Music and Burlesque
by Burgundy Brixx
A musical arrangement can make or break a burlesque performance.
It’s not enough for a performer to like or even love a song or a piece of music. It has to have structure and impact for stage performance. You have to really analyze it. Is there an arc to it that takes you on a journey? Does it have drive and dynamics that inform your movements and gestures? Does it have excitement? Are there phrases of music that really speak to you as musical impressions of moments you’d like to express in your piece? A great musical arrangement should never force you to add "filler" to your piece. It should lift you up and help carry both you and your audience through a dynamic performance.
One thing I learned from working with Radio City is how important it is for music to be able to drive a performance. The choreographer for the Rockettes would work with the musical arranger in pre-production on new or re-choreographed numbers. She would communicate her vision of the choreography for a certain tune and he would then orchestrate the dynamics: brassy, showy music for a big entrance, smooth jazz styles for a sultry section, and drum and cymbal hits that coordinated with their trademark high kicks. If you’ve ever seen the Rockettes perform, you have to admit that there’s something extra magical about their kick lines, and the musical arrangements are one of the main things that give those moments that extra thrilling element. In rehearsal, the director would tell the girls to really feel the music and let that music help carry them through the demanding choreography. A great musical arrangement can do that for any stage performer.
The pitfalls of lyrics.
You can never assume that the audience is going to know your music the way that you do. You can’t expect that they will have the attention or ability in a club setting to listen to (or even hear) the lyrics of the song, so your vision must be strong enough for your audience to understand your intentions without any help from the vocals, unless you happen to be singing them yourself in a very clear and pronounced way.
Think outside the box!
Music doesn't necessarily have to be conventional - a drum beat, soundscape or spoken word can be wonderful accompaniments, but the same aspects hold true as in my previous explanation.
Keep them wanting more!
The best performances tend to be shorter and are fully filled with great and memorable moments, and end with a great flourish. If your music is too long for you to fill it with those great moments, by all means, edit it to make it shorter! Free programs are available on the internet that are very easy to use, or don’t be afraid to ask a friend or a professional for help.