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The History of Burlesque

Burlesque is funny theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes huge exaggeration.

The term burlesque can be traced back to folk poetry and theatre and derives from the Latin 'Burra' meaning 'Trifle'.

In 20th century USA the word Burlesque became associated with a variety show in which striptease was the chief attraction. Although the striptease element probably originated at the Moulin Rouge in Paris in the late 19th century, only in American culture is the term burlesque closely associated with the striptease.

While the American form of burlesque has first appeared in the late 19th century music hall entertainments and vaudeville, in the early 20th century American burlesque re-emerged as a populist blend of satire, performance art, and still involved adult entertainment featuring predominantly striptease and also broad comedy acts that derived their name from the low comedy aspects of the literary genre known as burlesque. In this instance the description "burlesque" was used loosely to describe these adult revue shows in which striptease acts would perform

The burlesque shows of this period eventually evolved into the striptease which became the dominant ingredient of burlesque by the 1930s. In the 1930s, a social crackdown on burlesque shows led to their gradual decline. The shows had slowly changed from ensemble ribald variety performances, to simple adult performances focusing mostly on the striptease. The end of burlesque and the beginning of striptease was later dramatized in the film 'The Night They Raided Minsky's'.

However a new generation nostalgic for the spectacle and glamour of days gone by was determined to bring burlesque back. This revival was pioneered independently in the early 1990s by Billie Madley's "Cinema" and later with Ami Goodheart in "Dutch Weismann's Follies" revues in New York, Michelle Carr's "The Velvet Hammer" troupe in Los Angeles, and The Shim-Shamettes in New Orleans.

In addition, and throughout America, many individual performers were including elements of burlesque in their acts. These productions, inspired by the likes of Sally Rand, Tempest Storm and Gypsy Rose Lee typically dressed in retro lingerie and high heeled stilettos, have themselves gone on to inspire a new generation of performers such as Dita Von Teese.

Today Burlesque takes many forms, but all have the common trait of paying homage to one or more of burlesque's previous incarnations, with acts including striptease, expensive costumes, retro lingerie, high heeled shoes, bawdy humor, cabaret and more.




Dita Von Teese the 'Queen of Burlesque'
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