Monday, April 9, 2012

Facial Expressions: or, Avoiding the "Dead-eyed slut doll face."

Though I realized I've probably been beating the proverbial unicorn to death throughout the Intro to Boylesk Class when it comes to the topic of eye contact, I can't help but personally feel that burlesque is an eye contact sport!

(If bedazzling were a recognized competition, I'd finally have trophies to take home to my father.)

Consider this: performers from stand up comics to singers all work with a microphone and utilize various spin-offs of that popular—albeit overdone—phrase: “everyone having a good time tonight?” However, as strippers we don’t necessarily have that luxury of sound. Instead we rely on an arch of the eyebrow, a pouting lip, a crooked smile, and an infinite supply of facial manipulations that all say, “you still with me?”  

Facial expressions are an essential part of one's striptease. They help a performer tell his story, sell his number, and most importantly, sell himself to his audience. Even if a performer is doing a non-linear or story-based number, facial expressions still imbue the stripping of garments with a sense of intention and emotion. So, in class, I forced the boys to take a spot at the dance mirrors and practice facial expressions that were unique and individual to each guy--think that one scene in Fried Green Tomatoes minus the vagina-gazing.

(You just know that cellophane dress is a burlesque number waiting to happen...)

However, not every situation onstage allows the performer to engage directly with his audience. For instance, you may be on a gigantic theatre stage with blinding lights or perhaps you find yourself in a crowded bar full of people tweeting about being at a burlesque show and brainstorming clever trending hash tags. And, as Jo Weldon Boobs also pointed out during a surprise visit, its physically impossible to make eye contact with every member of one's audience.

What I suggested to my students and what I follow through in my own performing is picking several spots throughout the crowd that allow me to keep my face forward and my expressions readable during a show. And I also still seize any chance for a genuine exchange with a close seated viewer, because as Ms. Boobs again noted, it further engages the rest of the crowd as they eagerly try for their own "one-on-one" moment. 

 (Putting my best bucket forward.)

Below are several videos of performers who I feel consistently always give "great face." Their expressions convey a variety of emotions to the general audience while still allowing for some improvisational work with individual voyeurs.

Enjoy! And remember, FRESHLY SLEAZED: The Intro to Boylesk Class Showcase happens APRIL 22ND!



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