A Day in the Life of a Burlesque Dancer

Burlesque Dancer By Veronica Dudo

Performing over a dozen different routines (complete with props and costume changes), applying full makeup, styling hair, entertaining the audience and interacting with the crowd: It's just another night on the job for Amy Toliver. This is a day in the life of a burlesque dancer.

For many, it may sound like a dream come true, stepping onto a stage and into the spotlight, but the reality involves countless hours of rehearsals combined with intense workouts. As part of a 10-member cast, the Phoenix, Ariz., native says the key to a successful show is to enjoy your profession.

"Performing is just 100 percent fun for me," she says. "You forget about any stress that you have going on in your life, and you just live in the moment, and that's the great thing about my job."

Currently running at Bally's Casino in Atlantic City, iCandy Burlesque is a contemporary dance revue that features dancers, singers and aerialists. While infused with classic steps from the past, Toliver says that the show also has a contemporary vibe. "Burlesque was something that came about years ago and now we're kind of bringing it back," she says. "But this is a little bit more of a modern-day version, which has a little bit more sexiness to it but still kind of keeps the costume flavor, the pinup look -- which is very classy and very sexy at the same time. So it's definitely a hit right now -- it's huge!"

After the 10-dancer ensemble was formed, they needed to grasp the choreography quickly, recalls Toliver. "We literally met two weeks before the opening of the show and every day it was a 10-to-12-hourlong rehearsal."

During rehearsals, Toliver says, emotions ran high in the pressure-filled atmosphere. "Not only are we having to put together a huge show like this, and make it look polished and great by opening night, but a lot us have never danced together before, so we're having all of these different styles come together."

It takes a lot of teamwork, patience and hard work from Toliver and her fellow dancers to get everything ready for opening night. "We've learned in the matter of two weeks about 15 different numbers -- and we're talking about routines that are just all over the place in terms of variety. We're doing lifts with the guys, chair-dancing, aerials; we're covering many different types of choreography, so it's a lot."

But, she adds, "In the end it all comes together and looks phenomenal."

job interview On show days, there's a more relaxed atmosphere, according to Toliver, who says the dancers partake in light rehearsals to make sure the routines are smooth. "Now that we've learned the bulk of the show, we have maintenance rehearsal. So anytime we get a number that's kind of messy and needs a little cleanup, then we'll meet for a couple of hours and we'll just focus on that routine and get it polished and looking good."

With an 8 p.m. call time, cast members show up to fix their hair and put on makeup. Toliver explains how they stay organized: "Our dressing room is fairly small, with 10 people in it, so when we meet we want to make sure that our costumes are lined up for show. Because the show changes every night, it's never the same show twice, so the costumes are totally changing and we want to make sure that we're totally prepared before the show starts so that takes some preparation."

After meeting and getting changed into their colorful costumes, it's show time. As audience members watch the cast sing and dance to popular music, Toliver says they have added their own unique moves. "Sometimes burlesque dancing can kind of get interpreted a sexy in a slow way, where as we put a little twist in on it and we made it very high-energy and fun."

The shows run every half-hour and run from 10 to 15 minutes. "In-between shows we have go-go dancing, so there's always something going on," Toliver explains.

Staying in shape is another important component when performing. "A few of us cast members actually get together every other day and do this really nice workout on the beach," she says. "We each take turns leading it, and on the off-days we run on the boardwalk."

Toliver says that she loves the excitement of her job and the opportunity to do something that she truly enjoys sharing. "For me, dance is a form of expression. I love performing. It's just that time where you can zone out and be who you are. There's just something about performing that I love."

Hearing and seeing the response from audience members every night, Toliver says that she is reminded why she works so hard to nail every step. "I just like to see people having as much fun as I have onstage, while watching the show."

Next: Burlesque Dancers: Don't Call Us Strippers!

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really??? does anyone have anything else better to do other than bash this poor girl when you don't even know her personally???

build a bridge and GET OVER IT!!!

August 03 2011 at 7:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cilla's comment
Truth Be Told

I have personally known Amy since she was a teenager and she is an amazing woman. She loves her family and friends and she is a sweetheart with a heart of gold.

August 05 2011 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emilio Paletta

DOWN IN FRONT ( Burlesque )

Emilio Paletta Author copy right 2006


Allow me to pay tribute to those baggy-pants comics of the 40's; you know the ones who told the corny jokes during the hey-day of Burlesque. Unless you were privileged to live back then,you probably haven't the faintness idea what I'm alluding to. Allow me to enlighten you! The audiences were comprised mostly of men, young and old alike. Till this day I'll bet if you were to ask a survivor of that era why it was he went to see the show, his pat answer would be, "I went for the jokes." But those of us who were around back then know differently; don't we?

The truth is we really went to watch the curvaceous broads strip down to within an inch of their birthday suit. It was in-fact so titillating theater security men walked up and down the aisles carrying nightsticks looking for stiffs in the crowd; if you get the drift. Aside from telling jokes comics followed a basic format. They were involved in slapstick spoofs revolving around satirical skits. The participants included the top banana, a straight-man and of course a scantily-clad femme fatale. Always a favorite of the enthusiastic audience was the Doctor-Nurse-Patient shtick. One of the most popular "Top-banana's" of that era was the hilarious Cheese-An-Crackers Hagen. Whereas the most famous stripper of the time had to be the enchantress Gypsy Rose Lee. In the vernacular of burlesque terminology she was considered a headliner! Strippers for the most part had a special gimmick and were ranked according to status; third being the lowest tier, second and of course the main attraction. Each became known by her signature routine, which were all notably different. Some worked fast, others slow, while some shook their buns faster than a bowl of Jello, after it jelled!

The red velvet curtain was a useful prop for many. On the other hand headliners such as Ann Corio, Lily St Cyr, and Sally Rand had their own special style of enticing the audience. For example Lilly St Cyr captivated the boys in the crowd by grinding and gyrating her voluptuous torso to the drumbeat emanating from the orchestra pit of "Boom, bada boom, bada boom, bada boom!" "Take it off , take it all off;" yelled the boys in the crowd. Of course that was wishful thinking on their part.

Tempest Storm was a stripper extraordinare'. Jennie Lee known as "The Bazoom Girl," defied the laws of gravity. Her amazing muscle control allowed her to whirl the tassels on her pasties simultaneously, each in opposite directions.

In every large city throughout America Burlesque houses could be found. In Newark N. J., my old stamping grounds; it was the Empire and Minsky's.

During the intermission a barker appeared on stage sporting a derby, highly polished patent leather shoes and black trousers. Colorful garters held up the sleeves of his white starched shirt which was covered over by a black vest. Speaking with a gravely voice he made his pitch, which went something like this......

" Now listen up gents! For the mere price of fifty cents, one half of one dollar, you can be the lucky recipient of a truly wondrous gift. Folks the contents to be found in each and every package are guaranteed to amuse and titillate each and every one of you. If not completely satisfied your money will be graciously refunded. As the beautiful young ladies pass among you dig deep into your pockets. Take advantage of this once in a lifetime offer. Don't be satisfied with just one; take two, three, or more. You won't be sorry! Each bag contains a different prize. I repeat no two are alike. You'll be rewarded with many hours of pleasure."

Then as the scantily-clad strippers filtered through the crowd,they were accompanied by security. The men holding greenbacks were rewarded with a bag containing a small paper book; known back then as " Dirty Books." On each page there could be found old cartoon characters the likes of Jigs & Maggie, Blondie & Dagwood, and Moon Mullins; who were shown locked in a compromising position with some one of the opposite sex.The quicker the recipient flipped the pages the faster the participants performed. On occasion as the young ladies passed through the narrow aisles security had to whack a long-handed client for trying to cop a cheep feel. My how I yern those bye-gone days, long before the age of computers.

Perhaps your father or grandfather like me, was also sitting in the audience? Ha! Ha!

June 13 2011 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Okay, I won't

June 13 2011 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

holier than thou people will always be critical of women who dance/strip for a living. Perhaps those who are critical of the dancers are hiding something ?

June 13 2011 at 5:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also that all strippers uses drugs. Wrong I NEVER, NEVER have used drugs. Just, another myth. Get your story straight.

June 13 2011 at 3:19 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I use to dance about 20 yrs. ago and NEVER slept with a customer. I was raising my son, and I chose not to go on welfare or get any kind of help. Before, I started dancing I was working three min. wage jobs and couldn't pay my bills. I do agree there are prostitution that goes on in a strip bar. But, most of the girls are in there trying to raise their children because of dead beat dads not paying their child support and don't want the system taking care of them. Besides, that if a woman was going to prostitute they would meet someone instead of putting up with the crap alnight in a bar. I retired from GM and I seen more affairs in there than I ever did in a strip bar. Listen up women, your man has a better chance in a regular bar or at work having an affair than in a strip bar. Honey, we've heard it all. It's our job, we're not there to sleep with your husband. We're there to work. Don't judge a dancer, the dancer is not the one that forced your husband to come thru the door.

June 13 2011 at 3:16 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Yes, a lot of strippers also double as hookers. C'mon let's tell the truth. Husbands go get it on with naked lap dances, you name it and think their wives should put up with it. Well, let me tell you, let these same wives go to a nude male strip club and get the same lap dances and quite a bit more (if you guys out there don't realize it) and the men are singing a different tune. They dish it out but they sure can't take it. When a man finds out that his bride to be or a girlfriend of the bride to be has been to a real down and dirty bachelorette party (not the lame Chippendale type) he goes ballastic!! I know it, as my first husband couldn't take and we got divorced. They say, "men going to a strip club, that's different than a woman going to a male strip club." Sorry, it's exactly the same thing. Good for the goose, good for the gander!!

June 13 2011 at 2:20 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

No offense Heidi, but if it took one visit to a strip club to end your marriage, maybe it wasn't strong to begin with. "Strippers are prostitutes" is the most naive and judgmental statement I've ever heard.

June 12 2011 at 9:52 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

You would end your marriage over your husband going to a strip club? Now that is sad. How are they prostitutes they dont sleep with the clients? (Usually anyway) Yr husband was just being a guy.

June 12 2011 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to MRSJBELLE's comment

first of all a woman that will show you what she's got, will damn sure give it with little encouragement. MOdesty and morality go hand in hand, cannot have one without the other. GRanted some men would get horny if a woman passed by in a full length burlap sack, but then if you think it's about like an obsessive compulsive eater. Sit a box of donuts in front of them in a CLOSED box and they are not nearly as enticing as when you open the lid and see that array of chocolate, cream filled, jelly oozing donuts. There was a time when women had a substantial amount of morals, those days are gone except for a very few. When I go in to get music for my DJ work and inter net stations BAM! probably you or your 13 year old daugther hit me up immediately to come and watch her perform before her web cam. I decline and have pretty much weeded those out BUT I have asked them, "do you think maybe you might have been the one that got my 62 yr. old neighbor down the street all fired up before he molested his 3 step daughters? Or maybe you were responsible for getting the 30 year old around the corner all hot and bothered before he raped the 12 year old. Don't guess it was you who played a part in the 2 queers next door and their porn operation of young males, INFANT TO 12 years but some other immoral individual like you did. To say the least, they kind of bow out and don't bother me anymore. And on your comment of "How are they prostitutes they don't sleep with the clients", oh yea well their antics have sure made the guy sit there and F 'em in his mind and heart that's for sure, so yea, they really have and if you believe "as a man thinketh, so is he", then you'd know how deterimental that is. So there!

June 12 2011 at 9:46 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to texmexfm's comment

Tex, I had a hard time reading your comment. I'll try to pick it apart.

Modesty and Morality go hand-in-hand? I do suppose. But what to you call it when you..um..indulge in "female images", either on-line or in magazine form? While you may not, there is a huge audience out there for said "images" or, "performances".

Let's not let this fall all on the shoulders of the women who choose to perform. If there wasn't an audience to "perform to", there wouldn't be an argument.

June 13 2011 at 1:49 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down

Agreed, Jenn.

Part of being in a relationship is letting the one half do what they'd like to. Okay, so my hubby wants to go out with the boys for a bachelor party or play pool a couple times a week. Fine. I go out with the girls for Mexican and Sangria at a favorite restaurant and then dancing at a local club afterwards.

You can't stick to one's side at every moment. We have a very healthy relationship with each other, with plenty of personal time, and plenty of time spent together with mutual friends. But everyone needs a bit of boy/girl time.

June 13 2011 at 2:04 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Strippers are prositutes...and after my "husband" (TREVOR)of 7 years decided to go visit a strip club on our anniversary...it ended our marriage.My son and I are now destitute.
Thanks for glamorizing the oldest profession,AOL.

June 12 2011 at 8:52 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to heidi's comment

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