Burlesque 101 – a brief history
What is Burlesque?
Traditionally, Burlesque is defined as “an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody” but the modern interpretation of this art form has grown and evolved past that, into something much more complex.
Victorian burlesque, was popular in London theatres between the 1830s and the 1890s. Using muscial theatre a well-known opera, play or ballet was adapted into a broad comic play, often risqué in style which mocked the original piece through parody.
This English style of burlesque was successfully introduced to New York in the 1840s where it swiftly gained popularity amongst theatre-goers.
American burlesque shows soon evolved to include more Cabaret + Vaudeville elements and it is here that the foundations of modern burlesque were laid.
Over time, more focus was placed on the risqué aspects of the performance style, with the tease and reveal coming more central to the genre.
At first, performers showed off their figures while singing and dancing; some were less active but compensated by appearing in elaborate stage costumes. As the popularity of the art form grew, so did the number of performers and by 1932 there were at least 150 strip principals in the USA, including greats such as Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr, and Blaze Starr, to name a few.
With the onset of prohibition, and the introduction of movies where nudity was becoming more and more heavily featured, the charm and vibrance of the american burlesque scene was in a steady decline from 1940 through to the late 80s where it had all but perished.
The late 90’s saw the start of a burlesque revival however – nostalgia for the spectacle and perceived glamour of the classic American burlesque, developed a cult following which singlehandedly revived the burlesque to what it is today – a thriving and beautiful art form
Present day burlesque spans across all genres of music and styles, ranging from Classic to Neo and everything in between
Classic styled burlesque tends to focus more on the tease and the reveal, and often boasts sumptuous and deadent costuming, whereas the Neo style tends to be more comedy and parody based, and set to more upbeat, modern music, often with quirky and extravagant costuming.
Although performers may still strip down to pasties and g-string or merkin, the purpose is no longer solely sexual gratification for men but self-expression of the performer and, vicariously, the women in the audience; the DIY aspect is prominent, and furthermore the striptease may be used to challenge sexual objectification, orientation, and other social taboos.
At Venus Starr’s School of Burlesque we offer Burlesque classes ranging all the way through from Beginner basics right up to Advanced performance skills.
Come and learn the decadent art of the tease and release your inner diva for a fun, confidence building and fascinating look into the world of burlesque!
The next round of Beginner classes starts up on the 26th October, please see our website for more information or contact us to book!
Until next time….