Most of us are used to common or garden burlesque - ostrich fans and tassels, a blend of cheekiness and courage, an all round exploration of the worlds of humour and sensuality. And there’s nothing wrong with that - but it’s good to explore some of the more exciting burlesque events taking place internationally.
Perhaps one of the most innovative events that takes place every year is Broadway Bares - a burlesque themed fund-raiser that has been running for 27 years. This year’s extravaganza - titled Strip U, raised $1,568,114 and featured 181 of the most exciting dancers (both male and female) who have appeared in New York City. The show was university themed and featured such settings as a frat house and a science lab. Not only is the event a top flight, superbly choreographed extravaganza but the profits go to support Equity Fights AIDS. One of the most rewarding aspects of this kind of event is the way that it brings together young performers with seasoned choreographers to produce the kind of number that’s more reminiscent of Busby Berkeley that the pared back ‘gritty’ burlesque that we see so often at present. Large casts and split second timing makes any burlesque show an adrenaline fuelled ride and it was notable that costuming this year was minimal, possibly to avoid wardrobe malfunctions during the demanding skits.
Notable features of the Broadway Bares process this year include “Feminist Studies” - a performance which began with 1915 sufragettes who stripped to Katy Perry’s Roar and ended by parading massive images of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama - choreography by John Alix. It’s hard to imagine a British equivalent - Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon perhaps?
Also outstanding was a lacrosse themed burlesque choreographed by Charlie Sutton that featured male dancers performing a slick blend of dance, exercise and acrobatics.
Schoolgirl and schoolboy costuming is always popular for obvious reasons, but the less obvious ones include the fact that it’s an easy costume to assemble and to remove, unlike some other, more demanding outfits.
The Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale has long been host to water themed entertainment but now it has something different - MeduSirena AquaBurlesque. Drawing in part on the Hollywood movies of Esther Williams, it brings old school burlesque principles to underwater dance. Headlined by Marina Anderson the demanding performances require the dancers to return to the surface periodically for air, rather than using air hoses as is done in other underwater shows. But Anderson believes this is crucial to the heritage of the show.
So called ‘Porthole Bars’ were a huge draw in Florida in the 1950s but fell out of favour as the hippy generation rejected the glamorous costuming and complex requirements of burlesque performed underwater. The show is not a classic mermaid theme, which limits the dancers by putting them in fishtail costumes, but a more demanding underwater burlesque that allows for more dynamic movements and considerably more exposure of flesh.