When did the school start and what was the reason behind it?
The Berlin Burlesque Academy was founded in 2012. At the beginning it was a school just offering workshops. Then the founders separated and in 2014 Marlene von Steenvag relaunched the Berlin Burlesque Academy under a new concept of education. The BBA is now about bringing performers to the stage. The school has developed a program call ‘Bachelorette of Burlesque’ (all rights reserved), where students are handpicked to make their education. From learning how to develop their name and character to business and marketing classes – students are taught what it takes to be successful on stage. The alumna of this programme have performed on the stage of the Berlin Burlesque Festival and have proven to stand up next to established performers.
The BBA also offers workshops during the Berlin Burlesque Festival, so that the chance to learn form some of the best performers in the world doesn’t pass by.
What advice would you give to anybody wanting to join the burlesque industry?
Ground yourself and be in the industry for the right reasons. The burlesque community has a very beautiful side of respect and appreciation. The audience is amazing: Women who appreciate their gender, men who are cool and love confident performers. This is a great scene to step in. And it is most beautiful if you can contribute, whether as a performer, a fashion designer a host or as a guest who give an applause and a laughter, Just contribute something and you will get something back .
Do you think that burlesque performance helps with body confidence?
Burlesque is about character. To allow your character to be free, you have to be confident. Internal confidence leads to being at easy with yourself. Also different to other stage arts such as acting or ballet you don’t have a common beauty model which you have to represent. No matter what you look like you won’t get judged for it. All that matters are your skills and you ability to convince and catch the audience. Some of the best performers I know are really not pretty in a common sense. So yes, I absolutely believe that Burlesque helps body confidence because it takes the body out of the focus in first place which sounds a bit paradox. The body is just the ink the character is drawn with.
What qualities do people need to be successful in the burlesque industry?
Number one: Be yourself! Accept the things which are part of you and which you might not like. At the end of the day you probably won’t get ride of your faults, so make them your friends. Nobody is perfect.
And number two: Be the best you can be, it has to be being yourself. The most unpleasant and most jealous performers I know, are those who try to be someone else. Funnily enough those are also the once who are paranoid of being copied. If you try to be Dita No 2, 3, 4, or Marilyn No 2, 3, 4 obviously you will feel copied at some point, but sorry to say…. you are not:) So live your character and looks, have fun, have a bit of self-irony. And be brave enough to believe that the dreams which are in your heart will come true. All you have to do is make them work.
How do you teach the art of burlesque?
I look at the person during various music styles and various moods. Each body has a specific language and message. I point the individual body language out my students and help them to find their unique movement. Most people have already their signature movements within themselves: I help the student to recognise and to stylise those. The moment I notice that someone is picking up my movement I stop demonstrating things because I don’t want to dilute their art. I studied at a very strict and great acting school. Training physical theatre taught me to understand that a body says so much more than words do. So all I do is listen to the body and tell the owner what it is saying.