The Style and Outfits
We use this term a lot to describe burlesque performances and burlesque events that we review. Neo-burlesque refers to the revival of traditional burlesque performance with a newer, more expansive collection of styles and performances. More specifically, the term is an attempt to convey a more modern approach to burlesque with a wider variety of performances extending beyond the classic fan dance, can-can and striptease. The costumes are more contemporary but often mixed with classic burlesque outfit elements such as corsets, garters and ruffle panties, and the performances may range from the classics, to modern ballet and jazz, circus, comedy and even boylesque. More about boylesque in a future post.
Music is another big part of burlesque and the musical selection sets the tone of the whole piece. Classical burlesque from the 19th century was pretty much limited to symphonic music. The neo-burlesque style is so much more eclectic than traditional burlesque and reflects the incredible diversity of musical genres that simply didn’t exist during the original era of burlesque. For a brief history of burlesque, read The Story of Burlesque. The music that performers use for neo-burlesque is drawn from every genre and era. Jazz, show tunes, funk, rock and roll, electronica and yes, even country, are used in neo-burlesque shows all the time.
Burlesque Shows Today
We go to many burlesque shows here in Austin, and inevitably talk about the style of the troupe, individual performers and their performances. Every show has some sort of theme to tie it together, but I would say that they all fall loosely under the banner of neo-burlesque. An entire classic burlesque show is a very rare thing. We might say, for example, that Pearl Lux (The Jigglewatts Burlesque) performed a classic burlesque can-can dance to a symphonic brass piece. Then Ruby Lamb was “so neo-burlesque” when she performed a punk-circus electronica act. Both were in the same neo-burlesque show, but each performance was from different types of burlesque. Even Dita von Tease is considered a neo-burlesque performer, even though she may perform classic burlesque dances.
So there you have it. Classic burlesque consists of a much narrower selection of music, choreography and burlesque outfits. Those were simpler times. Neo-burlesque reflects the extreme diversity of modern popular culture, all mixed in with this definitive form of sexy entertainment. It’s exciting to watch the mix up, and some ideas work better than others. But lucky for us, it keeps the artform of burlesque from becoming stale, and allows the artists to continuously explore new ideas.
Enjoy the show!