Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Blogs

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Don’t call it a comeback– burlesque shows have been getting a lot of press lately, but the tradition reaches back hundreds of years. These days, local burlesque troupes and similar grassroots initiatives are thriving thanks to social media and a cultural renaissance. Many people can picture a burlesque dancer, but do you know the whole story? Elite Dance Studio is here to fill you in! Study up on modern burlesque dance with our quick history lesson below.

Classical Burlesque

In 16th century Italy, commedia dell’arte (“comedy of craft”) was popularized as a form of entertainment that persisted for many hundreds of years throughout Europe. The act was most commonly a performance or improvised skit, relying heavily on props and exaggerated masks to heighten the experience. Part of the show would be a burla (“mockery”)– a brief comedic break in the story– and this device would soon find its way into music, dance, theatre and all forms of classical performance. In the arts, moments or themes of exaggerated comedy became known as burlesco in Italian or burlesque in French and the term was then adopted into English.

Victorian & American Burlesque

As the world approached the 20th century, burlesque evolved into many forms. Victorian burlesque peaked in England in the late 1800s along with other musical theatre traditions such as pantomime. Often a parody or pastiche of its contemporaries, Victorian burlesque commonly mocked more serious shows like Shakespeare and opera– instead featuring provocative costumes, simpler rhyming schemes and broader, more obvious jokes.

As North America grew and became more independent, it developed a version of Victorian burlesque that evolved and lasted well into the 1970s. Now referred to as American burlesque, it is the most commonly depicted version the art form. Elaborate costume and striptease became the central features, but burlesque never lost its proud heritage in comedy, music, dance and satire.

Modern Burlesque

While glamour was not always a part of older forms of the art, the modern equivalent has embraced and elevated a new culture. Women and alternative lifestyles alike are championed in modern burlesque with a focus on body and sex-positivity, personal expression and shame-free environments. Athletic dance, handcrafted sets and costumes, creative freedom and collaboration are just some of the layers to explore if you are interested in modern burlesque.

If you are a burlesque performer searching for new moves, a dancer or choreographer looking to incorporate burlesque or even someone without the least bit of related experience– Elite Dance Studio can help! Our friendly staff and instructors are ready to share their experience and talent with you, so contact or visit us today for an unforgettable ladies burlesque experience!

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