Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Are there any new ideas in burlesque?

Submitted to the Burlesque Forum Mail:

After so many decades, are there any new ideas (or gimmicks) in burlesque, specifically striptease? Or are we merely revisiting and rethinking several core concepts, such as the bubble dance, the balloon dance, the fan dance, etc... For instance, Dita von Teese in her book "Burlesque and the Art of Teese", discusses her famous martini glass dance number at length. Isn't it fair to say that the martini glass dance is just a modern update of the classic champagne glass dance of the 30's? She even discusses that Catherine D'Lish performs in a giant champagne glass. Is there anything new under the burlesque sun?

Jack Midnight

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like to think of burlesque performers like musicians. There are standard instruments such as drums, guitars and bass or the pasties, g-string and fans. It is the performers combinations with these items that make the performance new each time.
And yes, every now and then you might even find an incredibly "new" experimental idea, but usually the roots are still the same.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, good answer. I like that approach. It will provide me with solace when I feel like everything's been done!

Shangri-Laura said...

While it may be true that there's "nothing new under the sun," one of the things I find most thrilling and inspiring about burlesque is how a skilled performer can take something archetypical or part of mass consciousness--say, a song, set of movements or an iconic stereotype (cowgirl, french maid, housewife, naughty librarian, etc.) and present it in such a way that catches you off guard.

Sure, BQ has its familiar phrasing and expressions (the shimmy, bump and grind, strut; the fan dance, apache dance, balloon dance, etc.) but what makes a routine stand out is what the performer does with that shorthand--how they interpret and make special something that's already been done... likely hundreds if not thousands of times.

Take Little Brooklyn's BRILLIANT update on the classic "dance with the devil." For those who have never seen one, this is a very traditional (solo) routine performed with a puppet head, clever costuming and some pretty sophisticated choreography--creating the impression of two people in one space, with one half seducing the other... only in Little B's version, rather than costming the number as a devil and virgin (or devil and siren, etc.) she does hers as half King Kong and half Fay Wray... right down to one high heel and one hairy monkey foot.

So, yeah--to my mind, creating a fabulous, memorable and "original" burlesque act isn't so much a matter of absolute invention as it is one of innovation... even if you're just taking something from column A, something from column B and filtering it through your own POV.

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