For some time now, on my rounds of the great and the good of cabaret spectaculars, I have found that I dread the mention of burlesque. Not because I don’t like the art form: precisely because I love it. Will it be satirical? Will it be erotic? Or am I going to suffer through yet another talentless, vintage-loving booty shaker in pasties?
For every good burlesquer out there, there are three bad ones. Everyone and their dog seem to think that you can put on a corset and bam, you’re a burlesque dancer. Wrong! You can put on as many sparkles and Swarovskis as you like, but if you don’t know how to move or be sexy then I’m afraid you’ll just bore me. Do it well or don’t do it at all.
I can hear some of you already thinking “alright, if you’re such an expert, then you have a go.” Well, my dears, I am well aware of my talents and I know that burlesque is not one of them. You wouldn’t want to watch me take my clothes off for two reasons: one, I can’t be that kind of sexy, and two, I wouldn’t want to. If you’re going to do it, you have to really want to. You have to be comfortable with yourself.
Knowing how your body moves is a big part of both the sexiness and the comedy of burlesque. I can think of few things more irritating than singing out of tune, but dancing out of time is a damn close second. Have some musicality, for God’s sake. The music is there for a reason, use it.
And while we are on the subject of music, please pick something original. I have heard Feelin’ Good more times than I care to remember. I know it’s sultry and it’s a classic, but there’s got to be other tracks out there that are too.
I’ve heard people say that anyone can do burlesque. That’s bullshit. Anyone can take their clothes off, I do it every night before I fall into bed, but not anyone can be an ecdysiast. I think it’s great that women feel confident and comfortable enough to get up on stage and take their clothes off, but why are they doing it? Is it because they’ve got a genuinely good burlesque act and performance is their passion? Or is it an act of public masturbation, created only for themselves with little thought for the audience that has to watch them? You can tell the difference live, and watching someone work through their self-image issues onstage is uncomfortable and embarrassing.
We want to see your intention, the reason behind the strip. I don’t mean you always need a storyline to it, but it has to be more than to just getting your kit off and twirling the tassels. Tease me. Make me laugh. I know I’m going to see your boobs at the end, anyway. As with sex, it’s about the journey, not the big finish.
Traditional burlesque is the thing that I fear the most. When it’s good, it’s so sexy and entrancing. When it’s not, it’s either toe-curling or sleep-inducing. It’s great to see pin-ups, showgirls and other glamour icons come to life before you, but if they’re going to be predictable and tame, they’d better stay pinned to my wardrobe, where at least I can imagine them doing something exciting.
There are so many great burly-Q girls out there, all doing something different, sexy, funny or even disturbing, that it irritates me when people assume burlesque is an easy art form. It’s not at all. If it were all about showing flesh and dancing about, then why don’t strip clubs put it on?
Because it’s about lust, not sex. The tease, not the strip. And yes, the audience, not the bling.