Burlesque first appeared in Europe in the middle of the 19th century. You will be surprised, but in those days the girls did not yet dance on stage, instead they read poetry and made the audience laugh! The word itself comes from the French “burla” – a joke, a mockery.
It was often a humorous parody of some serious piece of drama or a classic work.
Burlesque in the form familiar to us was popular in London from the middle to the end of the 19th century. American burlesque involved small stage sketches that were witty, provocative and sometimes obscene.
And the first elements of striptease appeared by the 1930s in the United States. It was then that the stars of the genre began to rise one after another: Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dixie Evans and others.
The numbers became more frank, the clothes on the actresses were less and less. The artistes successfully compensated for the inability to dance with scenery and unimaginable costumes.
Burlesque theaters offered the audience performances for every taste: trained birds, underwater numbers or trapeze performances were used.
The blonde beauty gained fame in 1933. Having run away with a traveling theater as a teenager, she sold cigarettes in line, and also worked as a dancer and model. Once she was even arrested for allegedly obscene appearance, however, this arrest only attracted spectators who wanted to admire the performance of Lady Godiva, as she called herself.
Sally became famous for dancing with huge fans and the “bubble dance” – a technique in erotic dance, when a bubble is between the audience and the performer, not allowing you to see the artist’s nudity.
However, Sally never acted naked – she always wore a flesh-colored suit.
Gypsy Rose Lee
Considered one of the greatest striptease dancers in the history of burlesque. If you find her videos, you will never guess from the very beginning that this charming girl is going to get naked. Her career started by accident. Once, during a performance, the strap of her dress broke and it fell to the floor. The audience went berserk, and Rose Lee liked it. Then she thought that combining the performance with a striptease was a great idea.
Rose Lee is often referred to as an “intellectual dancer” because her sketches on stage are full of witty jokes and subtle allusions.
Blaze herself recalls how she got into show business: “I was 15, I worked as a waitress in a donut shop in Washington. One day a man named Red Snyder approached me. He told me that I was beautiful and that I simply had to get into show business. I was sure that dancing was a sin, but I knew how to play the guitar. He said he would make me a star. He asked me to dress up as a cowboy, play the guitar, and then undress. I had never heard of striptease before.
Red spoke to me very affectionately, he convinced me that only the most beautiful girls undress. When you have never even shown your navel to anyone, the thought of being exposed is scary. So the first time I just covered myself with the cowboy hat I was wearing. But at the end of the show, she threw it away. Emotions overwhelmed me, I realized that there is nothing wrong with undressing.”
Although she may not be the most graceful burlesque dancer, she is certainly one of the most beautiful performers of the “golden era” of burlesque.
Dance came into her life suddenly. When Rosita (then Marjorie) was still a little girl, doctors discovered she had heart problems. Then the girl’s father suggested that she take up dancing – as an exercise. She traveled and performed all over America until a producer told her, “Rosita, it’s just a shame to cover a body like yours.” She took this into account and decided to do something unusual. This is how her dance with pigeons appeared. Calling each bird by name, she trained them in such a way that they took turns removing elements of her clothing.
Betty Roland “Fireball”
So called Betty for fiery red hair, which captivated the audience from the first minute. Betty had a hard life. She and her sisters wanted to go to college but were thrown out by the Depression. Their father could no longer pay for dance classes for Betty, and she was forced to go dancing burlesque in order to somehow help the family with money. There were times when, due to the arbitrariness of the police, who fought the immoral behavior of dancers, she worked for dinner, and not for money.
Betty retired from burlesque in the early 60s after she got married, but she still gets fan mail.
She is called “Marilyn Monroe from burlesque” – the artist skillfully used the image of a sex diva for her performances until the death of the actress herself. Although Dixie’s youth was far from so frivolous: having fallen during the Great Depression, she had to earn a living by dancing, including in nightclubs.
Dita Von Teese
The modern burlesque icon has been performing with her show since 1992. According to Dita herself, she wants to return the playfulness of the striptease. One of her signature numbers is the famous Martini Glass.