Lola the Vamp

An icon in the making

A Short History of Burlesque

By Lola the Vamp

Burlesque is a scintillating form of live performance with a long and varied history. With threads hugging back to the corsets of the Moulin Rouge Cancaneuses of Paris, the dancers of the Folies Bergeres, and the tableaux-vivants of the show curcuit worldwide, Burlesque emerged in early 20th Century America with the performances of Lydia Thompson and the music halls of the time.

At various points in it's diverse life, Burlesque has been bawdy parody, risqué comedy, girls in naughty clothes dancing to naughty songs and all manner of wicked loveliness.

Sometime in the late 1920s a girl began to take off her clothes, and from there, Burlesque incorporated striptease to the point where it became a hallmark of the form. From the 30s to the 60s, Burlesque enjoyed a glamorous heyday full of stars, glitter, pasties and snap-away costumes set to smoky jazz and even smokier nightclubs.

A variety of stars dazzled thousands of audiences in this era, celebrities in their time, and goddesses on the stage. Gypsy Rose Lee, Lily St Cyr, Sally Rand, Blaze Starr, Dixie Evans, and Kitty West, known as Evangeline the Oyster Girl, are but a few of the glittering lights of the time of striptease Burlesque.In the late 60s, the last Burlesque house in the USA closed its doors and strip clubs began to dominate the scenes formerly coloured by the ecdysiasts of yesteryear. From that time, Burlesque has never really died away, with many performers and groups using its influences in works, and many performers continuing to display its hallmarks. You could say Burlesque went underground, until a certain stirring led to the Burlesque revolution flowering right now.

Dancing happily alongside strip clubs, New Burlesque incorporates elements into a strip show that are considered more a part of theatrical entertainment than what we know as stripping today. Follow the links to take a peek into the tradition of scandalous ladies, mischievous misses and debaucherous dames. While some sections of the media have branded New Burlesque a feminist ideal, our Lola might say, well that depends on your definition of feminism. Burlesque holds a great many ideas, meanings, inscriptions and histories, and this is what gives the form its richness.