Burlesque Audience Etiquette: How to Act and NOT Act During a Burlesque Show
I honestly don’t remember the first Burlesque show I ever saw. Is that weird?
But recently I had to explain to someone what to expect from a show. And if you are new to the Burlesque scene, it can be intimidating and downright confusing to attend your first Burlesque performance.
- What are you allowed to do?
- What should you expect?
- Do people touch the dancers?
- Is there nudity?
These are all questions I get a LOT! So here is my quick guide to the dos and don’ts of attending a Burlesque show:
Just like any show, show up on time. Entrances happen from all angles at a Burlesque show, so you don’t want to be in the lobby when the performers are (and trust me, they don’t want you there either).
Let’s make one thing very clear: this is a Burlesque show, not a strip club! So, while there will be varying levels of undress, you should not expect to see the Full Monty.
There are definitely illusions and costume malfunctions, but Burlesque is all about the tease!
The Fourth Wall
The fourth wall, in theatre terms, is the imaginary space that separates the audience from the performers. In Burlesque, this wall is often crossed, breached, blown up…and it can be tricky to distinguish when and how you are supposed to act and react.
Overall, a Burlesque show is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be entertaining and maybe just a little bit irreverent, but always fun. That means we expect you to laugh out loud, cheer, hoot and holler, and interact with us (sometimes)…but that does not include lewd commentary, trash talk, demands, or disruptions.
Burlesque audiences have the reputation of being the most supportive in the entertainment industry and you bet your butt the other audience members will be just as likely to call you out on your bad behavior as the security team, so be supportive, enthusiastic, and respectful.
Not every Burlesque review allows tipping (and some are absolutely against it), but isn’t it better to be prepared?
In this digital world (and definitely post-Covid), there have been more and more opportunities to show your support through apps like Venmo, but there are still some occasions that you can tip the performers in cash.
But again, this is a choreographed performance, not an on-demand show, so don’t expect to tuck dollars into g-strings and don’t approach the stage unless given express and specific permission by the MC.
When in doubt, ask the box office before you even enter!
Don’t get me wrong, we love a good photo-op…but not during the show. I have never been in or to a Burlesque show that allowed photography. So just don’t do it. Most shows are copywritten and include proprietary content, as well as sensitive subject matter, so we do not allow photography or videography (and that includes screenshots on virtual shows).
We spend a lot of time and money making sure we hire the right photography teams for our productions (and I’m speaking “we” as an industry), so we don’t need you to “help.” And we don’t need to see our best stuff show up on Facebook without our permission.
Moreover, it’s a safety concern as flash photography can temporarily blind performers and send them careening into the crowd. Not good.
After the show, depending on the venue, you may have the opportunity to interact with performers, so feel free to ASK for pictures then!
Don’t Mangle the Mingle
Speaking of the “after,” be sure to continue that supportive, enthusiastic demeanor you cultivated FOR the show…AFTER the show. You never know who you are sitting next to! The last thing you want is to make an off-handed comment to the guy next to you, only to discover that’s the performer’s husband, brother, father, bestie, co-worker, etc.
Most Burlesque shows have a pre and post-show mingle, so be sure to keep any comments you make tasteful and positive.
Sense of Humor
Bring it. A Burlesque show will be many things—sexy, funny, gross, inappropriate, messy, and yes, possibly offensive. It’s an adult show, so expect explicit lyrics, foul language, and 21+ themes. If you’re not ok with that, then maybe Burlesque isn’t for you. And that’s ok.
Overall, Burlesque is supposed to be fun! So have fun! That’s the most important piece of advice I could give anyone when attending a show! There is so much work that goes into a show, and the performers are incredibly excited to share that with you! So, keep an open mind, an open heart, and just have fun!
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