Marilyn look-alike model contest during "Marilyn Is Dead" event at Pepelo NYC Lounge. Kayvon Zand, Delysia La Chatte and Anna Evans were behind this evening of "dark Hollywood glamour," with show featuring (dead) star turns from Trixie Little, Madame Rosebud, Velocity Chyaaldd, Markko Donto, Mss Vee, Bettina May, and Evans and La Chatte themselves. For all you sex kittens out there, the night also included a Marilyn look-alike contest. Johanna Constantine served as the night’s alluring DJ.
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In contemporary usage, burlesque is a playfully nostalgic form of striptease — think fans and feather boas rather than explicit nudity — but this is just the latest form of an ironic style of entertainment dating back to medieval times.
Burlesque comes from burla, Spanish for "joke." Comedy has always been an essential part of burlesque art, but it’s comedy of a particular kind. Burlesque is satirical, and it uses exaggeration that can be extreme. Early examples of burlesque in English literature can be found in the Canterbury Tales. By the eighteenth century, the word was used to describe often risque parodies of serious operas or plays. Burlesque became associated with striptease in the music halls and vaudeville theaters of nineteenth-century America.
Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery.
Burlesque overlaps in meaning with caricature, parody and travesty, and, in its theatrical sense, with extravaganza, as presented during the Victorian era. "Burlesque" has been used in English in this literary and theatrical sense since the late 17th century. It has been applied retrospectively to works of Chaucer and Shakespeare and to the Graeco-Roman classics. Contrasting examples of literary burlesque are Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock and Samuel Butler’s Hudibras. An example of musical burlesque is Richard Strauss’s 1890 Burleske for piano and orchestra. Examples of theatrical burlesques include W. S. Gilbert’s Robert the Devil and the A. C. Torr – Meyer Lutz shows, including Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué.
A later use of the term, particularly in the United States, refers to performances in a variety show format. These were popular from the 1860’s to the 1940’s, often in cabarets and clubs, as well as theaters, and featured bawdy comedy and female striptease. Some Hollywood films attempted to recreate the spirit of these performances from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, or included burlesque-style scenes within dramatic films, such as 1972’s "Cabaret" and 1979’s "All That Jazz", among others. There has been a resurgence of interest in this format since the 1990’s.
Literary origins and development
The word first appears in a title in Francesco Berni’s Opere burlesche of the early 16th century, works that had circulated widely in manuscript before they were printed. For a time, burlesque verses were known as poesie bernesca in his honour. ‘Burlesque’ as a literary term became widespread in 17th century Italy and France, and subsequently England, where it referred to a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic. Shakespeare’s Pyramus and Thisbe scene in Midsummer Night’s Dream and the general mocking of romance in Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle were early examples of such imitation.
In 17th century Spain, playwright and poet Miguel de Cervantes ridiculed medieval romance in his many satirical works. Among Cervantes’ works are Exemplary Novels and the Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes published in 1615. The term burlesque has been applied retrospectively to works of Chaucer and Shakespeare and to the Graeco-Roman classics.
Burlesque was intentionally ridiculous in that it imitated several styles and combined imitations of certain authors and artists with absurd descriptions. In this, the term was often used interchangeably with "pastiche", "parody", and the 17th and 18th century genre of the "mock-heroic". Burlesque depended on the reader’s (or listener’s) knowledge of the subject to make its intended effect, and a high degree of literacy was taken for granted.
17th and 18th century burlesque was divided into two types: High burlesque refers to a burlesque imitation where a literary, elevated manner was applied to a commonplace or comically inappropriate subject matter as, for example, in the literary parody and the mock-heroic. One of the most commonly cited examples of high burlesque is Alexander Pope’s "sly, knowing and courtly" The Rape of the Lock. Low burlesque applied an irreverent, mocking style to a serious subject; an example is Samuel Butler’s poem Hudibras, which described the misadventures of a Puritan knight in satiric doggerel verse, using a colloquial idiom. Butler’s addition to his comic poem of an ethical subtext made his caricatures into satire.
In more recent times, burlesque true to its literary origins is still performed in revues and sketches. Tom Stoppard’s 1974 play Travesties is an example of a full-length play drawing on the burlesque tradition.
Burlesque in music
Beginning in the early 18th century, the term burlesque was used throughout Europe to describe musical works in which serious and comic elements were juxtaposed or combined to achieve a grotesque effect. As derived from literature and theatre, "burlesque" was used, and is still used, in music to indicate a bright or high-spirited mood, sometimes in contrast to seriousness.
In this sense of farce and exaggeration rather than parody, it appears frequently on the German-language stage between the middle of the 19th century and the 1920’s. Burlesque operettas were written by
– Johann Strauss II (Die lustigen Weiber von Wien, 1868),
– Ziehrer (Mahomed’s Paradies,1866; Das Orakel zu Delfi, 1872; Cleopatra, oder Durch drei Jahrtausende, 1875; In fünfzig Jahren, 1911) and
– Bruno Granichstaedten (Casimirs Himmelfahrt, 1911).
French references to burlesque are less common than German, though
– Grétry composed for a "drame burlesque" (Matroco, 1777).
– Stravinsky called his 1916 one-act chamber opera-ballet Renard (The Fox) a "Histoire burlesque chantée et jouée" (burlesque tale sung and played).
– A later example is the 1927 burlesque operetta by Ernst Krenek entitled Schwergewicht (Heavyweight) (1927).
Some orchestral and chamber works have also been designated as burlesques, of which two early examples are the Ouverture-Suite Burlesque de Quixotte, TWV 55, by Telemann and the Sinfonia Burlesca by Leopold Mozart (1760). Another often-performed piece is Richard Strauss’s 1890 Burleske for piano and orchestra.
Other examples include the following:
– 1901: Six Burlesques, Op. 58 for piano four hands by Max Reger
– 1904: Scherzo Burlesque, Op. 2 for piano and orchestra by Béla Bartók
– 1911: Three Burlesques, Op. 8c for piano by Bartók
– 1920: Burlesque for Piano, by Arnold Bax
– 1931: Ronde burlesque, Op. 78 for orchestra by Florent Schmitt
– 1932: Fantaisie burlesque, for piano by Olivier Messiaen
– 1956: Burlesque for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 13g by Bertold Hummel
– 1982: Burlesque for Wind Quintet, Op. 76b by Hummel
Burlesque can be used to describe particular movements of instrumental musical compositions, often involving dance rhythms. Examples are the Burlesca, in Partita No. 3 for keyboard (BWV 827) by Bach, the "Rondo-Burleske" third movement of Symphony No. 9 by Mahler, and the "Burlesque" fourth movement of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1.
The use of burlesque has not been confined to classical music. Well known ragtime travesties include The Russian Rag, by George L. Cobb, which is based on Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor, and Harry Alford’s Lucy’s Sextette based on the sextet, ‘Chi mi frena in tal momento?’, from Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.
VICTORIAN THEATRICAL BURLESQUE
Victorian burlesque, sometimes known as travesty or extravaganza, is a genre of theatrical entertainment that was popular in Victorian England and in the New York theater of the mid 19th century. It is a form of parody in which a well-known opera or piece of classical theater or ballet is adapted into a broad comic play, usually a musical play, usually risque in style, mocking the theatrical and musical conventions and styles of the original work, and often quoting or pastiching text or music from the original work. Victorian burlesque is one of several forms of burlesque.
Like ballad opera, burlesques featured musical scores drawing on a wide range of music, from popular contemporary songs to operatic arias, although later burlesques, from the 1880’s, sometimes featured original scores. Dance played an important part, and great attention was paid to the staging, costumes and other spectacular elements of stagecraft, as many of the pieces were staged as extravaganzas. Many of the male roles were played by actresses as breeches roles, purposely to show off their physical charms, and some of the older female roles were taken by male actors.
Originally short, one-act pieces, burlesques were later full-length shows, occupying most or all of an evening’s program. Authors who wrote burlesques included J. R. Planché, H. J. Byron, G. R. Sims, F. C. Burnand, W. S. Gilbert and Fred Leslie.
History of Victorian theatrical burlesque
Burlesque theater became popular around the beginning of the Victorian era. The word "burlesque" is derived from the Italian burla, which means "ridicule or mockery". According to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Victorian burlesque was "related to and in part derived from pantomime and may be considered an extension of the introductory section of pantomime with the addition of gags and ‘turns’." Another antecedent was ballad opera, in which new words were fitted to existing tunes.
Madame Vestris produced burlesques at the Olympic Theater beginning in 1831 with Olympic Revels by J. R. Planché. In these pieces, comedy stemmed from the incongruity and absurdity of the grand classical subjects, with realistic historical dress and settings, being juxtaposed with the everyday modern activities portrayed by the actors. For example, Olympic Revels opens with the gods of Olympus in classical Greek dress playing whist. In the early burlesques, the words of the songs were written to popular music, as had been done earlier in The Beggar’s Opera. Later in the Victorian era, burlesque mixed operetta, music hall and revue, and some of the large-scale burlesque spectacles were known as extravaganzas. The English style of burlesque was successfully launched in New York in the 1840’s by the manager and comedian William Mitchell, who had opened his Olympic Theater in December 1839. Like the London prototypes, his burlesques included characters with nonsensical names such as Wunsuponatyme and The King of Neverminditsnamia, and made fun of all kinds of music currently being presented in the city.
Unlike pantomime, which aimed at all ages and classes, burlesque was aimed at a narrower, highly literate audience; some writers, such as the Brough brothers, aimed at a conservative middle class audience, and H. J. Byron’s success was attributed to his skill in appealing to the lower middle classes. Some of the most frequent subjects for burlesque were the plays of Shakespeare and grand opera. From the 1850’s onward, burlesquing of Italian, French and, later in the century, German opera was popular with London audiences. Verdi’s "Il trovatore" and "La traviata" received their British premieres in 1855 and 1856 respectively; British burlesques of them followed quickly. "Our Lady of the Cameleon" by Leicester Silk Buckingham and "Our Traviata" by William F. Vandervell (both 1857) were followed by five different burlesque treatments of "Il trovatore", two of them by H. J. Byron: "Ill Treated Trovatore", or the Mother the Maiden and the Musicianer" (1863) and "Il Trovatore or Larks with a Libretto" (1880). The operas of Bellini, Bizet, Donizetti, Gounod, Handel, Meyerbeer, Mozart, Rossini, Wagner and Weber were burlesqued.
In a 2003 study of the subject, Roberta Montemorra Marvin noted:
"…By the 1880s, almost every truly popular opera had become the subject of a burlesque. Generally appearing after an opera’s premiere or following a successful revival, they usually enjoyed local production runs, often for a month or longer. The popularity of stage burlesque in general and operatic burlesque in particular seems to have stemmed from the many ways in which it entertained a diverse group, and the manner in which it fed and fed on the circus-like or carnivalesque atmosphere of public Victorian London…"
W. S. Gilbert wrote five opera burlesques early in his career, beginning with "Dulcamara, or the Little Duck and the Great Quack" (1866), the most successful of which was "Robert the Devil" (1868). In the 1870’s, Lydia Thompson’s burlesque troupe, with Willie Edouin, became famous for their burlesques, by such authors as H. B. Farnie and Robert Reece, both in Britain and the U.S.
The Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells notes that although parodies of Shakespeare had appeared even in Shakespeare’s lifetime, the heyday of Shakespearean burlesque was the Victorian era. Wells observes that the typical Victorian Shakespeare burlesque "takes a Shakespeare play as its point of departure and creates from it a mainly comic entertainment, often in ways that bear no relation to the original play." Wells gives, as an example of the puns in the texts, the following: Macbeth and Banquo make their first entrance under an umbrella. The witches greet them with "Hail! hail! hail!": Macbeth asks Banquo, "What mean these salutations, noble thane?" and is told "These showers of ‘Hail’ anticipate your ‘reign’". Musically, Shakespearean burlesques were as varied as the others of the genre. An 1859 burlesque of Romeo and Juliet contained 23 musical numbers, some from opera, such as the serenade from Don Pasquale, and some from traditional airs and popular songs of the day including "Buffalo Gals", and "Nix my Dolly".
According to Grove, although "an almost indispensable element of burlesque was the display of attractive women dressed in tights, often in travesty roles … the plays themselves did not normally tend to indecency." Some contemporary critics took a sterner view; in an 1885 article, the critic Thomas Heyward praised Planché ("fanciful and elegant") and Gilbert ("witty, never vulgar"), but wrote of the genre as a whole, "the flashy, ‘leggy’, burlesque, with its ‘slangy’ songs, loutish ‘breakdowns’, vulgar jests, paltry puns and witless grimacing at all that is graceful and poetic is simply odious. … Burlesque, insensate, spiritless and undiscriminating, demoralizes both the audience and the players. It debases the public taste." Gilbert expressed his own views on the worth of burlesque:
The question whether burlesque has a claim to rank as art is, I think, one of degree. Bad burlesque is as far removed from true art as is a bad picture. But burlesque in its higher development calls for high intellectual power on the part of its professors. Aristophanes, Rabelais, Geo Cruikshank, the authors of the Rejected Addresses, John Leech, Planché were all in their respective lines professors of true burlesque.
Gender reversal and female sexuality
Actresses in burlesque would often play breeches roles, which were male roles played by women; likewise, men eventually began to play older female roles. These reversals allowed viewers to distance themselves from the morality of the play, focusing more on joy and entertainment than catharsis, a definitive shift away from neoclassical ideas.
The depiction of female sexuality in Victorian burlesque was an example of the connection between women as performers and women as sexual objects in Victorian culture. Throughout the history of theater the participation of women on stage has been questioned. Victorian culture viewed paid female performance as being closely associated with prostitution, “a profession in which most women in the theater dabbled, if not took on as a primary source of income.”
Burlesque became the specialty of London’s Royal Strand Theater and Gaiety Theater from the 1860’s to the early 1890’s. In the 1860’s and 1870’s, burlesques were often one-act pieces running less than an hour and using pastiches and parodies of popular songs, opera arias and other music that the audience would readily recognize. Nellie Farren starred as the Gaiety Theater’s "principal boy" from 1868, and John D’Auban choreographed the burlesques there from 1868 to 1891. Edward O’Connor Terry joined the theater in 1876.
Early Gaiety burlesques included Robert the Devil (1868, by Gilbert), The Bohemian G-yurl and the Unapproachable Pole (1877), Blue Beard (1882), Ariel (1883, by F. C. Burnand) and Galatea, or Pygmalion Reversed (1883).
Beginning in the 1880’s, when comedian-writer Fred Leslie joined the Gaiety, composers like Meyer Lutz and Osmond Carr contributed original music to the burlesques, which were extended to a full-length two- or three-act format. These later Gaiety burlesques starred Farren and Leslie. They often included Leslie’s libretti, written under his pseudonym, "A. C. Torr", and were usually given an original score by Lutz: Little Jack Sheppard (1885), Monte Cristo, Jr. (1886), Pretty Esmeralda (1887), Frankenstein, or The Vampire’s Victim (1887), Mazeppa and Faust up to Date (1888). Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué (1889) made fun of the play Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo. The title was a pun, and the worse the pun, the more Victorian audiences were amused. The last Gaiety burlesques were Carmen up to Data (1890), Cinder Ellen up too Late (1891), and Don Juan (1892, with lyrics by Adrian Ross).
In the early 1890’s, Farren retired, Leslie died, and musical burlesque went out of fashion in London, as the focus of the Gaiety and other burlesque theaters changed to the new genre of Edwardian musical comedy. In 1896, Seymour Hicks declared that burlesque "is dead as a doornail and will never be revived." From her retirement, Nellie Farren endorsed this judgment.
American burlesque is a genre of variety show. Derived from elements of Victorian burlesque, music hall and minstrel shows, burlesque shows in America became popular in the 1860’s and evolved to feature ribald comedy (lewd jokes) and female striptease. By the early 20th century, burlesque in America was presented as a populist blend of satire, performance art, music hall, and adult entertainment, featuring striptease and broad comedy acts.
The entertainment was presented often in cabarets and clubs, as well as music halls and theaters. Performers, usually female, often created elaborate tableaux with lush, colorful costumes, mood-appropriate music, and dramatic lighting; novelty acts, such as fire breathing or contortionists, might be added to enhance the impact of their performance. The genre traditionally encompassed a variety of acts: in addition to the striptease artistes, there was some combination of chanson singers, comedians, mime artists, and dancing girls, all delivered in a satiric style with a saucy[peacock term] edge. The striptease element of burlesque became subject to extensive local legislation, leading to a theatrical form that titillated without falling foul of censors.
Burlesque gradually lost popularity beginning in the 1940’s. A number of producers sought to capitalize on nostalgia for the entertainment by attempting to recreate the spirit of burlesque in Hollywood films from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. There has been a resurgence of interest in this format since the 1990’s, and it inspired a 2010 musical film, "Burlesque", starring Christina Aguilera and Cher.
There were three main influences on American burlesque in its early years: Victorian burlesque, "leg shows" and minstrel shows. British-style burlesques had been successfully presented in New York as early as the 1840’s. They achieved wide popularity with productions by Lydia Thompson and her troupe, the British Blondes, who first appeared in the United States in 1868. "Leg" shows, such as the musical extravaganza The Black Crook (1866), became popular around the same time. The influence of the minstrel show soon followed; one of the first American burlesque troupes was the Rentz-Santley Novelty and Burlesque Company, created in 1870 by Michael B. Leavitt, who had earlier feminized the minstrel show with his group Madame Rentz’s Female Minstrels. American burlesque rapidly adopted the minstrel show’s tripartite structure: part one was composed of songs and dances rendered by a female company, interspersed with low comedy from male comedians. Part two featured various short specialties and olios in which the women did not appear. The show’s finish was a grand finale. Sometimes the entertainment was followed by a boxing or wrestling match.
Originally, burlesque performances included comic sketches lampooning the upper classes and high art, such as opera, Shakespearean drama, and classical ballet. The genre developed alongside vaudeville and ran on competing circuits. Possibly due to historical social tensions between the upper classes and lower classes of society, much of the humor and entertainment of later American burlesque focused on lowbrow and ribald subjects.
By the 1880’s, the four distinguishing characteristics of American burlesque had evolved:
– Minimal costuming, often focusing on the female form.
– Sexually suggestive dialogue, dance, plot-lines and staging.
– Quick-witted humor laced with puns, but lacking complexity.
– Short routines or sketches with minimal plot cohesion across a show.
The artist and writer Jerome Myers gave a view of burlesque as observed in the working-class neighborhoods of New York in the early years of the 1900’s:
"…I have been impressed by the sincerity of the audience. On the runway extending out over the orchestra, the girls would gesture back and forth. It was not always of beauty; yet never that I can remember did these onlooking men, by word or gesture, annoy or belittle the performers. Pitifully inadequate the girls often were for their parts; yet they were working girls, catering to an audience of men who also worked for a living.
Among these imitation actresses, I have seen at times real jewels, featured girls who exercised all their youth and talent, working an enchantment within their narrow limits. There was one young girl who did the so-called strip-tease act. Playfully casting away her garments, she disclosed the full glory of her beautiful figure, her movements unsurpassed in a harmony of action. Had that inspired girl had the benefit of a French or German background of publicity, she would have revealed her art to a top-hat audience. Susceptible artists would have filled their sketch-books, photographers would have vied with one another, books of laudation would have appeared, and a world celebrity would have danced onto the newspaper pages. Yet this audience of ordinary people, in this ordinary burlesque theater, applauded her in their simple way, and for years kept on applauding her as a featured artist, her name up in electric lights…"
Charlie Chaplin (who starred in the 1915 film "Burlesque on Carmen") noted in 1910: "Chicago … had a fierce pioneer gaiety that enlivened the senses, yet underlying it throbbed masculine loneliness. Counteracting this somatic ailment was a national distraction known as the burlesque show, consisting of a coterie of rough-and-tumble comedians supported by twenty or more chorus girls. Some were pretty, others shopworn. Some of the comedians were funny, most of the shows were smutty harem comedies – coarse and cynical affairs".
By the early 20th century, there were two national circuits of burlesque shows, as well as resident companies in New York, such as Minsky’s at the Winter Garden. The uninhibited atmosphere of burlesque establishments owed much to the free flow of alcoholic liquor, and the enforcement of Prohibition was a serious blow. The popular burlesque show of this period eventually evolved into the striptease which became the dominant ingredient of burlesque by the 1930’s. At first soubrettes showed off their figures while singing and dancing; some were less active but compensated by appearing in elaborate stage costumes. Exotic "cooch" dances (similar to bellydancing) were brought in, ostensibly Syrian in origin. Strippers gradually supplanted the singing and dancing soubrettes; by 1932 there were at least 150 strip principals in the US. The transition from traditional burlesque to striptease is depicted in the film "The Night They Raided Minsky’s" (1968).
By the late 1930’s, a social crackdown on burlesque shows began their gradual downfall. The shows had slowly changed from ensemble ribald variety performances, to simple performances focusing mostly on the striptease. In New York, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia clamped down on burlesque, effectively putting it out of business by the early 1940’s. Burlesque lingered on elsewhere in the U.S., increasingly neglected, and by the 1970’s, with nudity commonplace in theaters, American burlesque reached "its final shabby demise".
Burlesque shows on film
During its declining years and afterwards, films sought to capture the spirit of American burlesque. For example, in "I’m No Angel" (1933), Mae West performed a burlesque act. The 1943 film "Lady of Burlesque", although a murder-mystery, spends much of its running time depicting the back-stage life of burlesque performers.
The first motion-picture adaptation of an actual burlesque show was "Hollywood Revels" (1946). Much of the action was filmed in medium or long shots, because the production was staged in a theater and the camera photographed the stage from a distance. In 1947, film producer W. Merle Connell reinvented the filmed burlesque show by restaging the action especially for films, in a studio, where he could control the camerawork, lighting and sound, providing close-ups and other studio photographic and editorial techniques. His 1951 production "French Follies" recreates a classic American burlesque presentation, with stage curtains, singing emcee, dances by showgirls and strippers, comic sketches and a finale featuring the star performer. The highlight is the famous burlesque routine "Crazy House", popularized earlier by Abbott and Costello. Another familiar sketch, "Slowly I Turned" (later famous as a Three Stooges routine), was filmed for Connell’s 1953 feature "A Night in Hollywood".
Other producers entered the field, using color photography and even location work. "Naughty New Orleans" (1954) is an example of burlesque entertainment on film, equally showcasing girls and gags, although it shifts the venue from a burlesque-house stage to a popular nightclub. Photographer Irving Klaw filmed a very profitable series of burlesque features, usually featuring star pin-up girl Bettie Page and various lowbrow comedians (including future TV star Joe E. Ross). Page’s most famous features are "Striporama" (1953), "Varietease" (1954) and "Teaserama" (1955). These films, as their titles imply, were only teasing the viewer: the girls wore revealing costumes, but there was never any nudity. In the late 1950’s, however, provocative films emerged, sometimes using a "nudist colony" format, and the relatively tame burlesque-show film died out.
As early as 1954, burlesque was already considered a bygone form of entertainment; burlesque veteran Phil Silvers laments the passing of burlesque in the musical "Top Banana". "The Night They Raided Minsky’s" (1968) celebrates classic American burlesque.
Neo-Burlesque, or New Burlesque, is the revival and updating of the traditional American burlesque performance. Though based on the traditional Burlesque art, the new form encompasses a wider range of performance styles; neo-burlesque acts can range from anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem.
A new generation nostalgic for the spectacle and glamour of the old times has been determined to bring burlesque back. The first neo-burlesque show in NYC was the "Blue Angel Cabaret", 1994. "Le Scandal Cabaret", founded in 2001, is an offshoot of the Blue Angel, and is still currently running in NYC, 2014. This revival was pioneered independently in the mid 1990’s by Billie Madley (e.g., "Cinema", Tony Marando’s "Dutch Weismanns’ Follies" revue) in New York and Michelle Carr’s "The Velvet Hammer Burlesque" troupe in Los Angeles. In addition, and throughout the country, many individual performers were incorporating aspects of burlesque in their acts. These productions, inspired by Sally Rand, Tempest Storm, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dixie Evans and Lili St. Cyr among others have themselves gone on to inspire a new generation of performers.
Modern burlesque has taken on many forms, but it has the common trait of honoring one or more of burlesque’s previous incarnations. The acts tend to put emphasis on style and are sexy rather than sexual. A typical modern burlesque act usually includes striptease, expensive or garish costumes, and bawdy humor, and may incorporate elements of cabaret, circus skills, aerial silk, and more; sensuality, performance, and humor are kept in balance. Unlike professional strippers, burlesque performers often perform for fun and spend more money on costumes, rehearsal, and props than they are compensated. Although performers may still strip down to pasties and g-string or merkin, the purpose is no longer solely sexual gratification for men but self-expression of the performer and, vicariously, the women in the audience; the DIY aspect is prominent, and furthermore the striptease may be used to challenge sexual objectification, orientation, and other social taboos. The revival, however, has been known to run afoul of liquor licensing and obscenity laws, thus raising free speech (as symbolic speech) issues that have led to litigation.
There are modern burlesque performers, shows and festivals in many countries throughout the world such as David Jahn’s Prague Burlesque, as well as annual conventions such as the Miss Exotic World Pageant. Today’s burlesque revival has found homes throughout the United States (with the largest communities located on its East and West Coasts) and in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany and Japan.
Neo-burlesque shows that feature male-body roles have been dubbed as boylesque. The introduction of boylesque elements can be seen as a key difference between neo-burlesque and earlier, exclusively female-body forms of burlesque, which sometimes incorporated drag-queen roles (i.e. male impersonators of female bodies) but did not directly represent masculinity.
– Burlesque Hall of Fame
(formerly the Exotic World Burlesque Museum), which hosts the annual Miss Exotic World Pageant.
It is the burlesque museum located on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. Formerly known as Exotic World, the museum historically was located on the site of an abandoned goat farm in Helendale, California.
– Coney Island USA
It is not-for-profit arts organization founded in 1980 that is dedicated to the cultural and economic revitalization of the Coney Island neighborhood of the Borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Its landmark building in the heart Coney Island’s amusement district houses a theater in which the organization presents "Sideshows by the Seashore", a showcase for performers with unusual talents that runs continuously during the warmer months, as well as the Coney Island Museum. It is also notable as the organizer of the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the first of which took place in 1983.
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