How to Handle Burlesque Rejection

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How to Handle Burlesque Rejection

Submitting an application for a burlesque festival or putting yourself out there in an attempt to be booked for a show can be an intimidating and vulnerable thing. After all, burlesque is art and you are essentially offering a little piece of yourself up to be accepted or rejected. It’s easy to see how rejection can be difficult and be taken personally.

When many people get the dreaded “we regret to inform you” email they often immediately jump into the “I’m not good enough” mindset. While it may be true that you need additional experience or an act needs improvement, there are so many reasons why you may not have been selected.

Rejections are the perfect opportunity to grow, learn and ask questions. As a producer, making selections from a huge pool of submissions can be difficult there can be dozens of reasons an act was not selected. Here are some things to consider:

Producers strive to create a well-balanced show with a variety of acts. If acts were similar, it would not be as entertaining. You may have submitted a beautiful feather fan dance….but so did a dozen other performers. Now the producer is tasked with choosing just one or two, even though there might be multiple they would love to feature. Most producers will not want to feature the same commonly used prop (i.e., A feather boa, fans, etc.) over and over in the show. It makes the act feel less unique, and by the time the audience has seen their third feather fan dance in 30 minutes, it’s lost some of it’s “wow.” The same can be said for music, often times multiple acts will be submitted using popular “burlesque” songs or commonly used songs. The producer must then eliminate some acts to avoid duplication.  

Did you follow submission directions and provide all of the requested information?

If an application requests video of the specific act you are applying with, avoid these things:

  1. Substituting a 30-second clip that doesn’t fully show your performance
  2. Providing a different video of an act you’re not applying with just to provide an example of your style
  3. Skip it and provide no video at all

Doing any of these means you have just tossed your chances of being selected out the window. Producers ask for specific information for a reason, and one of the quickest ways to narrow down the list of applicants is to weed out late, incomplete or inaccurate applications.

Was your act a good fit for the theme or style of the show? Many times an act can be strong; however, it doesn’t fit the theme or style of that particular show, space confines of the particular venue or perhaps the producers have featured something similar (same song, concept, etc.) in a recent show already.

Be completely honest with yourself. Do you feel really good about what you are putting out there? Does the choreography need polishing? Does the costume need repairs or upgrades? Is this act the best it can be? What steps could you take to improve this act? Sometimes little things can make a big difference. Many times performers will say, I feel like this act could be better I just don’t know what it needs. There are peer review groups online you can submit a video to, invite a fellow performer friend to sit in on a rehearsal and give feedback or hire a burlesque coach… A fresh perspective can often do wonders!

If you feel like there is one particular area you are lacking in (ie: floorwork, stage presence, costuming) take classes or workshops, find a mentor or coach, or simply focus on one thing to improve and work your ass off until you see improvement. Find a space with large mirror or record video of yourself so you can really see how you move.

Many (not all) producers are willing to give a reason an act was not selected upon request. Don’t be afraid to ask!

I often see performers vent their frustration and hurt over rejection on social media, though it may feel good to have people comfort and rally around you in the moment, it’s not professional.

If you’re angry and go out on blast about how a festival rejected you so screw them, you can pretty much bet that they won’t accept you in the future and that other producers are noticing this as well.

I also see posts that go something like this “Well, I didn’t get into xyz show. I guess I am not good enough, I applied for 5 things and didn’t get selected for any of them. Maybe I should just quit.” While the emotion is understandable, putting that out there for your fans, fellow performers and producers can be damaging. Do you want to project a confident, passionate performer who entertains audiences and is always striving to improve? Or an insecure, unmotivated, performer who is not sure about themselves or what they are doing?
Turn to close friends or fellow performers to talk out your frustrations privately and take time to cool down.

Don’t jump to conclusions, ask questions, continue learning and keep putting yourself out there!  

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