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Burlesque Act Development Toolbox PART ONE: Create with... Colors

When creating a brand new burlesque act, there are many methods, suggestions and trainings out there. I'm of the opinion that one-size-does-not-fit-all, and I have found in my personal experience, I don't necessarily follow the same methods and steps each time I create an act. Inspiration comes in many forms: sometimes it's a piece of music; sometimes it's a show theme; sometimes it starts with an extraordinary costume item. Because this "starting place" is changeable and unpredictable, it helps to explore act development with an open mind, remain flexible, and approach it from different angles. My "Create with..." Series will discuss many different tools in your Act Development Toolbox, and how to use each to ignite the creation process from unique starting points.

The first tool in the Act Development Toolbox we'll discuss is COLOR. Color is much more than the hue of paint or fabric; its a feeling, an emotion, a mood, a vibe. Color can also be used as a symbol of a culture, character, or theme.

What's your favorite color?


Color can be used to portray or evoke certain emotions. There is a complex psychology of color, it's a science! Think about particular colors and how they make you feel. What emotion do they conjure? For example:

RED : love, passion, anger, violence

GREEN : envy, calming, freshness

BLUE : peaceful, sympathy, compassion

YELLOW : joy, happiness, warmth

(More info at: Color Psychology)

This is something to consider when creating a new burlesque act-not just how the colors look in the stage lights, or which colors complement each other, but how these color choices might help to convey a desired emotional response from your audience-and also how they make YOU feel.


Color can be used as a symbol or association. For example, in certain cultures purple symbolizes royalty. The colors of a country's flag are often associated with the nation's people and culture, well beyond just their use on the flag itself. Pop culture has ingrained certain meanings and associations with color and color combinations, for example bright orange > construction, red and yellow > McDonald's, red and white > Santa, and brown and gold > UPS.

Be mindful of cultural appropriation when selecting colors for your act. Certain combinations, especially those on a nation's flag, may communicate a message you do not intend. For example, the use of red, white, and blue will likely bring to mind American patriotism, whether you mean it to or not.

Similarly, the rainbow has come to symbolize PRIDE. Be sure to consider popular and widely-accepted references and associations when selecting the color or colors for your costume pieces and act theme.


While your creation is your own, an expression of something deep and personal, you do need to factor in the audience's potential perception and interpretation. Ask for insight from mentors, producers, or fellow burlesque artists if you feel you may need another opinion about your selections. And be open and flexible to these viewpoints.


Color goes far beyond the design and beauty of a costume. It can foster emotional responses and add meaning and depth to your performance art. Color can ignite memories and associations in the minds of your audience members and make your performance a truly interactive experience. Consider COLOR another tool in your Act Development Toolbox as an added layer of expression when creating a new burlesque act.

Suggested sites:

Color Psychology

Color and Cultural Design Considerations

Fashion Color Trend Report | Pantone

Color Lisa - Color palette masterpieces of the world’s greatest artists

Quick Reference:


Emotional Response



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