Bring Burlesque Back
Posted on March 11 2013I watched Burlesque the movie last night with Christina Aguilera and Cher and that inspired a short blog post on burlesque itself, what is it all about, do we really want it back and how to become a part of it today!
What Is Burlesque
Burlesque is an interesting form of entertainment, a quick check of Wikipedia and a few other sources reminds me that it is a dramatic or musical form of work intending to cause laughter either through caricature or ludicrous treatment of their subjects. And the word burlesque itself comes from the Italian word burlesco – which ultimately means a joke, ridicule or mockery. All of that is articulate but not necessarily very helpful or clear and I much prefer this definition straight from thefreedictionary.com
Burlesque is a literary or dramatic work that ridicules a subject either by presenting a solemn subject in an undignified style or an inconsequential subject in dignified style.
Now better known as variety shows or acts with sexual innuendo, bawdy comedy, striptease and much worse it truly has followed a luckless path.
During the early nineteenth century, started in the UK, this type of theater entertained the lower and middle classes by ridiculing the ways of the upper class. Often the upper class operas or plays of the day were the target of burlesque where comedy and music were used to challenge the established thinking or way of looking at things. And by the mid nineteenth century many of these spoofs found their way from the UK onto Broadway where they were initially critically acclaimed – Ixion by Lydia Thompson leading the way.
But the rise of the scantily clad and shapely female was unavoidable. The social morals of the day were being challenged and the need for larger audiences demanded that this was the case. It was the Victorian age after all; an age where most ladies went to almost any length to hide their physical form and any movement that challenged this bleak outlook on the sexual landscape was going to be a hit, and certainly was – despite the battle with Victorian do-gooders!
Ultimately this journey led to the demise of burlesque because the want to become racier was ever present and in line with man’s need for sexual gratification. The strip tease was introduced first, where strippers often came up against the brunt of the law with only a G-string and nipple caps separating them from a few nights in jail, and more sleazy practices followed.
It was in 1937 when the then NY Mayor banned the last burlesque hall dismissing them as purveyors of filth, which in all probability they were, the true burlesque in them replaced by more sordid sexual undertones. But ultimately it was hard core pornography, widely available from the 1960’s onward that spelt the death knell. No longer were the burlesque halls needed for men’s fantasies because pornography did that job!
The RevivalIt’s worth remembering the golden age of burlesque and what it grew from, its passage certainly sad and characteristic of man’s sometimes destructive taste for satisfaction. Borne from roots of comedy, laughter and tongue in cheek ridicule, and because it is a challenge to the social and cultural status quo it most certainly has a place in the future.
Some maybe not so obvious instances of Burlesque in more modern times
And in the more obvious genre, Cabaret and All that Jazz, slightly older movies trying to capture a revival and of course the much more recent Burlesque starring Christina Aguilera and Cher leading the resurgence in modern years.
Where To Find Burlesque Today
Carrying its older more bawdry history, here are the top few burlesque shows of today. Topping number one is The Crazy Horse in Paris which has been doing it since 1951 9see image below). And as one might expect Nevada has number 2 and number 3 in X Burlesque and The MGM Grand’s Crazy Horse.
Additionally a great resource for everything burlesque is the New York school of Burlesque, check out their blog here.
The Modern Day Look And Where To Get It
Fashion designers have long been inspired by the classic burlesque corset which is laced tightly around the chest and midriff to give the appearance of a smaller waistline and an overall petite look. And today, a large number of designers have reinvented the burlesque look by using it as an inspiration for comfortable fitting intimate wear. Unlike the original burlesque corsets which were often exceedingly tight and uncomfortable, the new age corsets are soft and comfortable. Yes gone are the leather laces drawn tightly, instead todays corsets have satin or silk laces that ensure a softer gentler look and more comfort.
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