Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon

The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon was released June 1, 2010, just in time for the 20th Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas.  However, this book is is a culmination of her years of experience of teaching, studying and her love affair with burlesque.  An earlier version of this book used to be sold as a .pdf from The New York School of Burlesque, of which she is the head mistress, but this has been edited and streamlined to the most comprehensive burlesque beginners guide available.  The Burlesque Handbook is the equivalent of finding the missing link!  For years there has been a gap between a complete lack of knowledge about burlesque and specialized books that go in depth about one particular aspect; be it history, the neo-burlesque revival or costuming, this is the first book that gives you everything you need to know to get started or just have a better comprehension with out having to spend weeks reading fifty individual books.

The book itself is very simple to comprehend with out the feeling of being talked down to and makes you feel like you're having a casual chat over coffee rather then reading a text book.  It goes over a history of burlesque as well as  the author's personal history; basic movements complete with easy to lean routines; pastie making and other costuming; hair and make-up; how to pick a song, stage name and how to create a character; as well as basic business advice to get started!  I think one of my favorite parts of the book is actually the worksheets in the back that help you figure out things like inspiration, name character, music, costume, reveal and even how to critique each other.  If you have no one else to talk to about burlesque the worksheets in the back are a great way to get that second opinion with out the second person.  I really feel that this book makes burlesque accessible to people in areas that may not have classes or local burlesque shows to go see.

I do feel that I should point out my personal history with the author, less I be accused of writing a good review just because she's my friend.  Though honestly, if you know me, you would know that I'm not that kind of person, I have written unflattering reviews about friends before.

Once upon a time, when I very first started doing burlesque regularly, Atlanta legend Torchy Taboo asked me if I wanted to be in a show she was putting together.  Of course I said yes because she'd always been so awesome to me and I was really flattered that she'd asked me.  The show was The Princess and the PBR which was part of Jo Boobs and Torchy Taboo's Travelling Charm School at The Earl in Atlanta.  I knew very little about burlesque but already knew about Jo and her School of Burlesque in New York.  It was such an honor to be in a show with her and Torchy, and then Torchy volunteered me to play the straight man in a skit that Jo had about things she had been asked when she worked at the strip clubs.  It was awesome to be on stage with her and get to be a part of my first burlesque skit.  It was a lot of fun and I was so grateful that I got to be a part of such and amazing show so early in my career.

A few years later I was off to my first Miss Exotic World Weekend (now Burlesque Hall of Fame) and performing in one of the show cases.  I was nervous as hell and Jo let me rub her butt for luck, after that I was pretty much hooked.  Since then she has been an inspiration and a font of knowledge for me.  She proofed the first history of burlesque speech I gave at DragonCon, has always answered every inane question I have ever asked her since I started teaching and never once made me feel bad or stupid for asking.  She has always been a patient and amazing teacher an this book is a beautiful extension of her teaching skills.

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