Producing Mx Burlesque Victoria

By Domino de Jour

Domino De Jour Credit Frenchie Holiday (1)

Credits: Frenchie Holiday (Photograper)

Resilience and grace: what my first year of producing Mx Burlesque Victoria taught me.

‘Build it and they will come’ the famous lines from Wayne's world two echoed through my brain on more occasions than I would like to admit over the course of 2023. This firm belief that if I could make the Mx Burlesque Victoria competition something that I would want to experience myself from the point of view of an audience member, and competitor, then we could have a night of glamour and burlesque that we had all been deeply missing.

As a burlesque performer, I hold the Mx (formerly Miss/Mr) Burlesque Australia competition in high regard, it had a pivotal role in teaching me about act structure, audience interaction, resilience, and the art of burlesque. Having competed four times since 2014 with varying results I’ve experienced rule changes, category changes, personal ups and downs and witnessed some of the most spectacular acts from other competitors as well as built incredible friendships. I love the process and focus that a competition provides and the MX journey is a challenge I relish.

When the opportunity to take on the Victorian competition for 2023 came about, it was something I didn’t take lightly, but also something that deep in my soul I knew I could achieve and make changes for the best. Suddenly I was not my usual pessimistic self, and I thought perhaps I could facilitate a competition that could uplift and inspire other performers as Mx had in the past for me, at the very least I could give people a night of glamour and entertainment and we could all put on our glad rags and swan about champagne in hand, something we hadn’t experienced since pre-covid.

With the mammoth task ahead, I took stock and reached out to previous competitors for feedback about how we could improve from previous years. In everything I do I want to find continuous growth as we can always strive to do and be better. We held info sessions and looked at ways to improve the accessibility of the competition. When the finalists were chosen this extended to monthly check ins personally with them, not for mentoring but to ensure they had all the information they needed, a space where they could raise concerns and I could check in on act progress. I wanted the performers to feel supported and connected through their entire experience - something that in the past I had really missed, to the point that some years I competed and felt deeply alone, and no one should have to experience that.

I had a vision: I wanted fun, I wanted these photos to say that this would be a big glamorous burlesque show, but also you didn’t know what was going to be on stage next.

This opportunity for connection and community led to events like our competitors photo shoot and competitor dinner. The shoot was the first time some of this motley crue of humans were meeting each other, everyone just went with the punches and embodied the ‘chaotic disco ‘ theme. I had a vision: I wanted fun, I wanted these photos to say that this would be a big glamorous burlesque show, but also you didn’t know what was going to be on stage next. I wanted those outside the burlesque industry to be enticed and interested and I wanted the shoot to embody the essence of ‘This is the new golden age of burlesque, are you ready for it?’ Writing this down seems kind of silly, but I love those photos. I love how everyone came together and kept their own unique personality while being part of the collective experience.

Speaking of collectives, an idea that came from the lovely Chica Boom Boom through the feedback survey was the idea for a competitors dinner and to invite past competitors. This was such a wonderful idea and something I will be taking into future years. There is something comforting in hearing from people who have done the competition before that everyone experiences the same self doubt, sometimes things don’t go to plan, and that many people in the past have competed multiple times (sometimes with multiple titles), but always improving and developing as performers along their journey.

The mental toll of producing is something I underestimated.

I thrive on organisation. I have more than one full time non-burlesque thing in my life and admin and organisation is something that I pride myself on. With a million irons in the fire at any moment everything is planned, deliberate and written down. I spent my free time writing copy, press releases and reading about marketing on social media. I hate technology, I would be so happy in a cabin off grid with none of this but alas that’s what had to be done. The mental toll of producing is something I underestimated. The grind was constant and everything was purposeful, and thought out and the mental toll that takes should not be underestimated. I wouldn't change anything for the world as it taught me two things: I love this process more than I thought I would, and you need to just keep going. With ticket sales up and down along the journey( the unfortunate reality of being a producer right now), I had to trust the process, trust that I knew what I was doing and keep that famous line in my head - if I build it they will come.

The competition night was a blur. I am thankful for the support and tech team I had around me, as the only time I delegated tasks but my god it was needed and they were fantastic. I couldn't have run tech without the expertise of Whisky Falls or even the lovely Ceci Sugar who made sure my judges had champagne. In the haze of what was a successful first year producing the competition I have a few moments that I hold deeply. I remember the crowd losing their mind at Winter Greene’s striptease act; Velma’s smolder as she walked off stage; the delight from the audience at Moxie’s Mr Bean spotlight moment, and the silence, awe and standing ovation at the handover act by Adam Malone.

It is about the space we can create for artists and the experience for our audiences.

2023 taught me to be resilient, that people want to have authentic performers on big stages and that as a producer this isn't about me. It is about the space we can create for artists and the experience for our audiences. I have so many notes and feedback of things to look at for the upcoming and future years of the competition because if we don't take that on board as a producer, what is the point? This is about growth and reflection for everyone involved. And for anyone who thought 2023 was a good year - You ain't seen nothing yet.

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