What is Burlesque?
recent release of the Golden Globe-nominated Movie Burlesque, starring Cher and
Christina Aguilera, has once more raised the profile of the art of Burlesque. As a result, women across the globe are
frantically shopping for stockings, suspender or garter belts, corsets and
anything else with a raunchy feel. Welcome to 2011, the year of Burlesque.
So what is Burlesque? Is it liberating and a celebration of femininity or just plain sleazy and in poor taste? Can all woman embrace it or is Burlesque just for a gorgeous minority with fabulous figures and zero shame? In other words, only those uninhibited and brave enough to bare just about everything under a spotlight on a public stage?
A Brief History of Burlesque
The term Burlesque originated in Europe and referred to a comic theatre entertainment that often parodied more serious performances such as opera but with a risqué edge. In Musical or Classical Burlesque, as the European variety is known, there was also an element of what we recognise today as the sketch show. In Britain, Burlesque entertainment later evolved into the less intellectual and more popularist Music Hall.
In the US in the 1900s, the term Burlesque came to be associated with a variety show that featured striptease; an entertainment that, in turn, originated in the Moulin Rouge in Paris in the 1890s. However, American Burlesque, unlike its European counterpart, was generally considered too sleazy to be associated with real theatre.
Today Burlesque has enjoyed a revival and burlesque shows are performed in almost every big city on the planet.
Burlesque typically includes song, dance and comedy and is seen by many as an art form that is liberating for women and a celebration of femininity.
This is in sharp contrast to striptease that is often perceived as degrading and exploitative.
Modern burlesque is often performed by ordinary women who just want to have fun. Costumes come in all shapes and sizes and can be as modest or revealing as the performers feel comfortable with.
From corsets, stockings and suspenders to nipple cups with tassels and g-strings, anything goes.
Some performers may favour a more gothic look whilst others a Wild West saloon feel. Accessories can include anything from elaborate feather fans or head dresses to full length gloves.
To be a great performer, you need lots of self belief rather than fashion model good looks. Burlesque is all about the inner you and not just your vital statistics!
No Need to Strip!
Remember Burlesque is not striptease but is about being saucy, sexy and funny and removing some clothing can be part of the fun.
However most performers, however extrovert, would retain at least a g-string and some top covering by the end of their act.
Burlesque is whatever you want it to be. If you think removing clothing is tacky then you don’t need to do it. Make your performance something that you are comfortable with and proud to own!
This revival of interest in Burlesque comes at a time when we are suddenly embracing celebrities who are shapely and sexy (Think Christina Hendricks or Nigella Lawson).
Meanwhile, the fashion industry sails against the tide and continues to employ catwalk models who are even thinner whilst the general population are increasing in size (and weight).
The message from the fashion industry appears to be that to be a plus size and shapely rather than slim is second best and there is virtue in being emaciated.
Burlesque is about how you feel rather than dimensions or weight
Today, many normal, healthy, attractive women therefore have a poor self image and are unhappy with the body they find themselves inhabiting.
The good news from contemporary Burlesque is it embraces all women regardless of size, shape or natural good looks.
The message is that beauty and sexiness are more about how you feel about yourself rather than your actual dimensions or weight.
Putting on clothes such as corsets, that are sexy and at the same time improve your shape, is very liberating. Daring to dance and sing in them even more so!
The Spirit of Burlesque
So how can embrace the spirit of burlesque? There are FOUR progressive stages involved:
- Perform for yourself alone
- Try it out on your partner
- Participate with other women
- Perform before an audience including strangers
ONE: Solo Performance
Why not begin by digging out your sexiest lingerie? If you don’t have stockings and a corset or alternatively a garter or suspender belt then you need to buy some.
Add some props such as a pretty scarf, a wrap or shawl and some high heels. Alternatively, try some boots; preferably over the knee and some long gloves.
Watch some burlesque performances. You can try a search on YouTube or watch the movie Burlesque. Alternatively watch movies such as Moulin Rouge, Chicago or a Chorus Line.
Experiment with sexy clothing and dancing and, if you have the voice, singing in front of the mirror. Let yourself go and reassure yourself how sexy you look. Once you feel confident move on to stage 2.
TWO: It Takes Two!
Now for the daring bit. While your partner is out, get into your costume. When your loved one appears through your door (having make sure they are alone) begin to serenade them. Why alone? Well performing a raunchy dance in front of your future In Laws by mistake is not a good idea.
I have a friend who swears that her erotic boob swinging tassle dance ended her engagement to a banker as well as terminating her job at the bank. However, all’s well that ends well; she now has a successful second career on the stage.
If you aren’t comfortable singing solo then select a suitable track to sing along to. Perform the routine you’ve put together for your loved one, add some Chorus Line kicks and hopefully your performance will have created a Moulin Rouge moment and your partner will now be putty in your hands.
THREE: Join a Group
Find out if there’s an amateur Burlesque Troop in your area. If not then why not start one?
Get together with a few extrovert friends, help one another dress to the part and then start performing.
But, be warned, when you begin, try to find a venue where you won’t be disturbed.
I can assure you, there is nothing worse than a gang of semi-naked girls in fishnets, fortified with a bottle or two of wine (Dutch courage) being interrupted in the middle of a bawdy Can Can by husbands or boyfriends bringing mates back for a coffee.
Yes I do know of someone who met her husband in this way but, trust me, it doesn’t often have such a happy ending.
FOUR: Public Performance
Once your Burlesque Company have shed their inhibitions then why not consider a public performance?
You could hire a local hall and perform for charity. Alternatively find a local club or bar that will give you the opportunity to play out your burlesque fantasy!
Celebrate what makes you uniquely female, in front of a cheering and adoring crowd. If your friends aren’t that adventurous then you can always find a local venue that have amateur nights.
When you perform solo you can Invite your friends to turn up and support you.
Hopefully your performance will persuade some of your girl friends to try a public performance themselves once you’ve wowed them with your own provocative act.
Burlesque is back! Its time to put the fashion industry in its place. No more size zero role models who are all skin and bone. Now is the time for real women, whatever our size, to rise up.
2011 is the time for all curvy, shapely women to stand up and be counted. Lets put on those stockings and suspenders. Get out the garter belts and fancy corsets. Put on some makeup, turn up the lights and let the show begin!
Why? Because we girls just want to have fun!
Burlesque Movie Trailer
What do You Think?
Wild West Saloon
Sean Gugerty from Flagstaff, AZ on August 23, 2016:
Very well written!