May 25, 2012
Sassy, sexy and saucy. These are a few words that come to mind when describing the seductive stage show that has made an explosive comeback.
Famous for its risqué humour and dance style, the contentious art form of Burlesque has exploded into popular culture over the past decade.
So what is Burlesque? Is it a performance art form? Is it a cleverly concealed excuse to strip layers of glittery clothing off in public? Is it Christina Aguilera singing ballads in lingerie? Or is it Dita Von Teese posing in a martini glass?
According to professional dancer and choreographer Janelle Vaccaro, burlesque is the art of sexiness: it’s all about the tease, the power of sensuality and being a woman.
“Since icons like the Pussycat Dolls and Dita Von Teese, as well as the 2011 movie ‘Burlesque’ starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, the style has been reintroduced in a more popular commercial setting,” Ms Vaccaro said.
Dance companies offering Burlesque classes around Australia have increased to keep up with the growing demand.
Lady Velvet Cabaret director Stella Hui, AKA Vita Flame, says people want to be a part of the glitz and glamour they see in the movies, be dressed in the elaborate costumes, and experience the backstage nerves.
“Burlesque is so much about being confident and comfortable with yourself, no matter what body shape you are,” she said.
“A lot of women find it liberating and are addicted to the adrenalin, the rush and the audience’s cheers when they are performing onstage.”
Burlesque dancing also provides a shimmying and swaying alternative form of exercise through the sensual and flirtatious choreography.
Ms Hui said vintage Burlesque helped improve posture, strengthen core muscles and raise heart rates.
“It won’t get you huffing and puffing but will certainly get you more flexible and a lot stronger,” she said.
“Modern Burlesque on the other hand is a higher impact form of exercise, with a lot of hair flicking, attitude and more involved dance steps which will increase core, upper and lower body strength.”
VINTAGE VERSUS MODERN
With the number of controversial stereotypes of Burlesque, including the removal of clothes, Ms Hui says there is essentially only one type of Burlesque which is’ strip tease’.
However, due to the popularity of external influences such as the Pussycat Dolls and the ‘Burlesque’ film, we can classify the phenomenon as modern, classic vintage and neo-vintage.
“Modern Burlesque has the strip tease element and is very theatrical but the main focus is on the dance, choreography, unison of the girls and the sex appeal,” she said.
“Classic vintage Burlesque dates back to the 1920s to 50s and focuses on extensive costume designs, elaborate props, strip-teasing, solo performances, and often ends with the performer stripping down to underwear.
“Whereas neo-vintage burlesque is based around modern day themes and ideas, such as a Batman-themed or Michael Jackson inspired act.”
Photos: Jodie Ng