To say that I value education could be seen as a bit of an understatement, one does not simply teach in public urban schools for as long as I did if one does not think that education is important. Education is the great equalizer it allows people access to experiences that they otherwise may not have access to.
It is in that spirit that I write this blog, over the years I have heard many positive and negative things about ...Burlesque schools. As a lifelong 5th generation teacher I would like to say that, that is not the standard operating procedure for any reputable school. Now I will say that no school is perfect, public, private, or home, but we all try to do our best to pass along the knowledge we have. Not everyone is a natural teacher, I openly admit that I had to learn how to be an effective instructor. Having knowledge is not enough to make you a good/master teacher, you have to commit to being a lifelong learner and even then you are prone to uncontrollable bouts or humanity. The road to becoming a Master teacher is not easy and very often people, students, parents, and administrators have high unrealistic expectations. People love graduation, they love to see the finished product but very few people know all the work it takes to create a graduate. The late nights, the early mornings, the self doubt, the research, the endless certifications all to prove that you are indeed a teacher.
I will readily admit that (right now) there is not specific industry recognized certification program for Burlesque instruction (if there was I would sign up in a heartbeat) and as a result there are hundreds of performers out here trying to do their part to pass along this wonderful glitter knowledge. This is where Burlesque schools and workshops come into play, some people refer to them as puppy mills, pay to play, rip offs, churn and burn etc.... I am sure there are horror stories out there about horrible people doing horrible things, I have heard a few in my time. I’m an optimist and I like to think that everyone is really trying to do the best they can, so when I hear about things like cheating students, undercutting, hiring under qualified or flat our unqualified instructors, etc… it truly breaks my heart. School is supposed to be a positive place where people come to learn and in the best cases exchange information. Which is why I am a HUGE advocate for Burlesque schools. Whether it's a series of drop-in classes or a fully fleshed out curriculum, you are part of a unique group of people who have the advantage of setting the local industry standards. You see school is the great equalizer when you take a burlesque class at a reputable school you know that you are getting the same information as the person next to you. If the instructor suddenly remembers a point or tip you know that it is something that you and your classmates can all share in. Class size isn’t important, what is important is the information that you are receiving. What makes burlesque schools so great is that it helps grow the industry! Schools add and encourage diversity because anyone can join, you don’t have to fit a certain aesthetic, or be a certain age or be friends with the right people to get in. Honestly it’s as simple as registering for your class and paying your fee! I know there are people out there who think Burlesque schools are muddying the sacred waters of burlesque by allowing just anyone to participate in the art form, but think about this, I’m based in Richmond, Virginia home of the confederate capital, we have an entire street lined with monuments dedicated to confederate soldiers and generals. In a place like this if I decided to go the “traditional” burlesque education route I doubt there would even be a Lottie Ellington because I don’t fit the mold (pale, thin, tattooed, under 30). I knew about burlesque and I wanted so badly to learn but alas, there weren’t any schools operating, so the only route to the stage was befriending an existing performer and hoping to parlay that friendship into a possible mentorship relationship. The only problem with that scenario was… I was an outsider, 30 something, curvy, quirky, black female school teacher, living 45 minutes from Richmond where all the action was taking place. I had to wait nearly 2 years before the community of performers I had followed opened up a school. Now once the school opened I dove in with both feet taking ALL the classes they had to offer, because I’m a scholar. However I know that if not for this school opening I wouldn’t be here today. At the time I had no idea just how much burlesque would change my life, all I knew was that I wanted to be on stage. Through my burlesque education I learned many lessons from many teachers and I am thankful for all the lessons I have learned as a result of pursuing my burlesque education. I know I am a better performer because of the training I have received.
Lottie Ellington burst on the Richmond's Burlesque scene in April of 2011 and has been on a mission to shimmy, shake and hip roll her way in to your heart!