Tuesday, July 10, 2007

You Don't Own Me - Burlesque or Performance Art?

Julie Atlas Muz, Miss Exotic World 2006, has been the center of controversy for her particular performance style - and its less than traditional take on burlesque. Julie has been described as a choreographer/conceptual performance artist/burlesque sensation.

The following video is Julie's farewell performance from this year's Miss Exotic World Pageant, posted by YouTube user nofimag. It should be warned that this video contains nudity (it's an Exotic World performance, natch), so watch at your own discretion.

Love it or hate it, the performance generated an interesting question - is this burlesque? Given Julie's love to blur the line between burlesque and performance art, was this a successful experiment in neo-burlesque expression or should this be considered a performance art piece? Or at this stage of the game in neo-burlesque is there any difference between the two?


Zeugma said...

Oof. Tackling the hard questions up front, are we?

I'll take half a stab. In the classical definition of burlesque, sure, I think Julie's work qualifies. She is taking something that would normal have grave connotations (a bound, naked woman), spinning it subversively (by using the track "You Don't Own Me", she's suggesting that the ropes aren't a binding mechanism but a challenge to be overcome) and then she hops around onstage and freaks out until she's free. So, sure, I thinks she's turning something that's socially and politically charged on its head, and that's one way to define burlesquing.

Is it gimmicky? Sure. But Albert Cadabra doing a Rubik's Cube onstage is gimmicky too, and people don't question its' burlesque-ness... maybe because it doesn't make them quite so uncomfortable?

Now, is that piece what people EXPECT burlesque to be? Hell no. I'm not sure it IS burlesque, according to lots of people's definitions. Then again, if you define burlesque as "theatrical striptease"... well, she was doing that, and in a terrifically creative way. She started the song wearing something, and took it off gradually throughout the course of one song. That's what most of us do, isn't it? It had a sexual and political vibe, and a sense of humour. Lots of our acts do. It just wasn't as PRETTY as some of the other stuff... which brings us to what is perhaps the real question: does burlesque have to be pretty to be burlesque?

(As an aside, there is a TON of work being put out that's very heavily influenced by flamenco, modern dance, ballet, vaudeville, magic and a variety of other forms, and no one questions it. But when it's burlesque that's heavily influenced by performance art, it's a problem. Not sure what that means, but thought I'd pitch it out there.)

Jack Midnight said...

I've never thought anything Julie's done as being remotely burlesque. She's a performance artist. I also thought her act was kind of an "eff you" to both Miss Exotic World and the critics (like me) that really don't like her calling what she does "burlesque".

tootsiewurl said...

Having just read through the burlesque definition question a few posts before and zeugma's well thought out and constructed post above, as much as I hate to agree that Julie's performance qualifies as burlesque.

HOWEVER, when the performer goes out of their way to establish themselves as a burlesque performer AND a performance artist, I think you have reason to question their intentions on stage. The actual performer is calling out that there is a difference between the two types of performance.

I think that despite the fact that this may indeed be burlesque, Julie is more concerned about making a statement on stage here and the actual striptease and burlesque is an afterthought.

Burlesque doesn't need to be pretty - maybe that should be another topic. Didn't somebody at Exotic World do a fly striptease out of a pile of shit?

davcor said...

Check out my act at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcg2VLJN0Ss