Tantalizing costumes, exotic dancers, shimmying derrières, and all that glamorous extravaganza, Burlesque is an intoxicating cocktail difficult to resist. This DancePoise article takes you on an abbreviated journey of Burlesque and introduces you to the 10 most sensuous and popular Burlesque dancers.
To many, Burlesque means a bunch of ostrich feather-clad bawdy women jiggling their tooshies and divesting themselves of their already little garbs. Burlesque is indeed risqué and ribald, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Burlesque, for starters, has been around for centuries whose titillating smell can be whiffed back to the culture-steeped Greeks who used it as a form of political satire. Greek playwright Aristophanes was the brainchild behind this teasing drama. He was a legit satire king who used this form of art to lampoon human tragedies and contemporary ideas.
As for the sexual bantering, this genius played with the very basic element of our human psychology―desire. His famous and sensual chef-d’oeuvre Lysistrata, revolved around a teasing band of Athenian women who shun themselves away from their warrior husbands from the nectar of their skin (we like to make it more dramatic) until the end of Peloponnesian War. While the idea was a noble one―to make love and not war―the very concept of a bunch of women locking themselves up in their boudoirs and preventing their husbands from making love, is so tantalizing. That’s where it all came from.
Victorian Burlesque had sent a roaring wave of fantasy throughout Europe. The Englishman no more did the minding of his castle, but mounted on his haughty carriage and wallowed in a reverie of blond English women who wore flesh colored tights (it provided great respite to the eyes from conservative clothing).
This teasing form set its eyes on the New World and cast a come hitherto look in the form of Burlesque performers, The British Blondes. Americans took it like a little duckling to water, bulldozing their way through Indian crowds and trying to catch a glimpse of the strutting beauties. Since then, America has had its Burlesque moments with wisecracks, gags, puns, costumes capable of rousing passions, and blinding lights to create drama galore.
And we are not done yet. We now take you to some of the most popular and glamorous Burlesque dancers who can be credited to heightening male attention and senses.
Had Aristophanes known Dita Von Teese, he would have penned an entire drama on her. A neo Burlesque performer, Von Teese actually aimed to make it big as a ballet dancer. But destiny had other plans for her and us. However, Von Teese passion for Ballet never waned, and she continues to go en pointe in her Burlesque shows, meshing elegance with sexiness. Her penchant and taste for vintage clothing has often landed her on the best dressed lists and led her to sashay the runway for acclaimed fashion designers. She remains popular for her signature act, which shows her bathing in a cocktail glass bedecked with thousands of Swarovski crystals.
Femme Fatale, by every sense of the word, GiGi La Femme is every man’s wildest dream come true. She doesn’t play coy or toy with the audience but bares it all. Her striptease act is one of the most sizzling things one can ever witness on Earth. Co-producer of comic and sensual spectacle ‘Revealed’, GiGi’s decadent stripping act attracts men like a moth to fire. GiGi’s partner in rousing minds, Doc Wasabassco’s vivid pin-up imagination and GiGi’s seamless-without-seeming-lewd, striptease ability, makes ‘Revealed’ a great form of entertainment for couples who throng NYC’s East Village for some steamy inspiration.
From co-hosting America’s Burlesque game show ‘This or That!’ to entertaining with her signature risqué humor, there’s no stopping to Julie Atlas Muz and her wild ways. This cute-faced Burlesque dancer was crowned as ‘Miss Exotic World’ in 2006 and is popular for her ‘mermaid’ routine. One can spot her in a host of happening locations like The Slipper Room, the Slide, The Marquis, The Galapagos, The Va Va Voom Room, The Coral Room, etc. Muz has also given Kate Winslet some sensual lessons for her water sequence for the movie Romance and Cigarettes. Muz is married to UK’s famous funny man Mat Fraser who is also a popular disabled artist in the circuit.
Buxom and large-than-life, The World Famous *BOB* is quite an authority in the Burlesque turf. An enfant terrible to the core, she made her first wild promise as a drag queen. She’s a rage among transsexuals, gays, and straight for her gender-bending ways. Her characteristic Burlesque styling and buoyant personality has led to appearances in many books, magazines, and has been captured in her boldest best by well-known photographers like Patrick McMullan, David LaChapelle, etc. She has also done a cameo in John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus, and helms her own confidence coaching business.
Touted as the ‘Asian Sextation’, Calamity Chang is a bombshell import from Taiwan of whom every bachelor in the world is thankful for. A temptress, Calamity Chang took formal training in Burlesque before hitting the stage. Her sweltering performance can leave New Yorkers drenched in sweat even in the parkiest of winter. Swathed in sparkling rhinestones and grandiose feathers, her striptease act on exotic vintage music is audacious and glamorous. Calamity Chang extended her risque routine to the movie Shame, in 2011, and is seen teaching the art of seducing at the New York School of Burlesque in her free time.
Ask your grandpa about her, and you will probably have him blushing. She is one of the most respected Burlesque dancers who has had a career spanning over 60 years and continues to add luster to Burlesque shows in the Las Vegas region. She started her career as a chorus girl but thanks to her flaming red hair and oomph-lesque measurements, she went out to become a celebrated sex icon and charted out a course for others to follow. No one could resist her allure, not even Elvis Presley, who was blown away by her firecracker personality and quirky sense of humor. A provocateur every inch, she got her bosom, her valuable assets insured for one million dollars.
Mae West captured the hearts of many with her bold and blatant personality. She was a trailblazer in the true sense, who did things that were frowned upon by people in those times. She began her tryst with vaudeville as a teenager, and then turned to its lesser respected kin, Burlesque. Mae West’s proclivity towards double entendres and explicit outlook of sexuality even got her arrested once. But this never dissuaded her; so massive was her popularity that despite being close to 40, she was offered a role in the movie Night after Night. Mae West’s foray into play writing and screen writing was no different than her; whether outrageous or stimulating, it made sure it kept her in the news. Mae West was an envelope pusher who actively supported gay rights and women’s liberation.
Gypsy Rose Lee started her burlesque career as a sub-débutante. Gypsy had gained a status of an ‘intellectual stripper’ by virtue of her ‘on-the-ball’ humor and more attention on ‘tease’ than strip in her striptease act. Gypsy’s tantalizing striptease act soon gave her access to the renowned Minsky’s Burlesque where she performed for four years on the trot and achieved a legendary status as a burlesque dancer. Gypsy’s talents weren’t just constricted to burlesque dancing; she penned the erotic thriller ‘The G-String Murders’, in 1941, which was then translated into the 1943 Barbara Stanwyck starer Lady of Burlesque. During 1950s-1960s, Gypsy regaled the small-screen audiences with her quintessential quick-witted humor and also hosted a chat show. In 1957, she published her autobiography ‘Gypsy: A Memoir’ that led to a successful adaptation in the form of the musical ‘Gypsy’.
Lili St. Cyr’s bold and unrestrained sexuality set the tongues wagging in the 1950s. Every time she appeared on stage, she made sure she fulfilled the carnal promise by casting off her spectacular costumes. Lili gained her first job as a chorine in the famous Florentine Gardens in Hollywood. Despite her failed solo act in a nightclub, she wasn’t shown the door but was given another chance―a chance that she she exploited to the hilt and established herself in the league of the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee and Ann Corio. Her ‘in the buff’ Burlesque routines traveled outside the U.S., and created an air of delirium through her strip-mash-esque performances in Montreal in the 1940s-50s. She also stared in movies like The Miami Story (1954) and The Naked and the Dead (1958) mostly featuring as a striptease artist or as herself. She is remembered for her sensual ‘Bubble Bath’ and her Harem routine in Irving Klaw’s film, Varietease, in 1954.
Ann Corio was quite a rage in Harvard University, no no, she wasn’t a graduate (glad that she wasn’t, or else Harvard couldn’t have been the Harvard as we know of it today) but performed at the Old Howard Theater and even became an honorary member of the Class of 1937. Corio, much like Gypsy Rose Lee, started her Burlesque career at 15, albeit secretively. Her resume, again like Gypsy’s, boasts of massively popular striptease experience at the Minsky’s Burlesque. Corio’s invitingly insufficient costumes in Swamp Woman (1941) and Jungle Siren (1942) kept the whistles blowing. But her heart was truly set on dancing, which drove her to direct and star in the revue ‘This Was Burlesque’ through which she aimed to restore Burlesque to its former glory.
Hollywood has always been smitten by Burlesque, and the following list of movies only testifies it.
- Lady of Burlesque (1943)
- Cabaret (1972)
- Showgirls (1995)
- Striptease (1996)
- Moulin Rouge (2001)
- Chicago (2002)
- Burlesque (2011)
Burlesque may not be alive in its quintessential ‘parody and provoke’ format, but it continues to enjoy popularity through pop culture and scintillating appearances in movies.