Monday, 3 August 2009

Burlesque to Impress

The subject of todays blog is not a new one. No siree. In fact, the origins of burlesque are said to date back to the 18th Century, when the term was used to describe 'musical works in which serious and comic elements were juxtaposed or combined to achieve a grotesque effect'. However, the Burlesque that us 21st century guys and gals know and love owes more to 19th century music hall and vaudeville traditions (plus, notably, Lydia Thompsons 1870's dance troupe The British Blondes), and more recently Prohibition era shows by Billy Minsky et al, and 1950's pin-ups such as the infamous Bettie Page and Lili St.Cyr.

I could focus on the history and origins of burlesque some more and go on a hugely detailed ramble about the many stars of the different era's, but instead I thought I'd take a look at the modern-day burlesque scene, which has enjoyed a recent revival and is one of the biggest alternative trends of the 21st century.

Its been said before and it will be said again, but the resurgence in popularity of this old-skool style of performance can largely be attributed to Michigan born, self-styled ecydisiast Dita Von Teese. Possessing a passion for 1940's culture and lacy lingerie plus training as a ballet dancer and costume designer, and having worked from the age of 18 as a dancer at a striptease bar, Von Teese had all the ingredients to spark a burlesque revolution. She took her inspiration from icons of eras past - ranging from 20's silent movie stars Theda Bara and Clara Bow to Sally Rand, Rita Hayworth, Mae West and most notably the aforementioned Bettie Page. Her earliest performances at various strip-clubs were a precursor for what was to come - bemused by the other acts' lack of originality, she frequently appeared on stage in basques, eblbow-length gloves, Victorian fetish heels and teased beehive hair.

Her career rapidly took her from glamour to fetish model, where she achieved a reputation as a corset tightlacer, and was featured in various magazines such as Bizarre, Marquis and later, Playboy. She is most famed, however, for her lavish live performances and photoshoots, which see her dancing in martini glasses, emerging from a powder compact, utilising her ballet training en pointe and riding a giant carousel horse.

She is now widely regarded as an A-list celebrity, style icon to the masses and is hugely in demand for live shows. She recently released a book 'Burlesque and the Art of the Teese', which involved tutorials on how to achieve her signature look and photographs from her many fetish shoots.

Her rise to fame has launched countless burlesque dancers, performers, websites and club nights. Immodesty Blaize, Catherine D'lish, and New York burlesque club The Box's house dancers the Hammerstein Beauties are all making a killing, and websites such as Suicide Girls, which feature hundreds of alternative models in striptease mode, is virtually a household name.

Suicide Girls especially is helping to redefine the modern standard of beauty, as well as re-inventing burlesque for a younger, edgier audience. Whilst its models generally have a punk-rock/hardcore aestethic, with tattoos, mulitple piercings and outlandish hair and make-up being the norm, they still retain (for the most part) an air of the classic burlesque sensibilities.

Local burlesque scenes have also been booming, with a surge in popularity of specialist nights appearing across the country. Cardiff's premier burlesque night What The Butler Saw has been running its operations from Minskys bar for the past two years, showcasing myriad local dancers such as Lucy Purr, Dande Lyon and Miss Pretty S'vere as well as featuring house bands like Johnny Cage and the Voodoo Groove. We at Le Freak talked to WTBS's star dancer, Miss Lady Lollypop, to get the lowdown on her fashion do's and don'ts...

1) Hello there. Hows things, and whats been going on in the world of Lolly Pop?
I'm good thanks, just been working lots really, and preparing for the next show...

2) What are your plans in terms of yr dancing/what the butler saw for the next few months?
Well, the next show is the 23rd July, and its a Bedtime Stories theme so its all very exciting and I have been working on a routine with my friend Dande Lyon...

3)How would you describe your style?

Hmm, it depends on my mood and where I'm going but i think im generally a bit 50's with a bit of a modern twist. Although i wish i could wear pure 50's dresses all the time!

4) In terms of fashion, who and what are your influences?
Ooooooh many influences, I love Gwen Stefani for her kick ass style, and most 50's hollywood starletts, Immodesty Blaize as far as burlesque performers go, and Carrie in Sex and the City.

5) If you could trade wardrobes with one person, who would it be and why?
Hmmmmmmmm.....probably Carrie in Sex and the City!

6)Where are your favourite places to shop?
I like a lot of topshop stuff, little boutiques are great for one offs and I love finding gems in charity shops.

7)What items in your wardbrobe hold particular sentimental value to you?
I have a beautiful deep red floor length coat that was my grandmothers, its gorgeous!! and makes you feel like a film star!

8) What significance do you think fashion holds to todays youth?
I think its a massive part of growing up, discovering fashion and what it means to you, finding your own unique style. Its important for both people who are dedicated follwers of it and also people who rebel against it.

9)What was yr biggest ever fashion mistake?
Haha!! Well when I was a teenager, I wore big baggy jeans, which I loved at the time, but looking back, they werent very lady like!!

10)What are your three golden style rules?
Wear what you want, dont be ruled by what others think.
Heels will always make you feel like a lady.
Accessorise, but in a classy way.

You can catch up on all the latest What The Butler Saw activities at !

burlesque to impress
burlesque to impress by spacecadetbetti on

5 Easy Steps to Burlesque!

1) Acquire some red lipstick. The more garish, the better. OTT is the way forward.
2) Lace yrself up. Your burlesque attempts are going to fall flat on yr face if you don't own at least one corset or basque to create that hourglass figure/waspish waist. Remember, Dita's waist measures 16.5 inches. Think about that for a moment, then pull those laces a little tighter.
3) Do yr research. It's all very well to walk the walk, but can you talk the talk? 'Burlesque and the Art of the Teese', 'Burlesque: Legendary Stars of the Stage' and 'Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens' are all good starting points.
4) Learn to walk in heels. No, not pussy kitten ones. We're talking the full 6-inch platforms here. Marilyn Monroe used to file the heel of one shoe down to create a sexy wiggle while she walked. A good idea in theory, but maybe not in practice, at least until you've learnt to navigate your way down crooked pavements in a pair of killer fetish stilettos first.
5) Adjust yr attitude. This is not a trend for wilting wallflowers. Think Nicole Kidman seducing the Duke in Moulin Rouge. Think Jessica Rabbit. Think confidence.

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