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Spectacular, Erotic, and Slightly Shocking: A Timeline of American Burlesque

With 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 burlesque as more graphic and accessible performance became commonplace — until the renewal of the art form in the neo-burlesque revival of the 1990s and 2000s. Using photos, posters, and artifacts from dancers including Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, and Blaze Starr, Spectacular, Erotic, and Slightly Shocking takes visitors to the Burlesque Hall of Fame on a trip through the the foundational moments in American burlesque.