What is burlesque?

Burlesque History

 

Burlesque as a sensation was brought to America from Britain in the late 1860s by Lydia Thompson and her British Blondes, a troupe that spoofed traditional theatrical productions and featured ladies performing men's roles in costumes considered revealing for the time period. Since that time it has assimilated vaudeville, minstrel shows, striptease, comedy and cabaret to evolve into the follies of the twenties and thirties to the girlie shows of the 40s and 50s, which eventually gave way to the modern strip club. The adult-oriented 20th Century Burlesque-Striptease, in its various forms, is a unique traditional American Folk Art with the classical burlesque form remaining chiefly a British and European theatrical tradition.

 

Neo-Burlesque (or, What We Do These Days)

 

A new generation nostalgic for the spectacle and glamour of the old times determined to bring burlesque back. This revival was pioneered independently in the mid 1990s by Billie Madley's "Cinema" and Ami Goodheart's "Dutch Weismanns' Follies" revue in New York and Michelle Carr's "The Velvet Hammer Burlesque" troupe in Los Angeles. In addition, and throughout the country, many individual performers were incorporating aspects of burlesque in their acts. These productions, inspired by the likes of Sally Rand, Tempest Storm, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dixie Evans and Lili St. Cyr have themselves gone on to inspire a new generation of performers.

Neo-Burlesque (or "New Burlesque") is the revival and updating of the traditional burlesque performance. Though based on the traditional burlesque art, the new form encompasses a wider range of performance styles; neo-burlesque acts can be anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem. As with the earlier burlesque, neo-burlesque is more focused on the "tease" in "striptease" than the "strip". Audiences for neo-burlesque shows tend to be mixed; men, women, straight, gay, and everything in between.

Today's New Burlesque has taken many forms, but all have the common trait of honoring one or more of burlesque's previous incarnations, with acts including striptease, expensive costumes, bawdy humor, cabaret and more. There are modern burlesque performers and shows all over the world, and annual conventions such as Tease-O-Rama, New York Burlesque Festival, The Great Boston Burlesque Exposition, and the Miss Exotic World Pageant.