Ok, now that you’re all dressed up and unspeakably hot, let’s figure out when to take each piece off. Remember that the most important thing to consider is that the act of burlesque stripping should be a tease if it is to be truly effective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone new to this art form strip down to her bra and panties in the first minute of the song and then not know what to do but stand there awkwardly for the remaining 2-3 minutes on stage. Granted this was usually just in a rehearsal or audition, but trust me you don’t want this to be you! Improvising your first striptease while on stage is NOT a good idea. Like the good little Girl Scout you may be dressed as, be prepared and know your plan of escaping your clothing ahead of time.
The first thing you need to figure out is the order in which you will remove each item. Some items will be covering others, so obviously they will need to be removed first, such as taking off your shoes before you can peel off your stockings. However let’s go back to our strip poker analogy from the last post to elaborate on this topic. Traditionally the more insignificant items, like gloves, shoes, and stockings, are taken off first (25¢ bets) before the more revealing items, such as corsets and dresses ($5 bets). In this sense, you strip starting at your extremities and outermost layer and continue until you reach the “core” when you finally reveal the most important stuff. However, since this is the most logical and oft-travelled path, you can really throw your audience for a loop if you switch up the order. Perhaps your bra is the first thing you take off, but you use something else, such as a glove or a prop, to hide your breasts for the rest of the song, finally revealing your pasties again at the end of the act. Or maybe you brazenly stand there in your pasties with your bottom half still covered and nonchalantly continue with the rest of your striptease. Using the strip poker example, this is like throwing in a big chip early in the game and asserting just how confident you are. Granted, this strategy will only work if you show that this move is intentional and ironic, and not just something you did because you didn’t know any better, so I would save something like this for when you’re feeling more comfortable and experienced on stage. If you start brainstorming, you can come up with a variety of creative ways to switch up your striptease order if that’s the route you’d like to take. Generally speaking, the traditional “extremities to core” striptease order is used when you simply want the striptease to be sexy, but if your act is more ironic or comedic, switching up the order can help create this effect. Done well, a striptease order reversal can really draw your audience in and make your act that much more memorable.
In the previous post, we worked to decide what your starting costume pieces would be, but when determining your striptease order, you need to now consider what you will be left standing in. For instance you may choose to take everything off except your shoes and stockings. Again, just like playing with the striptease order, doing the unexpected in your routine grabs your audience’s attention, especially when they think they know exactly how this story will end. Speaking of endings, stripteases generally end in one of two ways: a big reveal or a final tease. The big reveal finally exposes your full nakedness (except for the G-string and pasties of course) to the audience with brazen abandon. This approach is especially good when the final reveal is a punch line, like “Lookie, I actually have a penis underneath all of this” : ) If it’s a sexy striptease instead of a comedic one, and you’re going with the full reveal, the exit should show you as being very comfortable with your nakedness, like a slow slinky walk across the stage in nothing but your shoes or a playful wink as you skip away. After all you are the one with all the power, and it’s good to remind your audience of this. The alternate ending, the final tease, starts with a big reveal, where the final item is removed, but then your nakedness is quickly covered up again, so your audience is still left wanting more. This cover up could be you obscuring your body again with a prop or discarded costume piece, ducking behind a curtain, or even having the lights suddenly drop out while you slip off stage. Talk about being a tease. Your audience won’t be able to get enough of you!
Okay, now you know your striptease order, as well as exactly how many items you will be taking off, so it’s time to figure out the right moments in your song for your reveals. As I said in the very beginning, the longer you take to reveal everything the better. Your act should always END with the big reveal (or final tease), whatever it is, so make sure the striptease is actually spaced throughout the entire song so that you are not left with half a song and nothing to do. If you don’t have that many items to remove and there is a prop involved in your skit, such as a chair or a boa, you can always alternate between stripping and playing with your prop so you can really draw the process out. You can even use your clothing items as “props” that you play with before moving onto the next item. We will go over both of these options, as well as fleshing out a story for your striptease, in more detail in the next post, so start thinking about these possibilities now.
Listen to your music and try to hear the big moments and then mark these as your “plot points,” just like you would when writing a screenplay. You are telling a story after all, even if it is of the naughty bedtime variety. There’s usually more than one instrument playing in a song, so certain instruments can be tied to specific items or movements. When listening to these instruments, see how your body naturally responds and it will tell you what type of striptease movement corresponds. If there are small repetitive drumbeats in a row, use these to unhook your corset on beat or rhythmically push your glove down your arm. If it’s music that would inspire a shimmy, such as a warbling trumpet, use that to shoulder shimmy out of your bra or shimmy out of your panties. If it’s a guitar riff that inspires a long, suspenseful grind, correlate that to a tease-y striptease moment, such as slowly unzipping the back of your dress or peeling your stocking off. Any times in the song that scream for a really big bump, where there seems to be a crescendo by the instrument, are your “moments” which are going to be your plot points, when an item is actually removed. These are usually preceded by a buildup phase, which you will use to start taking the item off, such as undoing a corset or peeling the stocking up your leg, but the “moment” is when you actually move the item out of the way and reveal your newly exposed flesh underneath, by dropping the item, throwing it, letting it fall, etc. So find your “moments,” tie each one to the removal of a specific costume piece, and then let the music right before start to give you ideas about how you’ll take that item off.
Spend this week listening to your song over and over again (I hope you love it because you’re going to hear it a lot) and see how it naturally moves your body, making sure to listen for all the “moments” that make you want to do something big. Figure out your striptease order, how you will end your striptease, and try to tie each clothing item to a moment in your song. Use all of this information to create your striptease “arc,” which could also involve brainstorming a story you would like your character to tell, and come back next week when you’ll learn all of the ways you can make taking off your clothes absolutely riveting : )