Presenting the Queens of Burlesque
For several years now the appearance of Neo-Burlesque has been raising eyebrows among regular clubbers. A throwback to the glamourous era of the late forties and early fifties, this combination of tease, comedy, and performance art has made a welcome return to club-land.
Burlesque has been around since the middle of the nineteenth century. Apparently it is a British export, taken over to America by Lydia Thompson and her troupe of British Blondes. Their act included erotic dancing, some stripping and teasing, comedy, and minstrel shows. From there it evolved into it’s various forms, which gave us the modern day pub strippers and pole dancers.
But neo-burlesque is a lot more elaborate, focusing on style and performance than raw arousal and very little stripping actually goes on. It is rare to see a bare nipple, much less frontal nudity.
And who goes to these shows? Well it isn’t baying packs of lads on the lash. More often in a groups of young women and couples. Could you take your mum to a show like this? Probably. She might have a go, knowing my mum.
It’s current leading lights are Dita Von Teese in America and Britain’s own Immodesty Blaize, both of who earn huge sums from their performances.
Not only that but it has become the new craze among regular women who are looking for an entertaining way to spend their evenings. Pole classes took over from learning Belly Dancing and Burlesque was the next progression. Most of the ladies who take part are very healthy sizes, curvy as women should be. This is a relief to see in the current size 8 obsessed world.
So I went online to meet a few of the average girls who had stuck on the nipples tassles and wiggled for all they were worth.
So ladies and gentlemen please give a warm wordpress welcome to…..
So Girls, do you have a strict fitness regime?
Stella – Yes, I eat cake and drink wine. Actually, Burlesque is a great fitness regime, especially if you dance in 4 inch stilettos like I do – that takes some muscles!
Glorian – Burlesque, ideally, is not about looks from the point of view of being slender and scantily clad, but is about talent and stage presence, and therefore welcomes and embraces all varieties of image and body type. Health is its own reward!.
Geisha Go Disco – I’m a bigger girl and i don’t really watch what i eat, but i do go to the gym at least twice a week and take weekly dance classes to stay in shape. A lot of people tell me after shows that it’s nice to see bigger girls on stage. However, there is a certain amount of responsibility in accepting your body type and that means looking after it as best you can.
December Charm – The quick answer is no. This isn’t like other forms of dance where you have to be very disciplined in order to keep your body in perfect form. (What is perfect?) In burlesque all body types are celebrated. ALL! Male, female, big, small, black, white… the list goes on. We don’t care!
Take a look at Dirty Martini and Immodesty Blaize- two amazing successful performers and neither are a size 8. In fact, I’m 12 stone and a size 16 myself. And proud!
How would you answer your critics that say Burlesque is just elaborate stripping?
Critic: “Burlesque is just elaborate stripping”
December: “You’re right!”
But she adds: Burlesque is not all stripping. The origin of the word burlesque is “to satire”. Spitting Image, the puppet show, is burlesque. Scary Movie is burlesque. There are many burlesque performers who do not strip at all- they sing, dance, tell jokes, mime but don’t strip. It is important to remember that.
Geisha Go Disco – I would say “Perhaps, but without the elaborate pay packet!” Seriously though, stripping is not involved in every act. Further more, when i do it, i end up wearing more than your average beach goer! Jacqui Smith may term this as legally “offering a sex encounter” but that’s a WHOLE other interview!
Should every woman learn Burlesque?
Stella – Every woman should learn to be free with herself. Burlesque did it for me, but every woman is different. Whatever you can find to liberate you!
Glorian – Burlesque is not female specific! There are many talented male performers, and many twists on gender within both male and female performances. I would encourage anyone who fancies having a go to do so, it can be incredibly fun, creative, wonderful and empowering, for everyone involved!
Geisha Go Disco – No more than they should learn Egyptian dance or Ballet or rock climbing or Tennis. I would love to say yes but sadly, i think the answer is no. Personally, performing has made a world of difference to my own sense of confidence, but it’s not for everyone.
Is there much of a Burlesque scene outside London?
Glorian – There is indeed! It seems that burlesque is everywhere these days, and not just in the larger cities, but is making its way to smaller towns. Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and Edinburgh all have good scenes, but then so do smaller places like Stoke on Trent, Aberystwth, Huddersfield!
Geisha Go Disco – Yes! The West Country is a-buzz with Burly shows and there is a thriving scene in Melbourne and Sydney too, where i first started seeing it about 5 years back.
December Charm – I live half an hour from London. I’ve performed 10 times. Two of those were in London.
There is a bigger scene in other parts of the UK. The Midlands in particular have so much going on it’s hard to keep track. Definitely the heart of the burlesque scene! Generally speaking, I have to travel at least 2 hours to get to a performance as it is all around the Midlands.
What is your favourite music to perform to?
Glorian Gray – This can be difficult. The crowd loves it when you pick a track everyone knows well, which can be great fun. Some performers prefer to be more traditionalist, using vintage tracks, big band, jazz, rock n roll etc, some use modern tracks, anything from Britney to Metal music! I tend to be inspired by a song then build an act around it, rather than the other way round, so it just depends what sparks my ideas off! So far I have used Prince, Heaven 17, 1950s Doowop, celtic fiddle music, Debussy, gothic cabaret….so yep, it can be really varied!
Geisha Go Disco – Although i am inspired by a lot of the old girls like Lili St Cyr, I never use vintage tracks. I do an act to Adam Ant’s “Prince Charming” and i plan to use a lot of funk and disco in the future, even a little trip-hop!
December Charm – Something fun and upbeat that people can sing/ clap along to. At the moment I am using Andy Williams “Can’t Keep my Eyes Off Of You”, “Oom Pah Pah” from Oliver and a mix of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse with “Monster Mash”.
Finally do you have any horror stories to share?
Stella Plumes – Hands down, the worst show of my life was at a venue where the microphone didn’t work. I perform a mixture of poetry and strip-tease, the poetry always informs the strip-tease and in some cases the strip-tease cannot make sense without the poem… especially in my Nazi Spy routine! The poem is a grossly satirical comparison between a barking mad stripper and Adolf Hitler, but without the poem to set the Satirical tone… well perhaps you can imagine… I made it out alive but it really spoilt the act for me and I didn’t enjoy doing it after that.
December Charm – Nothing major. The very first performance I did, I started lying down on the floor. I got on stage, lay down, the DJ played the cd… and I had no idea what song it was! He had managed to lose my cd and play the other performers instead. Luckily the girl organising it was right in front of me, so I told her and in the meantime the other performer ran around the back to grab my spare cd. I was so terrified that they would play the wrong song, but when it happened, I was actually remarkably calm!
If you are interested in experiencing, or even learning Burlesque yourself the hub of their operation is http://www.ministryofburlesque.com It is free to join and you get to work with the best performers in the business.
To learn more about the history of the art check out http://www.musicals101.com/burlesque.htm
Geisha Go Disco is performing at the Velour Palace in Gloucestershire on 28th June
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