Brooklyn-based burlesque troupe Company XIV isn't afraid to take risks. Nutcracker Rouge, their take on the holiday classic, features a cast of jack-of-all-trades dancers who double as greeters, ushers, singers, actors and aerialists, while baring a good amount of skin but even more confidence. (Disclaimer: The show is for mature audiences only.) What's most impressive about these artists is how captivating they are. Regardless of what style of dance you do, if you want to become a better performer, consider taking a page out of their playbook.
You've got to be "on" the moment the audience walks in the front door.
Though the entrance to Théâtre XIV may be nondescript (a set of double doors next to a hip brewery and some industrial buildings), there's no question you're in the right place once you step inside. I was greeted by two cast members in full makeup, elaborate costumes and a ton of professional polish. Though they weren't portraying specific characters yet, they instantly invited me into the burlesque atmosphere.
Pro tip: Even if the show hasn't officially started, remember that your audience's experience begins as soon as they arrive.
That hidden talent or special skill you keep in your back pocket? It could pay off big-time.
One of the first scenes of Nutcracker Rouge features a solo ice skater on a mini onstage rink. Another features an aerial artist who sings a pop song in an operatic style—in a foreign language—while gracefully contorting in the air. There's also tap dancing, pole dancing and stilt work. These are just some of the myriad talents showcased.
Pro tip: Don't let additional skills go because your main focus is dance. You never know when they could help you stand out.
The quick change is truly an art.
At a burlesque show, it's inevitable that some clothes will be shed. Many numbers in Nutcracker Rouge feature on- or offstage quick changes, so that means the dancers must have every clasp, tie and zipper perfected. Since the theater doesn't have wings, the offstage wardrobe changes are often fully visible, too.
Pro tip: Practice, practice, practice. If you're performing in an unconventional space, be aware that audience members may be able to see you during these in-between moments, so it's important to maintain character.
Small details make a big difference.
Though the show is undoubtedly full of spectacle, small moments kept grabbing my attention, like a subtle wink, the expert handling of a prop—swirling fabric that evoked a bull fight in a Spanish variation—or the performers who stood out by how they sculpted an arm or brought extra humor to a cheeky scene.
Pro tip: Remember that performing is about more than executing steps. Infuse every action with intention and presence for a more captivating performance.