Is it me, or are these posts getting longer and longer? I guess it’s because they’re getting more and more revealing, about the art of the striptease that is ; ) If you’re going to take the advice of only one of these posts, this would be the one I’d choose since these techniques can be used even if you didn’t plan your striptease ahead of time and just happen to perform an impromptu show for your husband at the end of the day, stripping out of jeans and a t-shirt. This is because using eye contact, intentionality, sensual movement, and facial expressions is the crux of burlesque entertainment and what can make it fun and riveting, even if you start out naked and seem to have no place to go from there. So let’s start learning some tantalizing tips of the tease.
Okay, you’ve discovered your inner vixen, dressed her up, and started to map out her special striptease story. Now that you know the highlights, let’s flesh out her tale a bit, shall we? Just as important as what you take off is how you take it off. Think of all the different movie genres and you’ll start to understand what I mean by this. You generally know what to expect when you go to see a romantic comedy, an action flick, a suspense thriller, even before you sit down in your theater seat. In fact, you’ve probably already guessed from the previews who’s going to end up together, who’s going to die, who’s going to discover he’s a hero, etc. Likewise when your audience first sees you, they have a pretty good idea you’ll end up naked for them. So why do you bother going to see these movies if you already know how they’ll end? For two reasons: 1.) you want to experience the story of just how the characters get from point A to point B, and 2.) you’re hoping maybe you’ll be surprised and the characters (and you) will end up at point Z. So in the same vein, you need to give your audience a reason to come experience your show when they could just as easily go to a strip club. After all, anyone can get on stage and get naked, but convincing the audience that you should be up there and that they should be watching your every move is a different story entirely, an epic as opposed to a synopsis. So this post is all about what you need to consider when making your striptease as captivating and suspenseful as possible.
Even if you haven’t decided to include narrative twists and turns, such as the striptease order reversal we discussed in the last post, you can still make your act compelling, and this should be your true goal. To return to the movie genre example, this is the time to create a theme or concept for your act if you haven’t done so already. You probably already had a theme, or at least a tone, in mind when you picked your song and costume pieces, but now you get to flesh out your act by letting your character take the audience on a striptease adventure. To start, think of your theme and character and see if it can be used to “explain” why your clothes are coming off in the first place. For instance, maybe you are a 50’s housewife who’s going about your daily routine of cleaning, but this time it goes completely awry. First the vacuum cleaner accidentally sucks your apron right off, and then later you just have to take off your dress and use it to clean up another mess because you can’t find your mop, and nothing else is available, and your husband will be home any minute! See how we created some suspense right there as well as a few plot twists? This is also where you might start adding props to your character’s repertoire to help move the story along. In the last post you figured out the exact points in the music you wanted to take off each item, but now you need to brainstorm just how and why that piece will be coming off and see if you can tie it to your character’s story. After all, why exactly is she getting naked in this situation? Is she bored, is it a necessity, is it by accident, is she getting ready for bed and the audience is a Peeping Tom? Thinking of “reasons” why your character is taking off each item is how you can make your act unique and interesting and create an arc for your story.
Even if you’d like to just create a straightforward striptease, consider adding a prop or two to your routine. Adding some burlesque staples like feather fans, screens, chairs, and boas can give you a little more to work with, and doing things with the prop can become your “story.” This is one simple way you can make your act captivating, even if you aren’t stripping all that much, or if that’s all you’re doing, and alternating between stripping and playing with a prop helps to stretch the striptease out. This prop could even be a large stage piece particular to your character or act, such as a giant martini glass or an oyster shell bed (Oh sorry these are already taken and I’m guessing pretty expensive). I’m not really suggesting that you invest in a big piece like these, but rather that you think of a prop that exemplifies your “persona” even if she’s not a “character.” This prop could even become a signature piece for you and something that you bring back to act after act, letting your persona tell a different tale with it each time. Again, your audience wants to be held captive, that’s why they paid their $10 at the door, so think of all of the ways you can use action, props, and tease to keep their attention captive.
Speaking of props and tease, you should also brainstorm with each clothing item and think of different ways you can take it off that might be interesting, separate from the story reasons why it’s coming off. For instance, there are quite a few different ways to actually take off stockings, bras, panties, etc. Be creative and see what you come up with and even troll YouTube looking for some inventive techniques that other performers have used. Of course I think you should work your own imagination first (you’d be amazed at what she can produce), but there’s nothing wrong with getting a little inspiration from someone else to get your juices flowing. Keep in mind that you can and should tease when taking off an item, such as pulling a bra strap down but then pulling it right back up, or doing the same thing when wiggling off your skirt. You should also think of things you can do with your item after you have taken it off that will up the action ante, continue the tease, or further your plot. Some examples are:
- Whip it aside
- Use it to hide another part of your body
- Rub it across your body in some way
- Use it as a prop in your act
- Throw it to the audience, give it to an audience member, or use it to pull an audience member in
Also you want to make sure you won’t stumble over it or get it dirty or lose it for that matter, so keep these things in mind as you plan taking your clothes off and where you will actually put each item once it’s off. As much as a newly smitten audience member might love taking home a memento of you, I’m sure you’d rather save the expense of replacing that costume item or prop.
We’ve only briefly touched on choreography up until now, and honestly that’s a whole huge article by itself, but a simple way to start incorporating dance into your routine is to add a little movement to the actual act of stripping. Look at the notes you took when finding your plot points in the last post and see what kind of movements seemed to fit with each section of music. Simply doing some soft hip bumps, figure eights with your hips, or writhing a little while you take something off makes it more sensual. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you just want it to look like you’re enjoying the process of taking your clothes off. Accompanying these movements should be your own liberal use of touch. After all, touching yourself is how you touch the audience : ) So when you shimmy out of your panties, make sure to caress your legs as the garment falls to the floor, or surprise yourself with a spanking every time you’re bad. Your burlesque moves and pinup girl poses can and should be used both when you are taking an item of clothing off and as segues between reveals. For instance, you are unhooking your corset with your back to the audience, but you do some back hip circles towards the audience at the same time to keep them engaged. Another thing to consider when it comes to touch and movement is treating your prop like your lover, as corny as this may sound. Since burlesque is all about sensuality and that’s what the audience wants and expects to experience, caressing your chair, stroking your boa, wrapping your leg around the side of a changing screen are all actions that make the audience feel as if they are experiencing your touch directly and right there with you on stage. Remember that whatever you touch, whether it’s yourself, a prop, or a costume item, and how you touch it helps the audience to have the same sensual experience themselves.
Speaking of movements, some of the most important ones to incorporate are your facial expressions. These, mixed with your body movements and your use of touch, are what the audience uses to determine how they’re supposed to feel, so make sure they are animated and expressive, even when they are sensual and sultry. Use of your eyes is EXTREMELY important during a striptease. You want to make sure your audience knows you want them to be watching you as you disrobe, so keep the following tips in mind when practicing. In general, look at the audience, not your costume, when you are undoing it. For instance, looking at the hooks of your corset so that you can undo them tells the audience you feel uncomfortable and don’t know what you’re doing, so make sure to keep eye contact with the audience while it’s happening. You want to show them that stripping is second nature for you, so much so that you don’t even need to watch what you’re doing, but when you look directly at the audience while doing it, essentially you’re also giving them permission to watch. In this moment you are making them your lover and this show is just for them. If you are going to look at your costume before taking it off, do it in a way that is merely directing the audience’s attention to that body part or clothing item. For instance, glance down at your bra and then coyly look back up at your audience and hold their eye contact while you actually remove it with a smug little smile on your face. Looking down tells them where to look, but then looking back up tells them that you know they are still there and that you want them to keep watching. If you need to look at your costume longer while taking it off, make sure to look up directly at your audience from time to time with some kind of animated facial expression to let them know that things are going exactly as planned and that you are not at all nervous, even if you are. If you plan to perform the striptease as if it is a voyeuristic experience and you have no idea the audience can see you, look at your body longingly so that the audience will do the same, such as admiring and stroking your leg as you peel the stocking off of it. Directing your own eye contact and touch to the area of your body you want them to notice really does the trick, and make sure to respond to your own touch with some sensual movement. I bet your audience will barely be able to contain themselves and feel a little naughty to boot!
All right, you now have some of the hardest working tools in your arsenal for making your act and your performance absolutely mesmerizing. Create a story with your act and brainstorm about props and creative ways to take your clothes off. Practice using sensual and saucy body movements, combined with personal touch and eye contact, to really draw any onlookers in. Try to make every moment of your routine as riveting as possible. Come back next week for the final installment in this striptease series, when I’ll help you put the finishing touches on your act as well as go over ways to cope when things don’t go exactly as planned. In the mean time, happy stripping!