Here at Privée Knightsbridge we pride ourselves on being passionate about burlesque. If you are really passionate about something, then you need to understand its roots, the journey it has taken: from where it began to the form you appreciate it as today. Burlesque is no different.
As an art form, burlesque has changed and adapted over time to fulfil its role of reflecting and parodying society back onto itself. So, share our passion with us, and take a brief walk through the surprisingly long and storied history of burlesque.
The term burlesque comes from the Italian burlesquo, which in turn is derived from burla, also Italian, which means a joke or a mockery. The first recorded use of the term burlesque dates all the way back to the 17th century, where it took quite a different form to what we recognise as burlesque today.
Initially, burlesque was a literary term pertaining to plays, dramatic readings or musical work that satirized and mocked serious literary work for comic effect. The term burlesque has even been applied to the works of William Shakespeare.
While this spirit of poking fun at the things people take too seriously is something still apparent in modern burlesque shows, modern burlesque’s true beginnings happened in the Victorian era. Victorian burlesque was popular in England and New York in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries. Continuing the tradition of mocking high-brow works through performance, Victorian burlesque introduced the risqué, titillating elements we know and love.
Victorian burlesque often showcased female actors, with male roles often also being played by women.
As the 20th century progressed, elements of Victorian burlesque, music hall and minstrel shows mixed together to form modern or American burlesque. Much like the burlesque shows still performed today, American burlesque shows involved music, performance art, striptease and moments of broad comedy.
After the 1960’s the popularity of live burlesque shows began to decline, but burlesque itself wasn’t about to be forgotten. Perhaps looking to capture some of that live stage magic, Hollywood began producing high profile movies about the world of burlesque. Notable examples include Cabaret, All That Jazz and, of course, Gypsy, the Broadway show and Oscar nominated movie based on the memoirs of legendary performer Gypsy Rose Lee.
Although it is undeniable that burlesque performances suffered a decline in popularity from the 70’s onwards – as did many other forms of live performance – you can’t keep an art form down for long. Thanks to the high profile and popularity of performers like Dita Von Teese – A.K.A the queen of burlesque – burlesque was thrust back into the spotlight in the 1990’s,leading to a resurgence of the art form.
This resurgence continues to this day, and burlesque has been, and hopefully always will be a fixture of popular culture ever since, helping people enjoy life, and stop taking it so seriously!
If this brief history has sparked an interest in you, and you want to learn more about burlesque, visit Privée Knightsbridge now.