Categories: News
What is burlesque

So, Really – What is burlesque?

Google is asked the question ‘What is burlesque’ countless times each week all over the world. We think of Wiki as the fount of all knowledge when it comes to question answering globally but is Wikipedia’s answer correct?

With such varying opinions on what burlesque is how could Wiki possibly know the answer?

Wiki states that burlesque is: 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. Further info found by clicking here.

But does the national burlesque scene (made up of highly acclaimed international performers) agree with Wiki?

The general consensus of the burlesque community, which Agent Burlieque are lucky enough to have  an established and well respected reputation, feels that there is no one true answer. Like the question ‘What is art?’ will have never ending answers so too does the same question when asked about burlesque.

If burlesque is made up of many hundreds of differing performers each with their own agenda, their own creativity and their own individuality then the question cannot possibly be answered by looking at the performers and the  individual acts to bring about knowledge of what ‘makes a burlesque act’ either/. Each act is so completely different to one another and due to this we have an art form. A way of expressing oneself without previous agenda, an art form without rules, for this is what creativity truly is.

Creativity is not from outside ourselves, it is not learned nor tools taught in which to achieve it. This is the same as burlesque. With countless teachers claiming to ‘teach burlesque’ and doing nothing more than encouraging a group of women who have paid for the privilege a class in donning a red and black corset, fish net stockings and collectively performing a routine to something out of Cabaret or Chicago. Burlesque this is not.

Khandie Kisses, Burlesque, What is Burlesque

Copywright Khandie Kisses

A far easier question to answer than ‘What s burlesque’ is ‘What isn’t burlesque’

The very essence of burlesque is original authentic cabaret, which rids a performance of its fourth wall. The fourth wall of course is the blocking stone between audience and performer. To have a choreographed burlesque routine  leaves no room for audience interaction, therefore installing an imaginary fourth wall. As soon as there is a fourth wall there is no burlesque!

Burlesque is always performed to an audience with performer/audience interaction. Therefore burlesque is not a fourth wall performance. It can not either be a choreographed routine such as a group rendition of All That Jazz from Chicago, this if done well can be a fabulously styled performance but it is not burlesque.

Burlesque does NOT have a fourth wall.
Burlesque IS choreographed by an individual or duo or group and is always performed by the person who devises the act.
Burlesque is not a routine or a dance
Burlesque does include the removal of clothing

There are quite categorically certain moves that can be associated with traditional burlesque such as the shimmy, the tassel twirl and bump and grind. But burlesque is most certainly burlesque without any of these moves.

So what is burlesque?

photo: Nills Bratby

photo: Nills Bratby

I asked the national burlesque community what their answers were, as of course not one answer will do for this huge and much debated question and their answers were indeed very interesting and although completely different to one another they all had a very similar undercurrent ‘there is no one answer’…

Some of the responses are as follows, all from exceptional performers and strong valuable voices in the burlesque community.

Crystal Misschief ‘Neo-Burlesque is an expressive art form that conveys stories or social commentary through movement or dance. The costuming and theatrical showmanship add layers to the story that creates a visual feast for audience’

Jessica Ashby What I am asked what is Burlesque? – Well, Burlesque is like discovering a hidden door that’s been there for centuries and finding that behind it lies a magical world of endless possibilities where anything goes and usually does. Once this door is opened it can never be closed!

Kiki DeVille of BBC The Voice ‘ I’m listening to a podcast on The history of Burlesque right now, I’ve just linked it. Maybe it’s “Burlesque is different things to different people?” But I would say…..Burlesque is an art form that puts the audience at the centre of the performance in that it questions, entices, titillates, entertains & challenges both the audience and the performer in a way that few other art forms do. It can be funny, serious, thought provoking, cheeky, and almost always entertaining. That’s just my thinking anyway, not right or wrong  xx

Glorian Gray ‘Cor, lets have a go at this then! Burlesque is a genre of diverse theatrical entertainment which involves sexual, comedic and adult references, usually in the form of striptease, visual performance or humour. If you attend a burlesque show, you can expect to see anything from sensual dance to song to magic to acrobatics to clowning, with a saucy, bawdy, innuendo-filled and slightly titillating edge’

Gwen Ever What is Burlesque you ask?   For me, Burlesque is the art of spending 99% of the time sewing and gluing to make the !% that’s rehearsing and performing look as good on stage as it does in your head!’

Lou Safire ‘To me burlesque is down to the performer and what they want to achieve and project to the audience, especially with ‘neo’ burlesque. performers now, are taking things up a level week by week and coming up with different and fantastic ways to take, say a glove off!

Red Sarah What is BURLESQUE to me :
‘To take the piss , send up or satirise. To question peoples views and share my own morals, perceptions, fantasies and fetishes through comedic vignettes. To celebrate our deformities, obsessions and depressions and bring conversations to the stage. Beauty and nudity can be both incidental and integral to content.
A form of theatre’

Khandie Khisses ‘To make fun of or to satire the social standards imposed upon us. To rock out, to not care. To provide theatre with a strong sense of self and no apologies. To choose if or not to strip and to be strong in our footing as we bring an old fashioned and often stereotyped type of entertainment into the 21st century with more convictions that Lindsay Lohan and a strong sense of our actions.

Burlesque is not cookie cutter and nor can it be described singularly. It is an umbrella term for a whole lot of awesome.’

Lilly Laudanum  ‘I can’t add anything to the cool things everyone has already said, except that for me, the motives of burlesque haven’t really changed since it’s ancient Greek incarnation – in that my style is to parody and lampoon public figures… Burlesque is beautiful, comedic, serious, spiky, curvy, sexy, ugly, shocking, challenging, political, non-political, escapism, fantasy, reality… it’s all these things slamming together on one bill, a great juxtaposition where glitter sometimes meets the grotesque, it’s a feast for the senses, a theatrical explosion of all of this’.

Emma Glory Pearl  ‘Not much to add from me; burlesque is a theatrical form of low art that satirises and parodies high art and culture. Neo burlesque is a cabaret form that frequently utilises striptease and references the striptease artists of the burlesque theatres of mid-twentieth century America’.

Philly Antony Burlesque

For me personally in my acts, is pure entertainment, to poke fun at characters and things that we all do or have done.

I have sexual acts and comedy and also the tease is very personal to the audience,
My geek act is very sweet, but I have women saying that they love him and would ruin him,
So in short burlesque is very personal thing to both the performer and audience member, some would class me as neo, as I’m a guy, some say classic,
But as long as I’m entertaining I don’t really mind! Hehehhe and as long as there is bubbly wine! X x

As there is no ‘One Voice’ that speaks for burlesque (we are a global anarchic community) there is ‘No One Answer’ Burlesque in MY humble opinion is whatever the performer chooses it to be as long as it follows NO set formula whatsoever’. How dare I draw this conclusion? After all I am but one voice amongst the burlesque community, I unable to bring about a definitive answer here.

What I can say is this…. ‘There is no definitive answer to the question ‘What is burlesque’.