On Bettina May’s website it says: “Bettina May is a Canadian-born, Las Vegas-based burlesque performer, vintage style expert, photographer and costumer” and after checking out some of her stuff on the inter-web, that’s exactly what she is. Burlesque has exploded in recent years and it’s down to the hard work and passion of people like Bettina. Hundreds of you reached out asking us on TickTheBucket.org to interview a burlesque dancer, and this is what she had to say. If burlesque is on your Bucket List, this is the interview for you.
1. What first inspired you to start taking burlesque seriously?
From the moment I started doing burlesque I loved it so much, and always felt happiest onstage. When I heard that performers in other towns were able to make a living as full-time artists, I was determined to find a way to do the same. A few years later I left my 9-5 behind, and I’ve never looked back.
2. What does the training process look like, how long before you can head to a stage?
I think it really varies for every person. When I first started at the beginning of the neo-burlesque revival, we were really making it up as we went along and there was a definite DIY aspect to it. Still, it probably took me about a year or so of watching live shows and studying old burlesque films before I was ready to create an act and hit the stage. Now there are a lot of burlesque schools around the world where people can learn the fundamentals of the art, and how to put their own unique spin on the artform. Some people with previous dance or stage experience may only need a few months to put together a burlesque act, but those starting from scratch might need a few years to develop the confidence and skill to get onstage.
3. How fit and active do you have to be to get into burlesque?
The new burlesque is open to all sizes and abilities, which is what I think modern audiences find so refreshing about it. Different shows and producers have a variety of styles and aesthetics, so the question is more about finding a part of the scene that interests you, whether you prefer traditional, old school vintage burlesque (my fave), or a more modern, niche form like Nerdlesque with characters and themes pulled from comic books and sci-fi movies.
4. Where does your main inspiration for a routine come from?
Inspiration comes from so many places. Sometimes it’s from a song that I just have to dance to and an act grows from there, or I find a bolt of gorgeous vintage lace that inspires a whole costume and routine, and more often now great art inspires an act, whether a painting, film, story, sculpture etc.
5. What’s been the biggest moment of your career so far?
I’d have to say the biggest moment for me was when I earned a green card from the United States as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability,” my official classification. I’m still the first and only burlesque performer to have this status, and it set a legal precedent which makes it easier for other performers to get work visas in America. I’m from Canada originally, and people might be surprised at how difficult it is to get permission to work across the border.
Finally, what’s next on your Bucket List?
The next thing on my list is a train trip across Canada, which I hope to make happen this summer!
And that was the end of our interview with her, if you’ve been inspired to put burlesque on your Bucket List head over to www.tickthebucket.org and find hundreds of people looking to make the same dreams as yours a reality. If you want to follow Bettina and she what’s she’s up to, she can be found at www.bettina.ca, via her Twitter and Instagram: @bettina_may, or her Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BettinaMayBurlesque/. Thanks Bettina, TickTheBucket salutes you.