Ordinarily a burlesque performance ends like this.
But on Saturday night at the Vancouver International Salsa Festival, a burlesque performance ended like this.
What’s the idea here? Don’t burlesque dancers perform alone and get (almost) naked?
In Vancouver – and in New York, Las Vegas, Toronto and LA too – there’s a new flavour in the simmering pot of burlesque. It seems professional dancers are taking up the burlesque style and redesigning it for a PG-13 audience. Traditional American burlesque involves super sexy, character-driven performance with a comedic twist. And it always ends with the fabulous strip-tease, emphasis on the tease. The new burlesque is influenced by groups like the Pussycat Dolls (who really were a burlesque group at one time), who sing and dance in lingerie – but never take it off.
So, is this really burlesque?
Before I consider that question, I have a confession to make. See that redhead on the right in the second photo? That’s me. Yep, I’m a willing participant in the downfall of traditional burlesque.
But back to the question: is nouveau-dance-lesque really burlesque at all?
I asked the choreographer of Saturday night’s performance, Angela Amici, what she thought.
“Oh, Steph, no,” she said. “I’d probably cry if I had to take my clothes off onstage.”
Keep in mind that Angela Amici is, without question, the reigning queen of sexy dance stylings in Vancouver. And that was her reaction to the question of whether or not “it’s really burlesque without the strip tease.”
So who exactly do we think we are? And what do we think we’re doing? Can professional dancers take burlesque to a place its never been before, with studio training and big-time performances? Or are we just scaredy cats who don’t want to take our clothes off? I’ll have a look around the Vancouver burlesque scene in the next few weeks and get back to you…