What is Burlesque?

In some comments about Stripped, I’ve seen references to Dahlia as a sex worker or a stripper. Now, the thing is, I have no beef with strippers or sex workers and if I’d wanted to make Dahlia one, I would have. But as I explain in the novella and as I’ll do here – burlesque dancing is not sex work, nor is it stripping.

From Wikipedia: With its origins in nineteenth century music hall entertainments and vaudeville, in the early twentieth century burlesque emerged as a populist blend of satire, performance art, and adult entertainment, that featured strip tease and broad comedy acts that derived their name from the low comedy aspects of the literary genre known as burlesque.

In burlesque, performers, usually female, often create elaborate sets with lush, colorful costumes, mood-appropriate music, and dramatic lighting, and may even include novelty acts, such as fire-breathing or demonstrations of unusual flexibility, to enhance the impact of their performance.

Put simply, burlesque means “in an upside down style”. Like its cousin, commedia dell’arte, burlesque turns social norms head over heels. Burlesque is a style of live entertainment that encompasses pastiche, parody, and wit. The genre traditionally encompasses a variety of acts such as dancing girls, chanson singers, comedians, mime artists, and strip tease artistes, all satirical and with a saucy edge. The strip tease element of burlesque became subject to extensive local legislation, leading to a theatrical form that titillated without falling foul of censors.

It is absolutely sexy. The dancing is sexy and it’s meant to titilate. But it’s an accentuation of the feminine, a play on sensuality rather than raw sex. It’s not better or worse than stripping, it’s just different.

No pole in sight. No lap dances. This is a strip tease – as in no actual nakedness – it’s the art of the tease.

From Stripped: Sensual smoke and mirrors. Dahlia didn’t show the audience any more than she’d show at the beach. They wouldn’t see her nipples and her panties would stay right on her booty with the fishnets below that.

Playing coy, she waved with one hand, pretending to almost drop the hat as she took the first step back up to the dressing room. And another step and two more. Once her body was in the doorway she turned and tossed the hat back to Timmy. With a hand over her mouth stifling a pretend giggle, she kicked up her leg and was gone behind the curtain.

Dahlia isn’t ashamed of what she’s doing. It’s part artistic expression, part good paycheck and part expression of a part of herself she had trouble expressing in her daily life. This isn’t a woman lap dancing to pay for books (although I do have a friend who stripped to pay for law school). Her story is far more complicated than that.

Burlesque is far more theatrical than stripping is (although some strippers do put a lot of energy into their routines). There’s quite frequently a live jazz band on the stage.

The idea for Stripped came to me after my husband and I went to Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce in Las Vegas in 2006. The Dollhouse is a lot like this place with differences of course, but the feel is similar in that the women are dancers and perfomers.

2 comments to “What is Burlesque?”

  1. Sunny Lyn
    May 18th, 2008 at 11:01 am · Link

    hey, girl – congrats on STRIPPED – love the posts (thought I’d come out of lurkdom just for you)…LOVED your last 13 post! 🙂 I’ve never made pot stickers but wanna try.

    have a great rest of the weekend…

  2. Lauren
    May 25th, 2008 at 4:39 pm · Link

    Hey you! It’s nice to see you poking your head in. And you’ll love potstickers (although I suck at making them from scratch, there are a few brands that are raw frozen and you fry and then stem them – very tasty and quite easy)