Writer Carol J Marshall dives down the rabbit hole to crush the mysteries of modern burlesque dancing. Read part one of a two part series: 

I’m not sure when I started hearing the word Burlesque being tossed around and I’m also not sure when I started to notice that not only the word was being tossed around, but now there were gathering, events, shows to watch. Almost as if an idea had suddenly become a trend.


I’m not comfortable calling Burlesque a trend. Burlesque has been around since 1700’s it’s definitely not a trend perhaps it would be better to say there has in recent years been a reemergence of Burlesque being almost an everyday thing in America. In a group of adults stating that you are attending a Burlesque show is almost as common as saying you’re going to a movie.


This got me wondering about the groove of Burlesque, the tick tock of Burlesque. I have had the overwhelming notion to dig in the dirt of Burlesque and figure it out.  Why? If I have to self analyze myself it’s because I cannot flirt. I am incapable of flirting. I have tried. I have failed.


Burlesque dancers are the ultimate flirts, they tease, they conquer they leave you wanting more and I find that fascinating.  There’s power in being able to have peoples tongues wagging, then giggle and go on with your day.


Also, there’s the fact that my friends were doing it, housewives were doing it, teachers, nurses etc were suddenly in Burlesque troupes.  Burlesque has come to suburbia and I had to find out why.


Before I walk people through me sitting down with a Burlesque dancer to ask the questions that had bounced around my head for several months. I want to make it clear that I have zero interest in becoming a Burlesque dancer, that’s not what this is about.


Take the path of the sociologist in this story, you want to know why they do it, how they do it, but you don’t want to do it.  As I said before I don’t know how to flirt and I would be voted the girl most likely to stab, not blow a kiss.


The Burlesque dancer that was kind enough to grant me her time is an intelligent, feminist who knew exactly why she chooses to participate in Burlesque. She wasn’t just starting. She isn’t trying to figure out why; she’s up on stage shaking her stuff. This dancer who we’ll call K, knows why and it’s not what you think. Let’s toss out some misconceptions. Burlesque=strippers. No, sit down your wrong. Think of it this way, strippers are commerce. Burlesque is theater. K told me that her troupe has a rule “no pink parts” show at any time. A stripper wants you to see her pink parts several times.  Its basic math, let the stripper misconception go.


Anther misconception is the dancers do it for attention. That school teacher I mentioned earlier just needs more pizzazz in her life, so she thrills her husband and freaks out her coworkers by joining a Burlesque troupe. K says this is not so. It’s not about attention; it is about claiming your sexuality.


According to K if women are objectified on a daily basis by society, the media, whatever then getting up on stage and owning your sexuality is powerful. It gives the women back something they lost, maybe it’s telling everybody suck it my sexuality is something to be celebrated not dismissed.


That’s all great for K, but that as me wondering about the audience. I don’t think Joe sitting there watching a Burlesque show for the first time is thinking about K reclaiming her power over objectification. Joe is more than likely wondering how much pink he’ll get to see if any.


Which brings me to the idea that maybe people have to be educated on what Burlesque is before they go in, put the rhinestones and feathers aside Joe needs to know that he won’t see pink and he will see a diverse type of female.


Joe will see all colors, sizes, dimensions of female that will do her best to turn him on without Joe having to toss dollars at her. It’s different; someone should tell Joe to put his wallet away.


All these awesome things K said about sexuality and diversity got me wondering, do different kind of people go to Burlesque than would go to a strip club. Are the Bro’s at the strip club while the hipsters are doing Burlesque?  Did the damn hipsters do this?


Maybe, I am thinking that it takes a refined palate to appreciate Burlesque it’s the high end cut of the pervert culture.  


Towards the end of my conversation with K I believe the point she wanted to get across the most was that Burlesque is theater. It is an expression of art. I believe it was said best when I asked what my writers group thought of when the word Burlesque was said “Temptation with style.”


I still have further to go down my Burlesque hole. Next stop for me is K’s troupe performance, where I can experience it for myself.


Follow Carol on Twitter – @MarshallJCarol

Buy her new book – Starburst (The Women of The Grey Book 1)