What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show, By Dr. Lucky

I’ve been deeply ensconced in burlesque for a while, and I’m constantly reminded that not everyone is privy to my insular world. So I wrote this as an introduction to those who may be curious or interested or concerned. This list is in no way meant to be ‘definitive’ or to ‘set the record straight’ about what to expect at a burlesque show. As with all live performance, the best way to experience burlesque it is to see it in person.

1. A Variety Format Show

Shows usually feature a host or master of ceremonies who keeps the show moving forward, introduces acts, and interacts with the audience, which may include audience participation. Performers often come from a variety of backgrounds and have an array of skill sets, and may include dancers, singers, musicians, circus performers, magicians, comedians, and, yes, striptease artists. In modern burlesque, acts are usually around five minutes, or the length of a pop song, though this can vary widely with ‘talking acts’ or headliners who may perform to a number of songs.

2. Acts that are as Uniquely Different as the Performers

Burlesque performers are not given a ‘script’ – they come up with their stage personas and concepts for their acts; they choose their music, choreograph their numbers, and usually create their own costumes. It is this DIY spirit, and complete control of one’s image, that is so appealing to performers and audience alike. Some performers like to keep their acts in the vein of classic burlesque, bedecked in gowns, panels skirts, boas, fans, gloves, and stockings etc., while others create acts influenced by popular culture, politics, current events, and/or familiar archetypes.
Inga Ingenue. ©Michael Albov (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)Inga Ingenue. ©Michael Albov (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)

3. Acts are Like ‘Mini Plays’

Dixie Evans, the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque and curator of the Exotic World Museum and Competition, described her acts as ‘mini plays’. An act has its own narrative, story, tone, and message. The ending of a striptease act may be more about a resolution of the tension of the story, or the delivering of a punch line, then it is solely about the physical reveal. That said, the reveal and the message are often intertwined, and can be dependent on each other. Burlesque acts, like other narratives, take the audience on a journey.

4. Over the Top Presentation of Self

You probably won’t see a parade of ‘girl-next-door’ realness at a burlesque show. Makeup is excessive, hair is big (often a wig), and costumes are elaborate. The performance style is more like Brechtian presentation than Aristotelian representation – think clowns, buffoons, and drag queens. The burlesque condition known as ‘Swarovski-itis’ is a serious affliction that compels performers to want to put rhinestones on EVERYTHING. Expect to be blinded by the light.

5. No Fourth Wall

With most traditional theatre or performance genres, there’s an ‘invisible’ fourth wall that divides performers from the audience. There’s no such thing in burlesque. This makes burlesque more participatory and engaging than your typical entertainment experience. In fact, the audience is an integral part of a burlesque show, and it is that carnivalesque (Bahktin) spirit that is so much fun for audience and performers. I can’t think of many social situations where it is not just acceptable to scream at a performer as she performs, but expected. Audience members don’t have to sit, hands folded on lap, and wait until the end of the show to show their appreciation. They do it along the way – with claps, hoots, hollers and screams of laughter and approval. And that’s just the way the performers like it.

6. A Mixed Audience Comprised Mostly of Women and Couples

An audience at burlesque show tends to be mixed, and the demographics run the gamut from grandmas to girls out for a night on the town. Although it depends on the venue, producer, and the show, burlesque shows are most often very women-friendly. Rarely do you see primarily male audiences, except perhaps at a boylesque show. Couples are frequent attendees. Heteronormativity is not the expected norm.

7. Blue Humour and Content

Some would argue that blue humour and content of burlesque is its most important and defining characteristic. But like at a burlesque show, you might have to wait for the blue content. Furthermore, blue humour does not necessarily have to be explicitly ‘dirty’. It can be the implication of a double entendre, the delivery of a line with a wink and a nudge. So put your thinking cap on, otherwise you might miss the joke.
Aurora Galore. ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)Aurora Galore. ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)

8. Modern Political and Social Conscientiousness

Modern burlesque is the thinking person’s performance art wrapped up in a sparkly package. You may want to be up on current events before you come to a show. Politics and social commentary are often very central to burlesque acts. And even if not overt, there’s still something political about performers doing whatever they want on stage, force feeding it to an audience, and getting the audience to beg for more. This can be terrifying to those who want to keep established gender roles in place, and is often a driving force behind fear or censorship of burlesque and burlesque performers.

9. Burlesque is Parody

If there’s one thing that has been consistent about burlesque since its inception, it is parody. Parody was an intrinsic part of burlesque, even before striptease emerged. In fact, ‘to burlesque’ a thing means to poke fun at it. Nothing escapes burlesque’s parodic grip, and it is that inversion of high and low that is the delicious raison d’être of burlesque. So don’t be surprised if something you hold up as sacred is poked fun at, or something you think frivolous (or perhaps deviant) is celebrated and elevated. This is what burlesque does – it inverts social norms, pokes fun, and, ultimately, is meant to BE fun. Comedy is the central tenet to this fun.

10. Expect the Unexpected

‘Wait a minute. Dr. Lucky. I just went to my first burlesque show, and it was not what you described.’ Welcome to the world of burlesque! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from burlesque in the past fifteen plus years, it is that the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. As with any kind of live performance, the best way to experience it is to go to a show. Go with an open mind. And expect to be entertained.

NOTE: Wish you could include this in your next program? You can! Feel free to use ‘What to Expect at a Burlesque Show’ for your program, your website, or to send to reporters and/or local concerned community members. If this article is reused in part or in whole, author credit is required (‘Dr. Lucky’), with a note to the author (doctorofburlesque@yahoo.com) about where and when the reprint is published. All rights reserved, 2014.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Kay Sera and Taro Baugham for feedback on an earlier draft of this essay.

Dr. Lucky

These Aliexpress Wig Ads are Pretty Funny

Even as adults, we all go through phases. And ever since my mom showed me her massive wig collection from Aliexpress, I’ve been corrupted. Hers weren’t my style at all, but when she told me how cheap they were I went on a shopping spree and still haven’t stopped. But as I sit here at 3am browsing through pages of wigs in all lengths and colors, I’m coming across some ads that are kind of funny, or just strange. Maybe it’s just that something has been lost in translation? Have a look for yourself.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 1.52.38 AMI have no idea what’s going on with that little hat. Was somebody trying to show off their mad photoshop skills?

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.21.56 AMThis Elsa wig is literally a drawing.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.32.19 AMHey I got my kids’ soccer practice right now but we should totally hook up later.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.46.48 AMIt looks like they’re trying to protect this wig’s identity. I don’t understand.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.22.45 AMSpeaking of censorship, is this mannequin’s mouth doing something we’re not supposed to see?

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.40.12 AMI can’t even guess what this mannequin’s neck is doing, but it must be filthy.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 5.05.38 AM

These pigtails are tied with dicks. For some reason.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.49.48 AMIt’s nice to finally see a shopping site acknowledging a man’s right to wear really girly hair.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.50.37 AMI think they need to get their eyes checked, or I do. Nevertheless, I bought this one.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.39.28 AMIf green is now pink, straight is now curly.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.59.19 AMPro tip: Don’t buy your mom a wig labelled for “old women.”

Anyway, I haven’t been gone, I’ve just been silent. If you’ve missed me in the meantime, feel free to check out my new twitter page @TheAvaStrange. Until next time!

Meet Ginger, our first foster fail

It wouldn’t quite be fair to call this a fail. Although I had been strongly considering fostering more and adopting less, for financial reasons as well as wanting to help out as many dogs as possible, once Lulu died there was an open space in our home that was just too tempting to fill. Ginger, a daschund/chihuahua cross was rescued after living for two years outdoors on a two foot leash with nothing but an uninsulated dog house to shield her from the coldest weather. It’s amazing that she survived, and she was unconscious when she was finally rescued. True, she was the first new dog to come along, as she arrived to our home the very same night that Lulu suddenly left us. But Mr. Strange, as much as he adores all animals, is a fussy guy when it comes to choosing his favorites, and according to him he would have been in trouble with this little temptress either way. It takes a lot to enamor him so completely. Our forever-puppy loved him back too, and it’s always hard to picture that moment that looks like betrayal, when we hand them off to go to their new homes after for all we know they thought this was it, especially knowing we may very well not ever see them again. It hurts, and to think that this one will not have to endure that moment, that this one can be right in her happy assumptions that we are her new family, is just too tempting. Besides, there was a practical aspect to this as well, one I very carefully considered.

Usually a dog will choose their favorite, their love at first sight, and this person will be basically their one and only. For Ginger, this is most definitely Mr. Strange, but she has a lot of affection for me as well and won’t hesitate to follow me around the house asking me to play with her. She also happens to like the cats, and in this rare case they actually seem to like her back. She’s been chasing them all over the place, wagging her little tail hoping for a game of tag, and not once yet has she been smacked in the face for it. Then as tempting as it is to keep the saddest most unfortunate dog we find, who we can assume will have a tougher time impressing potential families, we considered that her happiness would be infectious and therefor beneficial to other foster dogs in our care who may need a bit of a pick-me-up from someone of their own species. So to put it simply, she just fits with us. We were able to open our hearts to one of these dogs on permanent basis and the one who fit the bill was the very first one who came along. Mr. Strange says that she was sent to us by Lulu herself.

I can’t wait until the weather warms up and I can take Ginger out for walks, watching her tiny little legs toddle happily down the sidewalk. With Lulu gone and a fur-maternal instinct begging for a way to be expressed, I want to spoil her, give her toys to tear to pieces and buy her shoes to keep her little feet warm in the snow. And when her tiny body is too tired or too cold to keep going I can tuck her into my big bag and take her home where she’ll help us in our mission to change dogs’ lives. Welcome to the family, Ginger!

Ginger

2012 In Review – New Year’s Bonus Post

I got my annual review, and I thought it was pretty cool, so I’ve decided to share it with you all. I also just didn’t feel like waiting until the 5th to post again, so you get a bonus.

As for what I’m working on, on the 5th I will be posting my tutorial on triple reverse ombre, aka “OMBRE EXTREME!!!”, because you have all been sharing the love so much with my first ombre tutorial, and this one not only simplifies the process but will also definitely kick it up a notch. Then in no particular order I will post a review on snoods, take on slut shaming and corseting for permanent waist reduction, and a rant on reproductive health. Beyond that I’m planning to have a guest writer, burlesque artist Scarlet Divine, who will let us in on her corset journey so you don’t just have to take my word for everything. And I plan to do my first giveaway! There’s so much awesome stuff I just can’t wait to show you, so I really hope you stick around.

And now I present you with my bot-generated year in review!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 64,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.