So, apparently, the mockumentary Spinal Tap created a whole trend of the term “Take it to 11…” for when you need that extra push… I have seen Spinal Tap, but apparently did not realize that “Taking it to 11” was a “thing” until I started burlesque, when people were using that terminology… (If you have not seen Spinal Tap and don’t know the reference, just google it – there are plenty of Youtube clips of the scene from the mockumentary.)
The problem I see with this phraseology is the total ambiguity associated with the “Taking it to 11.” In Spinal Tap, it was compared to other amplifiers, which went up to 10…. Does having 11 on the dial actually make it louder, or is the 11 the equivalent to the 10 on other amplifiers? It is like potato chips advertising “less salt.” Less salt than what? Less salt than other potato chips, less salt than your previous version of potation chips, less salt than the Atlantic Ocean? Ensuring we are on the same scale is helpful in determining meaning and intent…
With that said, though, the general intent, I believe, is to “up your game” or improve upon your current skill level, and that has been in my thoughts a good deal lately. I guess my personal focus lately has really been on expanding – looking at new skills I can develop, and revisiting and improving my existing skills. I have been trying to develop myself as an MC and get more comfortable in that realm and in continuing to work on my singing repertoire and comfort in singing on stage. The thing I realize with adding components and trying to “up-my-game” is that everything you work on takes an additional time commitment. While at a burlesque festival recently, I took a great stretching class and reminded myself that I really need to stretch more and that I only need to do 15 minutes a day and it would be such an improvement. But then, if I add 15 minutes a day to everything I am working on, then that becomes an hour – 15 minutes for singing, writing, stretching, pointe exercises and we haven’t even started talking about choreographing, sewing, or marketing/promoting myself. Now we are looking at about 2 hours of “just 15 minutes a day” and we haven’t even started talking about daily life responsibilities (laundry, dishes, cleaning house), job, pets, sleep (Oh, how I wish I didn’t need to sleep – I would be so much more productive.) So, striving to “up my game” sometimes just doesn’t happen…. Because there are only so many hours a day – which also reminds me that I really need to call my parents and, yet, I am sitting here and writing this instead. At least they are on my mailing list, so I can tell them right here how much I love them. J
But then, there are other aspects of upping ones game that don’t take a lot of prep time but take a lot of mind time. So, my “Take it to 11” this month is actually the creation of a new “classical” burlesque number. Classical costume, classical moves, even ‘classical’ burlesque music – (mind you, classical burlesque is not like Tchaikovsky or Mozart or something…). Why is this upping my game? Because I have 2, as I see it, totally classic burlesque numbers, of which this is the second. Classic burlesque is not usually my thing. My brain just doesn’t usually go that direction and I focus on lots of other performance aspects such as story lines, silliness, dance moves, etc. to make my act, well, MY act. Others numbers that are in the general realm of ‘classic’ burlesque are heavy dance-oriented numbers because that is a strength that I fall back on. My other ‘classic’ number is not even as ‘classic’ as the one currently in process because that is to ‘Take Five,’ an amazing piece of music by Dave Brubeck, and while a lovely jazz piece, is not really one of the traditional ‘classic’ burlesque compositions. (It was also hell of a bitch to choreograph in 5/4 time.) But this new number, it is all around classical burlesque. And I am feeling okay about it. Which is pretty amazing, particularly considering that this new classic number is simple, very classic, fraught with underlying intent, and – most importantly – requires that element everyone suspects that I have in excess but I often find lacking at my very core – confidence. As my husband watched a rough video of my act last night, his comments were few but at the end he said that this was an act I probably could not have created or performed in its essence a few years ago – simple in movement, yes, but requiring much more confidence than I previously could have mustered on stage. And a different kind of confidence – the confidence that I can imbue enough intent and expression into a wave of the hand, a hip bump, or even complete stillness that I don’t have to rely on the big kick or pointe shoes for that extra element of “wow.” I contain, in my essence, all the “wow” the audience needs. We will see how this actually works out on stage. J So, upping my game for this number does not mean that I have my splits back, but that I am setting my mind to be confident, sexy, and powerful – something I encourage women to do every day – particularly when I am teaching burlesque or dance classes and that I continue to work on myself. Teacher, teach thyself.
Who knows, maybe this will be a new area of exploration for me. I took a workshop a few years ago from Shanghai Pearl, a burlesque performer out of Seattle. She is a very funny neo burlesque performer and at the time she was going through a series of very classical, very serious, and very traditional burlesque numbers. When the class asked her why, she said because she was having fun exploring it – and I finally think I understand that mindset a little bit. Having dabbled in many areas, I can now come back to the classical and bring maybe just a little bit of a different mindset and fun to the traditional and see what happens. They say that “great writers steal.” Not because great writers are plagiarists, but because, on some essence, all the stories have been told and all the feelings experienced. But a great writer steals those same stories, those same feelings and brings some little bit of fresh to that. So, maybe that is what I will be working on next – freshening things. Don’t worry, I still am creating my staged fight number and have some other, wilder, act ideas in my head that will make it to the stage at some point, but I can also explore other aspects of burlesque and find out how to make the “old” into something “fresh.”