“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.”
Anyone who knew “the old” me would know I was extremely competitive.
For the past three years I have entered and scored a performer place in the Grand Tease’s Hamilton heat. At the time of acceptance for the 2016 & 2017 heats I was so excited! I just about jumped out of my chair when I received the emails. For the 2018 heat I was little reserved. Well, more than a little reserved A LOT RESERVED to the point I almost didn’t apply.
What is the Grand Tease?
Grand Tease is a New Zealand based burlesque competition that travels the nation. Typically there are three heats – one in Wellington, one in Hamilton and one in Christchurch. Three contestants are selected from the heats (under the guise of Winner, Runner up and Wildcard) who then compete in the Grand Tease Final in Christchurch.
After each heat the contestants receive a copy of the feedback forms from the judges (these are anonymous).
Each heat consists of a classic act and a neo act from each competitor with the Grand Final also accommodating an improv round. The ultimate winner is crowned The Supreme Grand Tease.
Both of the producers have, in the past, entered competitions and relate to what the performers are feeling . They decided to introduce awards to celebrate the performers ability – it is important to them everyone got celebrated for what they excelled at – literally celebrating everyone’s individual strengths. This year they removed the best boobs and butt awards as a consequence.
The application process
“I’m competitive. I don’t like to lose.” Odell Beckham, Jr.
Applying for Grand Tease was a simple enough process – you fill in a form with basic information about yourself with links to your acts (if they are in development then links to one of your other acts) and social media links. Easy enough.
Pay your entry fee.
A little while after this your asked for high resolution images for promo purposes and further down the track you supply your music and tech notes and like all tech notes I find this tricky as I am constantly changing my acts; changing the tech notes all the time. Producers worst nightmare performer I am sure. The “right” to brag about your acceptance is given, and dam brag I did. Everywhere, every time I could.
My story 2016-2018
The first time – A Virgin; 2016
2016 I was a newbie to burlesque competitions. My nature told me to apply – it will be sweet on the night – you can do this and you can win this thing. I heard my inner voice say, with my inner critic saying “what the fuck are you doing????” There was no middle ground. I intended on giving it my best shot and I did just that.
The 2016 competition was held at the Meteor in Hamilton. There was a huge “green room” where we all got changed and did our make-up. Essentially where we got ready for our stage time. Mirrors were limited but sufficient. The atmosphere was electric; happiness, nerves and chatter paramount.
Backstage everyone was friendly, relaxed, supportive and dam fun to be around. Finger food was supplied by Tease & Trouble and I ate way too much. You may have heard of nervous laughter – this was nervous eating way past gorge level.
On stage – not so much relaxation as the realization and enormity of the event struck me, really I shouldn’t have eaten the lollies and cheese. Really. I shouldn’t have.
Despite the fact I was fair packing myself I performed better than I ever have done, however, the added pressure of two brand new acts forced my legs to nail themselves to the stage and I really did struggle to pick them up and get them moving across the stage.
The audience applauded, they cheered and screamed, and they hooted and hollered. The atmosphere was sublime and I loved every minute of it. Every single dam minute of it.
As we all re appeared on stage one by one my smile was nervously beaming – Had I done enough? Was I acceptable? The awards were announced.
Although I knew I wasn’t going to take a place, my heart still sunk a little. You see I was still in “competition with others” in my mind and secretly wanted to win. In saying that though, I was happy with best newbie BEST BLOODY NEWBIE! I was ecstatic! The judges thought I was good enough for best newbie! I just about did cartwheels on stage. I saw being best newbie a major ‘trophy’ to me and my confidence was lit.
Second time around – 2017
2017; the application process was identical and the venue remained at the Meteor. To my surprise the green room had changed. There was now a smaller common area and two separate rooms with mirrors for hair and makeup.
This change seemed to split the backstage sisterhood, gone was the closeness; the friendliness and the banter. The atmosphere lacked spark and was flat. Again the food supplies was finger food (and personally I appreciated it and didn’t overeat!).
I had decided to re hash my classic from last year and produce a new, go go neo act involving a chair dance. I was pretty confident with my classic act in its new form; my neo a little less confident.
To say I was gutted and disappointed would be an extreme understatement. I didn’t know what to think of best tribute (the award I received) best tribute to what? It took me sometime to figure out it was related to my Neo (a 60’s GoGo piece) rather than my classic (a Rod Stewart number). I think I was having a real “moment” with it, and that moment seemed to last forfuckingever.
I sunk really low after the show and fought back my tears that night while out with a burly crew. I ended my night early and vowed and declared I would not enter competitions again; ever. My confidence and ego had fallen to traumatic depths as a number of people, I felt, made out this was a ‘token’ award. I felt unworthy and my childhood fears of being made a mockery had really been exposed. It took me several months to get out of this funk. All the bad thoughts terrorized my self-esteem. I wasn’t good enough, I compared and most of all I failed. I was still in competition with others in my mind for this event, and I wasn’t good enough.
2018 – The Deal Breaker
Conscious of the backstage split last year I was delighted to hear of a new venue for this year’s Hamilton heat (held at the Altitude Bar). Equally I made sure I was sensible in my approach this year and should I receive what some would call a ‘token’ award I put into place mechanisms to cope. After all this was supposed to be fun right?
I adjusted my thinking to “this is another great show I am involved in” from “this is a competition and I need to place” mentality. I think this is important; not just for me but for any of you thinking of taking part in any competition, burlesque or otherwise. It helped me to relax more and focus. Sure I watched the other’s acts; but unlike previous years I did not compare me to them, instead my mind interpreted their art with an immense amount of pride. I know what some of them will be going through, and how much it has taken for them to get this far. Finally I was in competition with myself, and myself only.
Once again the Tease & Trouble crew put together a well-run event and the new venue was fantastic. The finger food was just what the doctor ordered!
I was first – I can tell you I was more nervous about that than I was anything else! I performed and then performed again. Halfway through the neo act I heard one of the judges say “oh my fucking god!” when I produced a banner of her alter ego. I also made “Resting Bitch Face” Duchess DeBerry smile and laugh – which made my life that night. I was loud, I was proud, I was empowered and I was fucking beautiful that night. I wanted to hold onto how that felt forever.
I was on a natural high and that to me is what burlesque is about.
I was more than happy with my award of most improved. I am not a professional dancer, I don’t have any dance background and I am considerably older than most in this competition. I was and still am more sensationally proud with this year’s result. Why – what changed? Maybe it was because my mindset has changed.
I was in competition with me. No one else. I compared me to me, and me only. I resigned myself to the fact we are all different and we bring different skills and shapes to the stage.
It’s a valuable lesson to learn, and a lifelong one at that.
The feedback sheets
Remember I said we all received our feedback sheets? There are 5 points the judges consider with scoring between 1-10 (10 being the highest).
- Stage Presence/Charisma/Energy
This is how my scoring panned out across all three years.
I am not surprised at how the scores vary – after all it is a new set of judges each year and each person has their own individual interpretation and level of enjoyment. What might be helpful to each competitor is the scoring range being made available (e.g. Classic scores were all between 20 – 45 out of 50), however I do acknowledge that this may not suit all people as it may fuel disappointments. For me it would give me an accurate reflection on “where I sit” as the variables were so immense when I compare year the scores year by year.
I consider the written feedback more valuable. It is a precious amount of feedback from different people with different tastes. What the feedback does elude to is your act may be brilliant to one person and not so good to another on the night. This is extremely important to those who compete and feel like their act is worthless. It highlights areas interpreted well and areas where refinement is required. Some acts ’gel’ on the night and some don’t. The next time it might be in reverse.
My feedback has been quite diverse throughout my Grand Tease time – (C = Classic, N= Neo)
“Beautiful costume, funny and entertaining, lovely use of music”, “Great Boa work, beautiful interaction with audience, Could try lipsyching, Try looking around at audience when removing corset”, “Great personality and stage presence. Headdress is great but blocks your face”
“Great stage presence, sparkle jacket, look over shoulder while revealing leopard skirt – very energetic?”, “Great emotion, awesome theme throughout”
“Stunning outfit”, “Bigger facial expressions please”, “Fantastic tease”, “Would have liked more cheeky facials”, “Beautiful glove peel, look up”, “Great facial expressions”
“I love your groovy 60’s style”, “While your commitment is evident I would have liked to feel you were a little more relaxed in your movement – it looked a little tense at times”
“Good Energy, would have liked your back to be less to the audience”, “Needs a little more polish but I really liked the sass”, “Remember to breathe, your nervousness showed in your face”, “You have a great energy and connect well with your audience”, “Loved your captivating opening”, “Great to see you really let go and enjoy yourself”, “Fab facial expression”
“You were the 1st person to make me smile all night and I had no idea what was going on but it was hilarious”, “very entertaining”, “perhaps take a little more care with your floor plan so that you don’t end up walking on your props”, “hahaha your absurd, I love it!”
To conclude, for those who have walked away from any stage, competition or not, feeling like they were “not up to scratch” and getting low with it;
We have all been there – whether or not we portray it – we have; honestly. I can link you into a number of blogs and articles including those written by NZ’s best and Elite. It happens, manage it – open up, message others – including me.
Your stage time is all about you. No one else, just you. Make it a fact you are in competition with yourself. Go wild, be a child, love your act and it will shine. Do not compare and consider feedback given in any form.
Remember you are wonderful and packaged just beautifully – the audience appreciates it and you god dam should too. Have fun with it. Learn, don’t burn.
Thank you Tease & Trouble for this fantastic opportunity once again this year. 2019 is already in progress.