Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Learn the History of Burlesque

The mention of burlesque usually conjures up images of bawdy striptease artists bumping and grinding in pointed pasties and skimpy g-strings. Old school femme fatales of the 1950s have recently been replaced by contemporary showstoppers like Kitten Deville, Dirty Martini or the Suicide Girls. Believe it or not, Burlesque originated in the 1860s with Lydia Thompson and her all female cast of bleach blondes performing parodies of Greek tragedies. Burlesque is a form of theatre whose roots rocked American pop culture from the get-go.
  1. Perform an Internet search on Burlesque History. Early history can be found on History of Burlesque Part I & II. The Ministry of Burlesque is an excellent source for all that was and is Burlesque. At this site, every aspect of this art form is at your fingertips including the history, schools, performers and other related resources.
  2. Read a book. The literary cannons on Burlesque are "Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture" by Robert C. Allen and "Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show" by Rachel Shteir. Other interesting recreational reads include "The American Burlesque Show" by Irving Zeidman written in 1967 (at the height of the decline of the striptease) and "The Josephine Baker Story" by Ean Wood.
  3. Watch a Movie. Burlesque has made excellent subject matter for films for over five decades. Watch classic cinema to learn the life of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. Natalie Wood starred in "Gypsy" (1962). The HBO documentary "Pretty Things" illuminates the viewer of the intimate details of classic burlesque. One of the major highlights of this film is Zorita's story.
  4. Visit the Museum. The Burlesque Hall of Fame is claimed to be the Smithsonian of striptease. Curator Dixie Evans is a graceful host to the finest collections of Burlesque artifacts and exhibits. The museum is located inside Atomic Todd in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  5. See a local Burlesque show. Burlesque troupes can be found in every major, and most secondary, urban centers. Conduct an Internet search or try the Burlesque Hall of Fame website for an extensive list of performers and their hometowns, and choose "support" from main menu.
  6. Go to a Burlesque festival. Pack up in July and head to the annual Exotic World Weekend where the best striptease artists battle for the crown of Miss Exotic World. The competition recently moved to Las Vegas. Information for this event is found on the Burlesque Hall of Fame website.

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