The Worth of Burlesque

When making corporate bookings the words “but you’re only on stage for a short time, is it worth it?” may come out of a client’s mouth. As last week I covered the Value of Burlesque primarily from an industry point of view this week I thought I would address the point of view for people outside of the industry. After all, what as a consumer, what are you really getting for your money’s worth?

First off, let’s look at what you should expect when you book a burlesque act. Well here’s a news flash…. It is striptease. If you are trying to book a burlesque act for a family friendly show, maybe a slightly more conservative crowd, then you will want to be selective about what you are getting and communicate it from the beginning. We don’t do kids parties and if you’re expecting something from the movie “Burlesque”, I suggest you get a cabaret artist instead. Most burlesque performers can and are willing to provide some sort of “censoring” to meet your needs, however there will still be an element of stripping and nudity, maybe at least, what you would see on the beach at summer. Some will not compromise though, so be prepared to shop around. But mostly, understand…. THIS IS STRIPTEASE AND HAS ADULT THEMES.

Okay so you understand it’s strip tease and you still want a burlesque performer. Cool! How do you find one? Same way you’ll find your local mechanic. Google that stuff. Any performer worth their weight will have an online presence. You can also use social media groups and ask people…. you’ll be surprised what your friends know and as well it’s always great to get references and recommendations from friends. When you think you’ve found one have a look at their video links and what the performer has done previously to gauge what their experience is, what their style is and if they have an act that is suitable for what you are looking for. Some performers may do far out modern acts and others may be more classic focused. It really depends on what you want. You cannot…. I repeat, cannot, expect a performer to put together a brand-new routine for your one off event unless you are paying mega bucks though. Why? Because look at what goes into an act (see last weeks blog). If you’re looking for a specific themed routine, then find a performer that does it, or if you have already contacted a performer who doesn’t do it, ask them for recommendations. Producers of shows also have a lot of knowledge of who does what so can be a good source of recommendations as well.

And finally you have found a suitable performer so when you do contact them make sure you specify where the booking is, what day and time, what the act is that you’d like of theirs or what style of act (if you know), what your audience is and if you have a budget in mind then feel free to express it, but be prepared to negotiate. Not all performers have standard rates on their website; if they do, then great; you already know what it’s going to cost at a base level. If they don’t (at a guestimate) expect $300 – $600 in the New Zealand market depending on the performer, plus travel and accommodation if required. (Please note figure is based on my own experience and may vary from performer to performer).

Alright so you have negotiated a rate, locked the performer in and agreed to their booking terms. This may include non-refundable deposits, prepayment prior to the show, and cancellation terms. You’ll also need to give an idea on the set up for the show (if it on a floor or is there a stage), dressing room arrangements, and what music player is available so the performer knows what format to bring their track on (or supply prior to the event).

This is the business side is taken care of, but what are you getting for your money? Yes, you only see minutes on stage but what you haven’t seen is the rehearsal time, preparation time, travel time, costuming costs including consumables, and accounted for the time that the person is actually on site. For example, a performer may spend a few hours doing hair, nails and makeup before coming to the show. They may have to pack up (and unpack) their costume, they may have an hour each way to travel (bearing in mind travel costs are going towards the cost of travel, not for their time). The performer maybe on site for an hour as well getting dressed, performing and mingling. They also may require a stage hand which helps the act, the clean-up and possible adds an element of safety. So for your one off show you already have 6-9 hours of tangible time before and after they entertain you. Remember that there is also intangible time prior to the day dedicated to rehearsal, costume investment and the act development, not to mention that they are taking their clothes off and that comes at a premium too. Let’s say it costs $300 for the act, which is, say, 6 hours of tangible time for the performer. That’s only $50 an hour for an adult entertainer. That’s a steal!

Still not convinced? Then call a trades-person and get them to quote an hourly rate for a late night call out on a weekend and tell me what they charge. Guarantee that getting a burlesque dancer is cheaper than that and a hell of lot more fun too! Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Still not convinced? Get a clown. Burlesque is not for you.