The Art of Burlesque: When Less is So Much More
If you haven’t experienced the wonder that is burlesque by now, it’s okay, you’re forgiven. You probably don’t think you’re missing out – you possibly have no idea what the term even means. When so many other shiny things are vying for your attention, it often seems as if there’s no good reason to investigate the different, especially not when it’s at a theater, a ballroom, or a club you may not be familiar with.
You may have also heard this “burlesque” thing has something to do with women exposing flesh as well, and you already know what that’s like, for better or for worse. Dimly lit clubs, pricey drinks, dollars placed in g-strings…possible frustration that no matter how much money you spend, legally things aren’t going where you want them to…Some people are into it. But maybe that concept’s a little played out for you at this point. Maybe you appreciate the female form (even the male one!), love a good show, like a fun atmosphere, appreciate amazing costumes, AND want to see some skin when all is said and done. You’d rather pay your money at the door, and it’d be nice if your partner, friends, hell, even your parents (provided they’re free spirits) could see said show with you and you could all talk about it openly afterwards while maintaining eye contact. Sound more like your idea of a good time? Then burlesque is for you my friend!
Now that you have a better idea of what burlesque is, let me clarify further. Often referred to as “the art of the tease”, modern burlesque is a reinvention of a style of entertainment featured in Europe and America from the late 1800s to the 1940s. While historically shows were a varied mixture of comedy, acrobatics, boxing, theater, and later the infamous striptease, “neo-burlesque” focuses more on the comedy/striptease end of things. An MC entertains with bawdy humor between skits in which lovely performers of all body types, ranging from the curvy to the cut, showcase provocative costumes in tantalizing, often amusing situations that end in a generous helping of backside and pasty twirling. Dancing is sometimes included in skits (but not as a rule), with styles ranging from belly dancing to pop-locking if it suits the concept being conveyed. Some acts are performed solo, some with multiple performers, but all balance the provocative with a dose of class. Shows tend to have themes such as Around the World, Geek Chic (a personal fav), Horror, Classic Cabaret – you name it and some troupe somewhere is thinking of a way to turn it into a show.
Depending on the size of the venue, performers may interact with the audience as well. I’ve been feather dusted by French maids (yes, it was very pleasant), gone on stage to answer trivia for prizes, and tossed an inflated ball around with the audience concert-style at different shows. There is a definite emphasis on fun alongside the erotic aspect of burlesque, and it makes a world of difference in the vibe the audience gives off, as well as how the performers themselves seem to feel about being there.
If you compare burlesque to a strip show, (which in this day and age is the inevitable comparison) the biggest difference is that the women aren’t working for tips. There isn’t a “push” for more, to show more skin, to make it more obscene, because that isn’t the point of the act, nor will it make the performers more money. The point is to leave you genuinely entertained by the MC and utterly entranced by the performers and what they have to offer without a need for it to be explicit. After all, the explicit is a click away these days, and quite frankly, has become the mundane for many. Experiencing a wink and a mischievous smile that makes your breath catch, watching that same girl seductively pull a stocking off with her teeth when you didn’t even know that was possible, debating whether to tell your brain to keep laughing at the wit of the skit or keep eyeing her fingers undoing that bustier while the audience cheers merrily – that’s an experience neither the internet nor any DVD can offer you.
If you didn’t think you were missing out my friend, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you really are.
By: Alex TwoSpirit
That’s right – the art of the tease isn’t limited to the “fairer” sex! Several troupes have males that perform as well. They’re every bit as impressive (and flexible) as their female counterparts. If this is/isn’t your thing, men are featured on performer lists alongside the female names and it’s made quite clear that they will be performing at the show, so there are no surprises. If you have a friend who is less interested in the ladies but likes the idea of burlesque, boylesque is your happy medium!
Shows that include males: Critical Hit, Rosehip Revue, Burlescape, Burlesque S’Il Vous Plait
Need a Regular Fix?
- Savoir Faire, various performers – Hawthorne Theatre in Portland every Thursday http://sinnsavvyproductions.com/savoir-faire/
- Rosehip Revue – Star Theater in Portland Monthly http://www.facebook.com/RosehipRevue
- Burlescape, various performers – Crush Bar in Portland every 3rd Saturday
- The Broadway Revue – John Henry’s in Eugene every Sunday http://www.facebook.com/BroadwayRevue
- The Red Raven Follies – various locales, including The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis, and Eugene http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Red-Raven-Follies/189176917281
- Critical Hit Burlesque – various locales, Lovecraft Bar / Star Theatre in Portland http://www.facebook.com/critical.hit.burlesque
- Rose City Shimmy – various locales, Portland http://www.rosecityshimmy.com
- Frim Fram Foxies – Funhouse Lounge in Portland http://www.facebook.com/frimframfoxies
- The Fringe Benefits – Star Theater in Portland http://fringebenefitsburlesque.com/Home.html
- Burlesque S’Il Vous Plait – Crush Bar in Portland every 1st Friday (site currently down) http://www.burlesqueplease.com