Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Burlesque may have been all but forgotten by the 20th century but it is back and better than ever. Of course the days that burlesque was in its heyday can never be relived, however, burlesque now is experiencing its own heyday. It’s better than ever with it’s own glamour burlesque stars of the day: Velvet Hammer, Dita Von Teese, Vienna La Rouge, Dirty Martini and more.
Magazines, movies, designers, stores, musicians, conventions and burlesque performers have all spawned from the new burlesque movement of the 20th and 21st century. Also, women of all sizes are drawn to the new burlesque movement including men. Burlesque is not limited to shape, size, color, race or gender which is why burlesque is so appealing to people. Women do not have to follow the norms of society when it comes to burlesque. Burlesque is where women can be different compared to the models and actresses of today.
Audiences also like the variety of burlesque performers as there is someone to cater to everyone’s taste. Plus it’s a great place to mingle and meet new friends along with enjoying the show of burlesque performers, comedy acts, musicians and more.
Not everyone knows the meaning of burlesque. Some associate it with strippers stripping. Luckily, burlesque has been brought back into the spotlight and more and more people understand the true meaning of burlesque. Yes burlesque involves taking off clothes, however, burlesque performers only strip down to their underwear and pasties. Some burlesque performers do not take off their clothes at all. Burlesque also involves a dance act with performers wearing extravagant costumes. Each burlesque act is catered to the performers style and taste. No matter how many times different performers may do a certain act, each performer puts their own spin on it making it their own.
Burlesque has reached an overwhelming popularity thanks to all the hardworking burlesque performers who took a chance to bring back a glamorous era. Burlesque will continue to grow and new performers will come into the scene bringing their own style. Burlesque is forever changing as everyone has their own interpretation of what burlesque means to them.
Through the 1840’s to the 1960’s, burlesque kept audiences laughing and entertained. Burlesque changed many times throughout the decades due to societies demands. From 1840 to 1860, burlesque was used to make fun of the operas, plays and social gatherings of the upper class while entertaining the lower and middle classes of Great Britain and the United States.
Later in the late 1860’s, all that changed when shapely, underdressed women where added to the stage to keep audiences entertained. One woman who conquered the American stage was Lydia Thompson’s British burlesque troupe who came to New York City in the late 1860’s. They shocked the more than eager crowds of New York with their revealing costumes, witty satire and portrayals of classical male roles. They were said to have grossed more than $370,000 in their first year.
There was a huge demand for burlesque and soon Americans began creating their own burlesque. As burlesque became more mass-produced, it was more about money rather than the art of burlesque. Burlesque could be found anywhere and became less popular, therefore, the shows moved from the middle- and upper-class theaters into the working class theaters.
The shows now focused more on the physical form of the girls rather than the substance of the performance. To keep audiences entertained, more skin was shown which introduced the striptease. Even though burlesque started out with comedy and satire, most people today associate burlesque with stripping only.
The Minsky brothers took the striptease out of the back rooms and put it on stage, making them a huge hit. Stripping may have gathered hoards of bawdy men but it also gave burlesque a sleazy reputation. Soon the novelty of nudity wore off and promoters had to look for new ways to entertain their audiences. Burlesque in the 1930’s became more competitive as burlesque performers needed props, acts and more elaborate costumes in order to keep the audiences attention and demand more money for shows.
By 1937, burlesque was all but dead in New York City as Major La Guardia closed down the burlesque houses. By this time, most burlesque shows were more about bump and grind stripping rather than the art of burlesque along with comic bits. Men were more interested in watching girls strip. The more they took off, the more they liked it and kept them coming back.
There were a few burlesque performers in the 1940’s who took their acts on the road, bringing burlesque to cities who had never seen these performances before. This helped to keep burlesque alive as their shows were usually sold out. These next generation burlesque performers became even more inventive with their props, acts and costumes.
By the 1960’s, burlesque was changing again as most men preferred to see women naked rather than performing a show. Men preferred gentlemen club’s where they could see 10 to 20 women parade around naked on a stage. Also, with the boom of hard core pornography readily available men no longer needed strippers to get their kicks.
Burlesque has a magical hold on people’s imagination. Though the glamorous by-gone era of burlesque may be gone, it is not lost. There are tons of books, movies, websites and more that capture this by-gone era of burlesque and bring it to life for those who wish to relive it.