What is Burlesque to YOU?

I am a Burlesque groupie turned performer, and as such I have seen a lot of shows. In fact this month marks the 2 year anniversary when I first saw Burlesque show (a short amount of time compared to most really).

In the last couple of weeks I have been to and performed in many shows, including those at The Australian Burlesque Festival, Gallery Burlesque, The Burlesque Effect Fundraiser, Gallery Burlesque and Gotham Fatale Present Comic Strip, Starwars Burlesque at the Vanguard and Miss Burlesque Finals.

At one of these shows I overheard someone say that a routine wasn’t Burlesque as there was no stripping/nudity.

I also went to a strip club with some performers in Melbourne and it was interesting for me to see what is different about it, compared to what I have seen at Burlesque shows. (Funny story when I was watching the first stripper I had a rather automatic thought where are her nipple pasties?!? Rather amusing really and a sign I have seen a LOT of Burlesque…)

I am not going to discuss what Burlesque is to me for now, as I would love to see some discussion on it.
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as:
1. an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work ; a parody (this is probably the more historical meaning)

2. a variety show, typically including striptease.

I want to know what is Burlesque to you?

Is it Burlesque if there is no striptease?

Is it Burlesque if a routine is largely a striptease?

Is it Burlesque if someones bra/top doesn’t come off (in the case of female performers)?

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4 responses to “What is Burlesque to YOU?

  1. Well over the 18 years I’ve been doing and booking shows for The Sydney Hellfire Club, what we call burlesque in Sydney has certainly changed.

    These days the word seems to mean a particular sort of costume, and a ‘coy’ show. Most burlesque performers that approach me, will do partial nudity in their show, but don’t always offer a ‘talent’ beyond stagecraft and dance. What’s the difference between that and strip – well sometimes a lot! It can be boring without great stage-presence which strippers often have in spades, and newbie burlesque stars can lack!

    Parody, which was the most appealing part of burlesque performance for us (besides the costumes, corsets, heels, feathers, fans, sparkles and diamantes) seems to have mostly fallen by the wayside!

    Some of our most memorable shows have included parody – Imogen Kelly and her toilet bowl cleaning, Minx Contortionista and her routine that would have looked at home in a strip club except for a well-placed red jelly rat… these are the routines I search for in the new Sydney burlesque sphere.

    I’m glad the burlesque art form changes and updates – without which we wouldn’t have seen a load of great acts, including the Boylesque movement and the amazing Mark Winmill. Furthermore, I think there is a place for both burlesque girls and strippers! I book both and will continue to at The Sydney Hellfire Club.

    I don’t think you have to go full nude to be entertaining, but you do need to do something up there, other than prance about in a pretty costume… to me, that might be what now passes for burlesque, but it won’t be what I book.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and well written comment Jackie. Imogen Kelly and Mark Winmill are 2 of my favourite performers!

      The strip club I went to was a fairly boring one girl after the other, wearing the same thing (then taking it off pretty much the same way)- really just going through the paces. What I was impressed with, was how they could make you feel special and fascinating when they talked to us.

      • Strippers often have stage presence and the ability to milk an audience in spades. In my experience, not all burlesque stars have mastered this technique. Imogen Kelly leaps out in my mind for her ability to convey a detailed story to her audience with one carefully raised eyebrow.

        To my eye, burlesque can also look very same/same. Lots of repeated costumes, influences, music… it’s important to come up with new routines, ideas and interpretations or else for the burlesque audience, it can be just like your experience at the strip club.

        I would also be cautious of two firm a line between the worlds of burlesque and strip. Of course I’d never point fingers, but many a good burlesque star is also quite handy on a pole. I used to recruit for Hellfire in strip clubs, and you’d be amazed at who I met…

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