*Last Wednesday's the 21st Burlesque Post*
For the most part the word has gotten out. Many people are at least familiar with the word burlesque, however they are not really sure what it means. Typically when one hears the word burlesque, they envision a Grande Dame in silk stockings covered in feathers and sequins. This is not far off from an aspect of burlesques, however when something has been around for nearly two hundred years or so it is bound to change. Originally burlesque was an earthy satire which is polite terms for vulgar mocking of conventional society at large, similar to “Saturday Night Live”. It wasn’t till the early 20th Century that burlesque became more about the Strip-tease acts and less about the comedy variety show.
Typically one will see two different terms Burlesque and Neo-Burlesque. Generally Burlesque is reserved for anything before the 1990’s while Neo- Burlesque is for everything from then to present. One of biggest differences between the two is music. Traditional Burlesque will use jazz, big band, and cabaret music from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Versus Neo-burlesque will use modern pop, or rock music.
Now burlesque is such a diverse term itself that a single performer will do acts from several different genres, incorporating everything from Belly dance and Ballet to Pole and Fire.
Not since the days of Gas Light Square in the 1950’s and 60’s has St. Louis Burlesque had such a following. In this quiet, conservative city where most of the “gentlemen’s clubs” actual reside across the river in East St. Louis, IL the Tease of Burlesque (Stripping’s older, classier sister) is welcome on this side of the river. It may seem like an unimportant distinction, but in the minds of the local St. Louis residents it means all the difference in the world.
Though Burlesque is having a revival all over the world with international festivals popping up every year, thanks in part to Dita Von Teese and other international performers; the talent in St. Louis is a powder keg just waiting to explode. Having no big entertainment outlet like some of the larger cities many of St. Louis Performers must work harder and have more drive just to get their names out there.
The performers in St. Louis have started to make a distinction for themselves; they are not merely Hootchie Cootchie dancers but performance artists whose acts have more in common with circus troupes then their modern day sister. Many performers have an auxiliary talent, be it fire performing, trapeze, or acrobatics to name a few, all while perfecting the art of the tease and removing their clothing with ease. These fabulously talented ladies are all but a one woman circus show. When they combine their talents and come together in a variety show the audiences members are left awe inspired.
In St. Louis you can see burlesque being performed with everything from art shows and rock concerts to outdoor open air festivals. Though burlesque is starting to be widely accepted and is becoming the thing to do for young couples and ladies night out. It is still a controversial subject matter that stirs many a debate including a Liberal Arts College stopping a recent performance during one of its student run events.
Though burlesque has a long history in St. Louis dating back to the turn of the last century, it is constantly evolving. The Neo-Burlesque movement is putting its own mark on the term burlesque. What was once considered the low brow dancing girls of Vaudeville which became high class acts of Gypsy Rose Lee that competed with Ziegfeld is now as distinct and unique as each of the performers. Every type of woman from just about every genre is represented. There is literally something for every one.
Orginally written in May 2010 Cross posted to St. Louis Burlesque Examiner