Dancing the Revolution: Feminism in Burlesque History

Lada Redstar performs at Burlesque Hall of FameMost burlesque dancers throughout history would not have considered themselves “feminists”. In fact, many clashed with the feminists of the day who were attacking their livelihoods. But feminist principles are found throughout burlesque’s history. Women in burlesque defied social and gender norms to assert themselves and their bodies. As artists, as workers, and as women, burlesque performers practiced on stage the ideals that feminists put forth in their books, essays, and speeches.

In the 19th century, when women were better appreciated as unseen, unheard helpmeets and homemakers, burlesque performers made women and women’s place very visible...

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Body of Work: Midcentury Burlesque Through the Lens of F. Roy Kemp

Blaze Starr by F. Roy KempCanadian photojournalist F. Roy Kemp spent the 1950s documenting the New York burlesque scene, producing thousands of images that give us a glimpse into the public and private lives of performers unparalleled in other photographers’ work. Through October 2019, the Burlesque Hall of Fame will feature selections of this work, with images of burlesque superstars like Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr, Zorita, and Jennie Lee, as well as lesser-known performers like Zizi Richards and Naja Karamuru.

Kemp shot pin-ups, but he was decidedly not a pin-up photographer. His best shots catch his subjects on stage, backstage, and in their homes. Kemp’s photos present an almost ethnographic view of the live of a working performer...

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Becoming Burlesque

In 1927, struggling vaudevillean Rose Louise Hovick stepped onto a burlesque stage for the first time, transforming herself into the urbane, sophisticated stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Burlesque has always been a domain of transformation, allowing ambitious farmgirls, impoverished workers, and runaways of all kinds to become new people, to become fantasies.

Becoming Burlesque

Today’s burlesque makes a point of welcoming all comers. Most performers create their own costumes, choreography, and stage identities, and embrace newcomers regardless of their age, appearance, ethnicity, sexuality, or level of physical ability. “Sexy” lies not so much in one’s looks or body type but in the confidence of your step, the knowing wink, the slow tease, and the courage to bare it all.

Step into our Bawdy Shop Studio and...

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Spectacular, Erotic, and Slightly Shocking: A Timeline of Burlesque in the United States

Image from Timeline of Burlesque HistoryWith roots in the tragicomedies of ancient Greece, American burlesque first emerged in 1860s. Driven by the industrial working class’ hunger for entertainment, an individualistic mindset at odds with the Victorian morality of turn-of-the-century America, the poverty of the Great Depression and the economic resurgence of World War II, burlesque endured while closely related art forms like vaudeville and minstrelsy faded from view. The Burlesque Hall of Fame’s permanent exhibition, Spectacular, Erotic, and Slightly Shocking: A Timeline of American Burlesque, explores the development of burlesque in America from the earliest flashes of tight-clad legs through the invention of the striptease and the ascendancy of burlesque stars to American folk heroes and ultimately to the decline of burles...

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