history of American burlesque right up to the present day.
A chapter on inspiration follows and encourages the reader to take a deeper look at the ideas they may have for acts, what drives them and how this can develop into something truly original and interesting. There is an informative paragraph on cultural appropriation included in this chapter which is definitely recommended reading to anyone considering an act with ethnic costuming.
Part one focuses on movement and includes boa work, glove peels, bump n’ grinds, stripteasing, and that all important showgirl pose, all demonstrated with clear concise instructions with photo examples for every move. In the pasties section all types are covered and instructions to make a basic set of pasties (with accompanying pattern and photo demonstration) are included, along with various other patterns, information on different types of attachment, followed by trims, tassels and ending with instructions (complete with difficulty levels) of a variety of ways of twirling.
The fan section for me is a real highlight. Personally I have always wanted to pick up a pair of fans and give them a twirl but not knowing where to start put me off for years. After reading this chapter it has made fan dancing seem more attainable as it guides the reader through every aspect, starting off with smaller fans to learn concealment moves and building up to bigger fans, hand placement, positioning and reveals. The chapter concludes with movement (along with photo demonstrations) and instructions on how to make your own feathered fans.
Part two’s onus on music includes information on timing, choreography of dance moves and events, live music and length. The costuming section is essential to those new to burlesque, there are many things mentioned in this chapter that it took me a long time to figure out on my own. There are sections on the importance of trimmings, such as feathers and fringing and adding that all important sparkle. Colour is also covered and making breakaway items for ease of removal along with sections on corsetry, stockings, tights and shoes. The chapter on character covers topics from burlesque names to expression of your role, rehearsing, revealing and developing your character.
Part three is excellent, the makeup and hair section includes information on exaggerated stage make-up (especially the importance of eye makeup), body make up (and of course glitter!), thinking about hair colour against stage lights, wigs, accessories and hair pieces. The big reveal is one of the most important chapters in this handbook, understanding the significance of every reveal, from the entrance to the finale of an act. The backstage etiquette is a chapter which will undoubtedly be a great resource of information for all performers, particularly those new to the scene. It is full of dos and don’ts and tips on how to get booked and conduct yourself off stage.
Part four is perhaps the chapter that provides the most food for thought. It includes an identity section, showing the differences between burlesque and commercial stripping. In the resources provided at the back of the handbook there is a comprehensive list of for further research into all aspects of burlesque. In addition, the Council of Ecdysiasts sections at the end of every chapter are not only interesting but present the wide variations between performers’ thoughts, experiences and advice. A wonderful example of just how diverse performers are in their art.In conclusion; this handbook is an indispensable guide to those who are starting their adventure into burlesque, those who are taking classes (or plan to) and more seasoned professionals alike. It’s an all encompassing resource of information and experience from one of the best performers, teachers and intellectuals of burlesque and it is certainly a book I will be going back to time and time again.
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