What is Burlesque?

               A brief history:

Burlesque is defined as, "an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody." The term comes from the root Italian word, burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery. The term originally referred to literally and musical works but was further developed during the Victorian era between the 1830s and the 1890s. The performance took the form of musical theatre parody in which a well-known opera, play or ballet was adapted into a broad comic play. Usually a musical play, took on a risque theme that mocked the theatrical and musical conventions of the original work. The comedy often stemmed from the incongruity and absurdity of the classical subjects, with realistic historical dress and settings, being juxtaposed with the modern activities portrayed by the performers. 

American burlesque began in New York during the 1840s and changed the scene once again. Bawdy stripteases became prevalent in clubs and cabarets in big cities across the nation. Lavishly costumed performers would sing and dance while stripping. This continued until Prohibition caused a major decline in the burlesque scene in the 1940s. 

In the early 1990s, a group nostalgic for the old time glamour began the burlesque revival in L.A. and New York.  A mix of classical and "neo-burlesque" is what is typically seen at shows today. Neo-burlesque is a more inclusive version of the original; performers can now include men (boylesque) and performances can take on a wild range of themes. The acts tend to put emphasis on style and are sexy rather than sexual. A typical burlesque act usually includes striptease, glittery costumes, bawdy humor, and may incorporate elements of cabaret or circus skills. 

Unlike professional strippers, burlesque performers often perform for fun and spend more money on costumes, rehearsal, and props than they are compensated. Although performers may still strip down to pasties and g-strings,  the purpose is no longer solely sexual gratification for men but self-expression of the performer and, vicariously, the women in the audience. 


              What To Expect At Your First Show:

           A good time! We encourage cheering and pictures (be sure to use those hashtags! #truegritandgrindburlesque). Tipping is very much appreciated, but never "make it rain." We will always have a tip bucket near the stage. Our emcee, Jim Dick will go over show etiquette before the corsets go flying. 


We could talk about it all day long but the fact of the matter is you won’t “get it” until you’ve come to a show! Experiencing it is by far the best way to define it. If you’d like to attend your first burlesque show, here’s our Calendar.