The risqué cabaret style act of modern burlesque has a long and storied history. It stretches back to ancient Greece and throughout Europe as a form of often political satire (the word burlesque comes from an Italian word meaning “joke”), where women often performed and parodied male roles from the popular culture of the day. However, in its American form from the late 1800s, burlesque performance added a lot of sexiness to the humour, becoming a variety act with scantily clad ladies who mocked the upper classes and added consistent musical theatre elements by the early 1900s.
Until WW2 started, burlesque had its golden age in the US through to the 1930s. Burlesque venues and touring troupes could be found almost everywhere in the country featuring sumptuous costuming and striptease as well as variety/music hall performances that were part of the vaudeville tradition.
Burlesque then had a resurgence in the 1990s with the launch of the Miss World Exotic Pageant and a return to the more modest and vintage accoutrement of stripteases of the past by women around the world. Burlesque went even further mainstream with the release of the film starring Cher and Christina Aguilera in 2010.
Today’s neo-burlesque continues to contain playful humour and music (often with a side of striptease, emphasis on the tease) but body positivity, sexual empowerment and glamour are core elements. And modern burlesque is not just for women, welcoming one and all into the fold and celebrating creative expression in shame-free environments that explore all manner of personal identity.