The thrill is in the anticipation, not the action.
You know that. I know that. And seductress nonpareil Dita Von Teese most definitely knows that.
On the road for her “Art of the Teese” tour (featuring never-before-seen acts created for the historic Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris), Von Teese was kind enough to teach us the Ps and Qs of exactly that: the art of the tease. Because when it comes to bringing a little playful taunting into the bedroom, there’s no greater counsel than a woman literally dressed in Swarovski crystals.
With no further ado, here is a beginner's guide to the striptease, as told by Von Teese.
Say my partner and I want to get serious about teasing, what props, objects, etc. should we start with?
“Costumes are very important because performing a striptease requires a starting point. And costumes are always different. There’s not one style. It’s personal.”
Are there props beginners should shy away from?
“Definitely. I once watched a girl try to copy one of my costumes and she had to leave the stage to get cut out of her costume. Copying an act is not as easy as looking at it. I have many tricks up my sleeve and secret methods.”
What about reciprocation? If my partner gives a tease, should I feel obligated to give a tease?
“No one should ever feel obliged to do something they don’t find comfortable. I wouldn’t ask my boyfriend to strip, for instance. He gives to me in different ways.”
Okay, say I want to tease, though. How do I get over awkward or uncomfortable feelings?
“People ask me this all the time. ‘I want to do a burlesque show, but I’m terrified. What do I do?’ I say, ‘Then don’t do it.’ Putting yourself out of your comfort zone is one of the wonderful things about burlesque, but it’s because we bring our personalities to the stage. Think about what makes you you and what makes you feel sexy.”
How many clothes should a tease ideally start with? Is it a “more the merrier” situation?
“It depends on the the individual, but, yes, the more you have to take off, the longer the anticipation. That’s why we love the opera length gloves. Having lots of things to remove allows for the excitement to build. But also, not everyone can do a 10-minute tease and keep it enticing without being self-indulgent.”
So how long should this whole tease process take?
“Most of the solo performers I have perform for about 4-6 minutes. Since it’s my show, people will complain if I don’t go on, so I’ll likely go about 8-11 minutes. It depends on if there is a prop. If it’s just a striptease fan dance, seven minutes should do. But things like a martini glass or a mechanical bull will warrant more time. Gypsy Rose Lee said that seven minutes is the sweet spot.”
How do I know if I'm losing my audience?
“For an audience, hopefully you have a trusted friend that will let you know. On the stage, there are rules. That’s why there’s that show biz hook to pull you off. (Laughs.) But for an audience of one, there’s a huge difference. All the rules go out the window. There are no rules, so ...”
How does one go about choosing the right music?
“Sure we all love classic big-band striptease music, but it’s about whatever makes you feel sexy. In modern burlesque, it’s great to see it evolve and capture a new spirit.”
“As a viewer, what things can I do let my partner know I'm enjoying the show? Conversely, how should I definitely NOT react?”
“It should be fun most of all. It’s totally okay to laugh together. If you set out to perform for a significant other, don’t take it too seriously. That goes for onstage, too. It’s never too serious. Don’t worry if you trip over your shoe. In my Louis Vuitton crystal spurs, I trip all the time. Laughing and smiling is part of it. And don’t perform for someone who isn’t going to [share that sentiment]. Give it to someone who is deserving and is going to laugh with you when you trip over your underwear.”