How To Start A Career In Burlesque: Carmen Diablo of “The Burlesque Experience” Describes The Best Way To Break Into The Business

Burlesque performer and instructor Carmen Diablo. (photo by David McGhee)

After seeing their first burlesque show, almost every woman wants more!

They want to see more of the glamorous performers. They want to attend more shows, to get to know their local burlesque community, to become a part of our world…because they can instantly see how much fun this is!

Yet even more than that, most women watching from the audience secretly want to be on stage themselves. They want to experience the thrill of taking their clothes off, of expressing themselves, of being a star, of feeling sexy and making the audience want them.

So, the question most women are asking as they walk away from their first burlesque show is: how can I get up on that stage? How can I break into the burlesque business and where do I start?

There are many potential paths, but the answer for many is a burlesque performance workshop.

What is a burlesque performance workshop, you ask? Simply a course on burlesque instruction, usually lasting around 4-8 weeks, and ending with a live on-stage debut.

Burlesque performance workshops are cropping up in major cities across the country, allowing average everyday women to experience the thrill of a real burlesque debut! Typically, such courses allow women to develop a stage name and character, learn the art of makeup and costuming, learn choreography, and get the chance to put it all together live on stage.

Thankfully, such courses have begun to appear in New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, and many other cities. Some, such as Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy Of Burlesque have even been profiled in documentary films. The performers who create these courses may be very different, but they all share one thing in common: A love for the art of burlesque and a real passion for introducing new women to it!

One such performer is Carmen Diablo, the sultry performer who founded the famed course The Burlesque Experience in Dallas. I recently caught up with her backstage at a show and interviewed her about the popularity of burlesque performance workshops, what they can offer women, what is unique about The Burlesque Experience, and what first attracted her to the amazing world of burlesque!

When did you first start The Burlesque Experience and what gave you the inspiration for such a wonderful class?

The Burlesque Experience was birthed out of my OWN burlesque experience! On a crazy whim and a couple of cocktails, some friends of mine and I decided to start a burlesque group. We had a blast, produced a couple of shows, it was crazy fun! Little did I know, the incredible impact it would have on my life and the courage and bravery it would fuel me with, for other life challenges. The experience was so profound and served as such a unexpected catalyst for me, that as a life coach, I knew it likely do the same for others. And it has!

Do most girls continue with burlesque after their first show, or relish it as a one-time experience?

Most of the women who sign up for the Burlesque Experience are doing it for that: the experience. And what an experience it is! Lately though, I’m seeing many ‘graduates’ continue on because they love it so much. We now have an alumni group called the Burlesque Experience Starlets for those women who have a taste and want more! The Burlesque Experience is a great launching pad for continued adventures, a super foundation, if that’s what someone wants. But even just by itself, it’s pretty amazing!

Do you yourself continue to perform, or do you now prefer guiding others?

I love both. I’ve been performing and dancing solos on stage since I was two years old! I feel like I was born to do this. Burlesque returned me to my love of performance and my love of stage. I’m so grateful for that.

Would you consider yourself a classical burlesque performer? More modern? 

I consider myself a ‘fusion’ performer… not ‘unclassical’, and not completely modern or neo. Just like many other of the things I’m passionate about, I really love picking pieces and elements from various styles and genres, doing what feels good, and coming up with new challenges every time I put an act together. I hate boxes when it comes to anything- relationships, work, art… and I avoid putting myself in them.

Do you teach that same style in The Burlesque Experience or encourage a variety?

I teach a variety of moves, some classic, some exotic, but really it’s about one’s own creativity and initiative to create a routine they love. It’s up to the individual to pick and choose and create from those that I teach, and also the ones she discovers and creates on her own. I’m not pretending to be some burlesque legend. I’m a regular woman who took some classes, taught herself some moves, created a character, a routine, and fell in love. I’m much more interested in  individual expression and personal growth than I am in hard-wiring women with rote technique or skills. I encourage all of the B.E. students to do what pleases them, move in ways that feel good, and to incorporate their own personalities, styles and creativity into their dancing. I don’t want a show full of a bunch of me’s! Neither does the audience!

What are some of the most memorable acts that girls performed for their Burlesque Experience debuts?

You know, this may sound corny but I’m totally serious. To me each and every one of them are memorable, because (lucky me!) I get to watch the entire journey unfold over time. I get to witness each dancer leaving her comfort zone, firing up her creativity, pushing past her edges and proving to herself how brave and beautiful she truly is. It’s some of the most rewarding and exciting work I’ve done. I’m not exaggerating when I say I grow attached to each of them and squeal with delight when they bust out! They stay in my heart and their performances are forever etched there, too!

What is the most difficult step for girls to take during The Burlesque Experience? (Is it the courage to take that first leap and sign up? The courage to undress in front of the class the first time? The courage to step under the stage lights in front of hundreds of people?) 

Wow, that’s a great question! I think that is an answer that differs from woman to woman! All of those things take courage. As does simply staying with it.  The not-quitting… the showing up, physically and emotionally. There are countless ways this Experience challenges women, depending on where they’re at, and what they were needing (sometimes without realizing it!)

Is the class open to guys that are interested in boylesque, too? Or is the bonding between a woman-only group an essential part of The Experience? Would bonding be more difficult with guys? The same? 

The idea has been raised, but I’m not sure I’m the one for the job! I love men, and I’m titillated by the Boylesque movement surging in the Burlesque scene- it’s provocative and sexy. I also know where my passion and gifts are and I follow where I feel led. For the last 10 years my work as life coach, teacher, facilitator has all been woman-focused. It seems to simply be ‘my thing’ and I think its everyone’s job to figure out their ‘thing’ and do it! I love the line from a Mary Oliver poem “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  I know what I’m doing with my wild and precious life these days! And I’m LOVING it.

Are there any special deals going on if girls sign up right now?

YES! If they mention this blog, I will take $50 off their full-price tuition. Just contact me directly, ladies, and we’ll work out the details! I’ll also take another $20/per person off if two or more friends sign up together.

What are the dates of your next session? 

Soon! The winter session starts 1/10! It’s almost full, so don’t hesitate.

Where’s the link where they can sign up?

It’s an easy one to remember! Thank you so much, Dirty!

Thank you, Carmen!

Mention "The Dirty Blonde Blog" and get $50 off full price tuition! (Click photo for more info)

Posted on December 23, 2011, in Burlesque, Interviews and Profiles, The Dallas Scene and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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