Those of us who have given any thought to the subject, probably have a vague, pre-conceived notion of burlesque. Picturing voluptuous, curvy women dancing suggestively in revealing bodices, often trailing a fabulous feather boa. And in many ways, we would not be too far wide of the mark, but there is much more to the story and some interesting reasons why some dancers are finding an outlet in burlesque. First things first:
What exactly is burlesque?
Derived from the Italian ‘burla’, the word burlesque has been used to describe a mocking style of art form since the late 17th century. Originally a burlesque was a caricature of a more serious work, ridiculing it for comic effect but in the Victorian era of the 1800s, it began to change in character. When it arrived in the United States, burlesque performances became quick-witted and sexually suggestive with ever more elaborate, risqué costumes.
What we have come to accept as burlesque today is really ‘neo-burlesque’ and it has become both a powerful and empowering form of sensual self-expression, involving suggestive costumes and elements of striptease.
The liberation and empowerment inherent in burlesque
The nature of burlesque is such that it can genuinely change the lives of some people who participate. Of course, there are those who join in for fun and a bit of titillation, and the burlesque movement welcomes them with open arms. But there are those with deeper issues who find a sense of freedom and release in burlesque, previously unavailable to them in any other way.
- Potential healing from traumatic past experiences or feelings of self-loathing
- Personal exploration and confidence-building
- A safe community of like-minded, fully accepting performers
- Novelty and vitality to an otherwise vanilla everyday life
- A judgment-free outlet for the erotic self
- Lack of shame or remorse for an expression of sexuality and sensuality often frowned upon elsewhere
- A transformative experience for those who have been judged and shamed, or led to believe their sexuality makes them bad
Burlesque helps wash away longstanding feelings of inadequacy and the underlying stress of adhering to a culture that hysterically, hypocritically espouses the virtues of purity while seeing the largest surge in graphic, erotic material of all kinds in history. Ironically, this is another area where women especially have taken charge of their own destinies and are reclaiming their bodies and sexuality with member-only sites they control themselves. The sensual, erotic world that burlesque has championed for so long is finally catching on and evolving to represent modern standards and attitudes.
A creative tool for taking back control
In times when women were (and still are) decried for their sexuality and shamed for their bodies and sexual proclivities, burlesque dancing was a tool to wrestle the mantle back and make it their own. Unapologetically sensual on their own terms, burlesque dancers take the power away from those who revere and demand typical pole-based striptease. Returning a sense of artistry and fun to the activity and reminding us they are performing for their own entertainment and enjoyment, not ours.
Why some dancers are finding an outlet in burlesque
Burlesque dancing does not exclude those who have been unfairly deemed ‘non-traditional’, too old, or otherwise not beautiful enough. This typically patriarchal view is turned on its head by the burlesque art form and all are welcome, irrespective of how a twisted society chooses to judge their beauty. This sense of kindred spirits expressing themselves in the face of disapproving viewpoints runs deep and strong through the movement and it is common to find burlesque friends supporting one another in all kinds of ways, creating a welcoming, accepting community.
Stereotypes and judgment remain an issue from the outside looking in, however, therein lies the beauty of the burlesque. The importance of the viewpoint of those watching is diminished in the hearts and minds of the performers. Of much more importance, is the way the dancers themselves feel, that they can release their authentic selves and fly in the face of expectations, realistic or otherwise.
Freedom of expression
Burlesque performers often find a serious outlet for their sensual, erotic expression which simply cannot be found in traditional dance studios or art movements. It tackles the issue of body shaming head-on and is at once unapologetic and enticing. Breaking down the preconceived notions of how bodies should look and behave in a world mainly serving patriarchal sexual needs is never going to be an easy or smooth road. But burlesque faces it down and defies those who would say sex and sensuality are only for the young and traditionally ‘beautiful’.
Join the burlesque revolution with Charismatico
Founded in 2007 from a desire to share a passion for fabulous costumes and general love for all things performance, Charismatico has grown into a must-visit site for all performers. Whether:
- Seasoned drag queens
- Professional dancers
- Intrepid burlesque newcomers
- Intimate private performers
No matter your concept or intended purpose, we have a huge range of incredible costumes and accessories to create any custom look. Stand out with pride in premium quality, inspirational design that will give you the confidence boost needed to get out there and strut your stuff, whether society has told you it should be strutted or not.
So, the answer to the question of why some dancers are finding an outlet in burlesque is that it’s liberating, fun, and generally awesome. If you’ve been missing that certain something in your life, it might be time to shop for some outfits to make you feel like a million dollars and discover the freedom and joy of burlesque.
If you are curious to learn more about this most exhilarating, liberating of activities, or any of the products we offer here at Charismatico to facilitate it and others, please get in touch today. Just fill out our simple contact form, give us an idea of your thoughts, and we’ll get right back to you.
Alternatively, why not browse our incredible collection of stunning costumes, masks, and fabulous accessories? We know you’ll find something you love and be one step closer to creating your own dance persona and freeing yourself from the shackles of societal expectations.