Have you ever walked off stage cringing in shame? What to do when you embarrass yourself on stage!

By on July 18, 2016
Bombshell Betty's "Wardrobe Malfunction" act at DIVA or Die in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Lapierre.

Bombshell Betty’s “Wardrobe Malfunction” act at DIVA or Die in San Francisco. Photo by Jeff Lapierre.

If you’ve ever felt the need to apologize to a show producer for a bad performance, if you’ve ever wanted to kick yourself as you left the stage, or if an act has ever gone so wrong that it made you question whether you should ever get on stage again, this is for you! Recently, one of our Tease! Bang! Boom! Mentoring Program members asked for advice about how to pull yourself up and get out of a slump after a disappointing and embarrassing performance, and four of our mentors chimed in.

[TBB Mentoring Members: You have access to transcripts of all of discussions from our previous live mentoring sessions here!]

balloons-headshot1Bombshell Betty: I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I can definitely relate, and I think this is something just about every performer goes through periodically. Live performance is not like shooting film, where you can do a dozen takes and then edit the best bits together to get what you want. We get one take while we’re up there, and it’s ours to do the best we can with it in the moment, and that’s all we can do.

Know that you’re not alone in this. I’ve seen headliners at festivals whose performances I really look forward to go on stage and look like they’re “phoning it in” and absolutely fall flat. I readily admit that I’ve had times where I came off stage feeling disappointed and even ashamed of my performances. I’ve personally fallen on my ass (literally and figuratively), forgotten song lyrics while singing and choreography while dancing, had my PTSD triggered and had to perform while dissociating (talk about not being present), gotten too tipsy and given a sloppy performance, had to work through technical difficulties and costuming malfunctions, you name it. If there’s a mistake that could possibly be made, I’ve most likely made it at some point, yet plenty of people still come out specifically to see me perform.

I know that it’s easier said than done, but try not to beat yourself up about it. That’s beyond unproductive. You need every ounce of confidence you can muster when you’re up on stage, and tearing yourself down for past performances can lead to a self-defeating downward spiral.

Keep in mind that the way you felt up there doesn’t always reflect how you came across to the audience. There have been times when I’ve come off stage kicking myself only to watch video of the act later and see that the performance actually looked good. Sometimes mistakes just aren’t apparent. In the absence of video footage, was there someone in the audience whose feedback you would trust who you could talk to about this? I’m very choosy about the people I ask for feedback and only reach out to people who I know will be unfailingly honest in their feedback while still being kind.

(On this note, one mistake that I’ve made that I hope you will avoid is to deflect compliments on a performance that you feel was subpar. If someone compliments you and you respond by insulting yourself, you’re also insulting their judgement and perceptions, which no one appreciates.)

As fallible human beings, failure is inevitable occasionally, and it’s really what we do with it that matters. I hope you’ll actively use this as a learning experience. What do you feel that you did wrong? Was it a matter of not being fully present on stage? If so, are there any practices that you can implement to help you focus before your future performances? Were there technical difficulties? If so, what happened, and what can you do to avoid the same problems in the future? What was the problem, and what are some possible solutions?

I hope you can see this as a temporary blip in the long trajectory of your development as a performer rather than as an overarching issue. It’s natural for there to be growing pains as you slowly work to become the performer you dream of being, and that process never ends. Work to avoid this same thing happening again in the future while understanding that it’s not the end of the world even if it does. The important thing is to learn from it and then shake it off and keep going.

freya-west-greenheadshot1Freya West: Let me add to Betty‘s beautiful and heartfelt comment that this happens to EVERYONE. It is totally normal to have an “off” performance or night. Personally, I’ve been there more times than I would care to. The important thing is you care enough to know that you did not put your best self out there and you want to do better. Performers who do not progress don’t care, so know that although this is a painful experience, it’s growing pains.

The thing that helps me the most to get out of a slump is to move. That might mean rehearsing that act or maybe leaving it alone if it’s too frustrating, but to get in a space where you can dance and let yourself explore. If you have mirrors, better, if not, let yourself be with whatever music is moving you for a bit, and then try and video some of your free dance just so you have a record of it and hey, you might come up with some great new moves too!

13521949_1213244808687367_7141451273925331416_nRed VelvetNumber one – let yourself have the feelings. I performed Friday night at Windy City and I did fine but afterwards I was just so overwhelmed and I sat down and cried. Totally okay and just good to get it out. Then, analyze if you really did anything wrong. Maybe you just thought you did and are being hard on yourself. If you have video – watch it. Priceless. It helps 1) pinpoint what to improve if you need to and 2) realize that sometimes what you think is a colossal fuck up is really not that noticeable to the audience or anyone else but YOU. Also think about whether this something that could happen again, like if a zipper got stuck. "How do I resolve that? Can I do something up front to change zipper or add tassel or practice to prevent it? If I can’t prevent it how do I create more grace to move through it and just deal with it better."

It is hard to stop beating yourself up – I do it to myself a lot. But at some point, pick yourself up and move on. Make you better – brain first. That is the biggest thing that usually needs a boost. Whatever you need to get that engine moving, just do it.

RHA-headshot150Red Hot AnnieTo be a good artist, one must be sensitive, so know that every performer occasionally leaves the stage feeling disappointed by their performance – it’s normal. I’ve felt like that after really big gigs, too, which is the worst! Not every performance is going to be perfect, so it’s important to be as gentle as you can with yourself. Apologize when necessary, but know that we’ve all been there.


The founder of Tease! Bang! Boom!, Bombshell Betty began performing in 1996, toured internationally with her first burlesque troupe in 2001-2002, and founded her burlesque school in 2004 in San Francisco. She has released a burlesque training DVD and 2+ hours of free burlesque training videos, published the pinup modeling book "Plain Jane to Pinup Queen" in 2008, and has toured the US performing and teaching classes and workshops.

Facebook Twitter Google+ 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *