What’s the Big Deal about Burlesque?
It’s true that the burlesque scene has exploded in the last ten to fifteen years with the rise of such an amazing stars as Dita Von Teese and Dirty Martini, but really, burlesque never died — it just wasn’t as visible to the public. With the recent production of movies like Moulin Rouge (Nicole Kidman) and Burlesque (Christina Aguilera and Cher) the inherent beauty of burlesque was made relevant to pop culture and the public felt like they had been given access to an otherwise “underworld” industry.
So what is it that makes burlesque so appealing to the masses? From the audience’s perspective, it is simple. Who wouldn’t want to watch a beautiful woman dance around on the stage and strip down to next to nothing?!? That’s a no-brainer. However, the question becomes … why does the entertainer become a part of the industry in the first place? What’s so appealing about it? Is it the sound of the audience’s applause? Is it the deep need to have a career in entertainment but just not on Broadway? Is it the need to feel wanted and beautiful?
The answer is, of course, yes to all of these. So I thought I would take a moment and explain to you why it is that Lady Grey does what she does, because, just like everyone else, it is multi-faceted.
Why Burlesque is Important to Me
1. I love to entertain. I’ve been a dancer my entire life, and there’s nothing more appealing to me then putting a smile on someone’s face or my helping them to feel something different – more real and more alive than they did before they walked in the door.
2. I have been tap dancing for 30 years, and I’ve taught for 27 years. I have finally reached the point in my career where I feel like I have stagnated, and it’s time to discover something new. For a while, I struggled, thinking that I should be teaching teachers how to teach. I may still do that, but as far as entertaining goes, I am no longer young enough to keep up with the spring chickens who are creating excellent tap works on the New York City and LA scenes.
What I do have is a maturity and an understanding of audience appeal, vernacular jazz, and vintage dance like swing and Charleston that I’ve never explored as a performer. So for me this is an opportunity to fuse my exceptional tap experience with those vintage styles and be able to explore a new art form.
3. I’m deeply in love with old Hollywood and the Roaring Twenties. Some of this is due to the magical music that existed in that day in age — the melodies that are so timeless, that we recognize and have grown to love — from Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing to simple songs like Jeepers Creepers. Many times, that iconic music had accompanying movement that was immortalized on film or made famous by a dance that got passed on through the generations. However, there are scads of songs that have not been danced to their fullest!
Because of lack of exposure to current audiencegoers, there are also many famous numbers that are quickly being lost. My goal is to resurrect numbers from the greats – such as Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Josephine Baker, and more.
4. Last week, a good friend said this to me: “You remind me of Gypsy Rose Lee’s more attractive granddaughter. You truly do have that classic 30s to 50s sophisticated side of the coin — that classic demure above, degenerate below look of Rose, Lily, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly — as opposed to the overt sex bomb looks of Tempest, Blaze, Monroe, etc. In short, though, you are a strikingly attractive woman.” What more could a woman ask for than to be compared to the likes of THAT list? Oh my goodness. I felt beautiful. And as if people other than me thought so too.
So here I sit, drumming up tons of ideas for my burlesque career, realizing that the “why” behind burlesque is because it is freeing and it makes people happy. What more excuse does one need? People who view burlesque work as objectifying women are so very, very far from the truth. For many of us, it is the path to freedom, self-acceptance, and finding our voice.
Lovelies, I must go now, but I would love to hear from my burlesque sisters out there. What are your thoughts on the intrigue of burlesque?