According to the dictionary,
Burlesque is [an] artistic composition, esp. literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.
The first widespread use of the word was as a literary term in 17th century Italy and France, was where it referred to a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic.*
Burlesque came to America by way of England in the 20th century initially for the middle class elite who were versed in operas. These shows would poke fun at the operas by using witty humor and double entendre as a vaudeville act. No one started taking off their clothes until it moved into the “music halls.” The tease grew in popularity and by the time it made it to America in the 20th century, its’ subjects focused on low brow and ribald comedy. Burlesque died out in the 1930s due to a huge moral crackdown but has since made a comeback.
I started thinking about Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” video. Is what Badu did theatrical? Wasn’t what she did just an incense burnin’-veggie-diet-havin’ Burlesque? It was a tease, it was political and a bit of double entendre. Let’s refer to the definition again:
Burlesque is artistic composition, esp. literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.
Maybe Badu was thinking about Josephine Baker. She was the haute classe of the Burlesque world in France. Made a good wage too. The envy of ALL men.
I happened upon TimeOut Chicago the other day and found out that there was a Burlesque Festival last weekend. I didn’t make it but I saw that one of the performers was a woman named Foxy Tann. Ms. Tann’s from Minneapolis and is THE premiere Midwest Burlesque dancer-she seems like quite the performer and doesn’t reveal too much until the end. I admire women who can take their clothes off in front of an audience. Pushing the morality argument aside, Burlesque is definitely theatrical. Seeing the images of women in all shapes and sizes is emancipating (but there’s no way that I could do it.). Look how far Burlesque has come? Check out “Foxy Tan and the Wham-Bam Thank-you Maams!”