Free «Burlesque» Essay Sample


Burlesque is a kind of comic poetry that emerged in the Renaissance. The theatrical genre used to be popular in America, Italy, and France. It was a theatrical erotic performance, similar to the genres of musical, cabaret, and vaudeville. The current paper aims to observe the ancient theatrical genre of burlesque.

What is Burlesque?

The word “burlesque” originated from the Italian word “burla” meaning a joke (Weldon, 2010).  The fundamentals of burlesque performances include dance, comedy, circus, and spoken scenes. Classic burlesque in the men’s version is comedic monologues. Actors can act solo or in duet, and often have comical images. Classic women’s burlesque is a dance scene, performed in the sound of exciting music. Girls act mostly solo in the spirit of innocent fetishism, accompanying the scenes by teasing gestures and grimaces. Women take off their stockings, corsets, garters, feathers, and tassels. After the removal of the last garment, they throw it into the hall. To enhance the effect of an innocent eroticism, actresses often employ sophisticated tricks. For example, they emerge from the huge shells, ride a pony, and bathe in a martini glass or a bath of bubbles. A female burlesque is predominantly an erotic dance show.

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Sometimes, burlesque men are dressed as women. At the end of the strip, they suddenly reveal that they are not women by removing the wig and a bra. In fact, the first transvestite show took place in the burlesque genre. Wertheim (2014) asserts that the troupe of burlesque theater is rarely fixed. Oftentimes, the show involves different actors and actresses with their ready rooms. In addition, burlesque often invites midgets, athletes, acrobats, freaks, and singers. The stars of the program, however, are always one or two popular actresses.

The History of Burlesque

The musical genre of burlesque is not new, and its origin goes back to the 16th – 17th century (Hill, 2010). Burlesque was emerging as ridiculous imitations, and grotesque parodies that were highly appreciated by the audience. During the Victorian times, the genre was performed in the most famous theaters, and it had depicted popular plays, operas, and ballets. The widespread art pieces were Shakespeare’s plays, as they became the most common subject for musical parodies of burlesque shows. As a rule, attractive women played in the shows, and they used to change their clothes into men’s to make shows more comedic and entertaining. Admittedly, they did not strip on the stage, and their behavior was more moderate than in the later years.

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Starting from the 19th century, burlesque acquired a more unfettered character using striptease. The tendency was observed both in the USA and France; it attracted bigger audience to the theaters (Weldon, 2010). American shows of the period were characterized by loose morals and use of striptease both in the burlesque and vaudeville circuits. The famous Moulin Rouge is famous for bright and entertaining shows that attract visitors from all over the world. The tendency has become a mutual feature of burlesque shows in the 1920s and 2030s in the USA (Wertheim, 2014). However, in the 1940s, the government prohibited burlesque performances, which caused them to the decline (Fuhrer, 2014).

The genre was revived in the 1990s, which led to the formation of the neo-burlesque movement based on the old traditions (Weldon, 2010). New troupes of actors have focused on the tease instead of striptease regardless of their desire to perform as in old days. New moral standards do not allow actresses to strip on stage. However, they express sexuality by new forms and actions that contributed to the formation of the new evolutionary development of burlesque.

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Burlesque is an ancient genre that was popular in the Renaissance era. In fact, it was the first striptease presented in the comic form. Women and men have different roles in the shows, but the latter attract the audience by strip scenes and dancing performed in the sound of exciting music.