A woman in 1920s style clothes singing into a microphone.

Burlesque: Sensual and Glamorous Entertainment

What is Burlesque?

Are you planning on having your first burlesque experience? Not quite sure what to expect? Well, you are most definitely guaranteed a spectacular and modern performance. The shows are explosive, sensual and glamorous, with uplifting messages surrounding body positivity and freedom of expression. There are some similarities to a cabaret. Burlesque has been around since the 1900s, and modern-day performers, such as Dita Von Teese, have brought this much-loved art to the forefront. But, before you make your way to a cabaret to see some of your city’s most alluring performers, there are a few things you need to know.

Everything You Need to Know About Burlesque Shows

A burlesque act is like a mini play — it has a narrative with a message, and the audience is taken on a journey. There's typically a lot of tension to the story, and the tale unfolds as pieces of the performer's costumes are removed. The ending is less about revealing the dancer's body and more about resolving the built-up tension and delivering the punchline. The outfits, hair and makeup are excessive.

The people in the shows take on specific character roles, so do not expect to recognize a burlesque dancer on a regular day. Except for the most well-known performers, their identities are pretty much concealed.

There are also different types: neo-burlesque and traditional.

  • Neo-burlesque: You will also hear it referred to as new burlesque. It's basically a modern day version that includes various performance styles, such as comedic mayhem, theatrical mini dramas, modern dance and classic striptease.
  • Traditional burlesque: It’s called traditional because this is the original type. It relies on irony to depict unfavorable aspects of society in an exaggerated or humorous way.

There are shows in every state. You can book directly through a venue or an agency. If you are interested in having a private burlesque show, there are independent performers you can contact. A Google search will point you in the right direction.

The price you will pay for a burlesque show will depend on several factors, such as the venue and the performers. It's safe to expect to spend as little as $20 and up to $100 or more. But whether you are planning on going to a show or having a private one, make sure you check the reviews before making a booking.

What You Can Expect From a Burlesque Show

Burlesque shows are wildly exciting and electric, with vintage-inspired atmospheres. Be prepared to have your emotions stirred by the charisma, skill and rhythm of the performers. In general, this is what you can expect from a burlesque show.

Complete Nudity is Rare

Whether a burlesque show contains nudity will depend on the blue laws and the venue policies. If nudity is what you are looking for, you might want to do some research before making a booking. But in general, you can expect the dancers to wear elaborate costumes. If they do remove their clothing, they are covered up with pasties and underwear.

Bring Some Cash

At some burlesque shows, you can tip your favorite dancer, but since it is a highly organized show, you will need to wait until the MC permits you. What they do not want is people ambushing the stage! So, have your cash ready just in case, and listen for the green light.

Interact With the Performers

There is no fourth wall with burlesque. It's engaging, and the audience is an important part of the act. Performers enjoy interacting with members of the crowd, and during a show, you might get invited onto the stage. They are adventurous and will probably have you doing things you are not accustomed to. So, be prepared just in case you are chosen to become a part of the show. Let the performers know you are enjoying their efforts, but please do so respectfully. Shouting out profanities or making crude demands is unacceptable.

A Mixed Audience

If you expect a single-sex audience, you will not find it at a burlesque show. Many couples frequent the cabaret, and age ranges vary from young adults on a stag night to grandma and grandpa.

Witty Humor

Burlesque shows are not overtly sexual. Despite the bare skin, most acts are very discrete, but they are riddled with blue humor, often disguised as something else. If you are not paying attention, you will miss it.

Privacy Violations

Unless you are permitted to do so, you will not be able to take photos at a burlesque show. If you are allowed, then to protect the identity of the performers, there may be a ban on posting them on social media. Also, some venues will require that you snap with no flash because it can distract the dancers.

Final Thoughts

No matter how much information you read about burlesque shows, you will never know what they are really like until you go to one yourself. There's no time like the present! Book some tickets, grab some friends and go and have a blast!