Burlesque b*

What's in a Name?

by Torchy Taboo

So many young ladies have asked me, "How can I get started performing Burlesque?" The answer is: first you must lay some ground-work; create a reliable, steady and attractive foundation for the beauty you are to become and then you'll be ready to launch into the world of the Burlesque stage. The first thing to do when getting into the Burlesque biz is to choose a name.

Make a name for yourself…

"All the good names are taken!" you say? My dear, there are as many different names as there are performers. Yes, many of the obvious names are taken. All that means is that it may take you a little longer to find the right name for yourself. But you owe it to yourself and those who've come before you to take the time and select something original. Don't set yourself up to be confused with someone else. Be yourself; perhaps a grander, more fantastic over the top version of yourself than the one you drive to the office everyday… and for that, all the more reason to be an original. Performing Burlesque today is an amazing opportunity for self expression; why waste it by being a shadow of someone else. Being inspired by someone is a wonderful thing. But if that someone is a current entertainer in the Neo-B., don't repay that performer for all their hard work and accomplishment by taking away from their spot light…create a new one all your own.

"How do I know if I've picked an original name?" Research! There are lots and lots of great search engines on the web; start there. Join Burlesque related Yahoo! Groups and ask the members if they know of anyone using the names you like. It's fun and easy and there is no excuse for not doing it. Choosing a name all your own is not only a matter of mutual respect, but its good business plain and simple. Being confused with someone else because your names are too similar waters down both of your efforts towards promoting and taking opportunities gained through such confusions is unethical and hurts everyone involved.

First impressions…

There's a magic in a good name. It can make the difference between instantly planting yourself in someone's memory and blending in with the crowd. Even before the very first time you set foot onstage in costume as your brand new Burlesque self, you'll be announced and your name will reverberate across a room full of people anxious to see their first glimpse of you. And part of the trick to choosing a name that sparks, a name they will remember, is choosing the right name for you. Choose a name that reflects who your new Burlesque persona will be.

Be true to yourself. Some girls are cute, some girls more sexy-sensual; some girls are funny and some more serious or mysterious; some fit the retro profile and some break all the rules and set their own style. Your name might in some way suggest and even emphasize your best assets and qualities, by employing words such as complementary or contrasting adjectives, exotic foreign phrases, dated slang or perhaps just sounds that bring a certain feeling to the tongue as they're pronounced. For example: the girl wanting to be remembered primarily for her beauty would do well to work with words that bring to mind lovely images like "rose" or "angel," or romantic foreign translations of adjectives that describe them like "el Rubio" (the blonde). A girl wanting to be known for her retro style might do better to play with slightly old fashioned phrases and names like "swell" and "Bertha." To utilize the elements of surprise and contrast associated with being a renegade, a wild girl might play with words that bring to mind innocence such as "sweet" or "candy," or she could go with the direct approach with names that conjure images of something dangerous like fire or a wild animal.

Lasting Impressions…

Now you ask, "But I have a lot of very different qualities; which one should my name represent?" We all are made up of different faces and moods. That's what makes us well-rounded individuals. But as stage personalities we necessarily become less three dimensional and as Burlesque performers, we become almost cartoon like, simplified, yet bigger than life…hard to look at up close in the bright light of the dressing room. So since you are starting out, laying that important initial foundation, pick the asset or quality you feel is at the very core of what's made you want to be on stage and build from there. Think of your new character (the name, the look and the primary type of act you do) as a super-hero that you will be identified with/as for years to come. If you can do that and be pleased with that association, you will be able to take your place in the line up and develop your performance style as if it were your super-power, applying all sorts of fun marketing techniques to your I.D. over time. In this way you'll incorporate the creative side of your Burlesque endeavor with the business it takes to land the gigs you want in the first place.

Keep in mind that once you've made your mark you can portray whatever qualities and ideas you wish on stage. How big a mark and how long you focus on developing the persona that goes with the name depends on your personal level of comfort. On the other hand, you may decide to show your versatility straight out of the starting gate. If you are an unmatched beauty or posses amazing dance skills, you will be remembered even if the MC announces you as "Plain Jane," and I can't wait to see your act! However most of us have to start on a more even playing field, so I suggest making it easier on yourself by "trade marking" your moniker, not literally, but in terms of strong association. As Torchy Taboo, I did primarily Tiki or exotica style acts for several years at the beginning. Now I do all variety of acts.

Some girls work under several different names. This works well if you've established yourself with an identity initially or if you're working in separate or adjacent performance or entertainment genres, such as fetish, modeling or theater. Some girls simply tire of their names and change them from time to time. If you plan to perform for more than a year or two, I don't recommend this. But if you've just started out and you've only invested a few months or a couple shows in a name and it's just no good or you learn someone else already was working under that name…give it up. Start over if you must, but only as a last resort. When you're established as "whoever", then performing under various other aliases can be done without confusing people too much.

Most of these ideas apply to naming your new performance group as well. Some groups are brought together by their commonality and should pick a name that describes that common quality. Yet some groups thrive on their individuality, and so should choose a name that is more general…perhaps having to do with their home-town. Be careful not to pigeon-hole yourselves with a name that corresponds to a certain venue. What would have happened if the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes had of moved to Montana?! And if you coin a name for a group, take it with you when you go…or you'll most likely regret it.

These are merely suggestions. You can always employ the Drag Queen name method: take the name of your first pet and add the name of the first street you lived on, random, but effective. But remember to research you ideas; that is non-negotiable. Please pardon me for using all female pronouns and examples; it's just so much easier. But these suggestions apply to anyone. Get your friends in on the game, take your time and above all have fun!

Written by Torchy Taboo

This Article was published in the Burlesque Bitch Ezine on Oct 11, 2012.
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