How much do you know about burlesque? Thanks to the 2010 film “Burlesque,” starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, you may be more familiar with this sexy art form than you think. But if you find yourself thinking that it’s merely a more old school form of stripping, read on!
The term “burlesque” was used in its earliest form to refer to literature and later music. However, during the 1800s in the United Kingdom, the term became closely associated with theatre, where well-known plays would be parodied and caricaturized. At around the beginning of the 1900s burlesque made its leap across the Atlantic and became a routine part of vaudeville-type theatre, being performed in cabarets and clubs and focusing more on the striptease aspect. Here it thrived and developed for some time before suffering a loss of interest and respect during the 1940s. Around 1990 burlesque made a comeback, and now it’s bigger and better than ever.
Burlesque can be divided into two major categories: classical or traditional burlesque and neo-burlesque. Classical burlesque is most often associated with minimal clothing or stripping, witty banter or dialogue and short sketches. Neo-burlesque is based on the traditional form but allows for the incorporation of more experimentation. Modern burlesque also emphasizes the “tease” element of “striptease”.
This is perhaps why ladies are so drawn to burlesque. Rather than focusing on the gratification of men, burlesque focuses on celebrating all that makes women so spectacular. Women practicing burlesque are allowed to express themselves — whether it be through dance and song or comedy and elaborate costumes — and encourage other women to do the same, regardless of age, size, weight, skin color, race, sexual orientation, or any other category otherwise used to separate ladies. Burlesque promotes the acceptance of oneself and encourages the body and all of an individual’s talents to be appreciated.
For inspiration, look to ladies like Gypsy Lee Rose, Sally Rand, Tempest Storm, Bettie Page, and Dita von Teese. Burlesque also adds an element of seductive glamour to one’s life, while promoting confidence and self-esteem. Howcast.com has an excellent page filled with short tutorials on burlesque and striptease staple moves. If you’d like even more tips, check out this brief slideshow on ten simple ways to try out burlesque. And for those who would rather watch burlesque than perform it, check out blackheartburlesque.com for information on a first-class group of traveling performers, or do a simple Google search of cabaret shows near your city.
Most importantly, burlesque is about fun. The best performers are those who smile and strut with confidence, conveying to the audience that the performer is enjoying herself just as much—if not more—than those she’s performing for. The ideal burlesque performer takes pride in her appearance and shows off her talents, all the while winking or flirting with the audience. Burlesque is, perhaps, one of those rare moments in life when it is perfectly acceptable to be completely selfish. You’ve got no one to please but yourself.