Burlesque in New York Nightlife
By Gamal Hennessy
She steps on the stage in a full length gown, long glovesand high heels when the music starts. By the end of the song, she’s onlywearing the heels and a pair of tasseled sequin pasties on her nipples. Whathappened in between is part strip tease, part comedy and part history lesson.This isn’t Scores or Tens or the Hustler Club. This is burlesque and you areprobably missing it.
What it was. What it is
Burlesque is a form of variety show that started in Europeand eventually made its way to America. It used to include all sorts of actsbut modern burlesque really boils down to X-rated comedy, a little music and alot of women taking off their clothes in a Boardwalk Empire type atmosphere.Picture Eddie Murphy in Delirious backed up by a jazz band and a constantparade of thongs. Add a large quantity of liquor and a crowd of men and womencheering like they are at the Super Bowl and you have a good idea of what theshow is like.
The resurgence in burlesque started in the 1990’s. Most ofthe performances are done by small collectives who perform in art houses, barsand lounges but there is also a professional circuit where full time burlesqueperformers travel from city to city, enter competitions, perform in majorfestivals and become famous for the way they twirl their pasties. The art formhas become so prevalent that there are burlesque shows in New York every week,almost every day.
The appeal of burlesque is the element of controlled risqué. It is stripping with a more artistic feelthan normal pole dancing. It has an underground feel without being threatening.It encourages an acceptable kind of voyeurism and exhibitionism and burlesque crowdsoften contain as many cross dressers, divas and other assorted characters asthe actual show. If you are bored with the nightlife you currently live, try anight of burlesque for a different type of thrill.
Where to Find It
The 8th Annual New York Burlesque Festival hit BBKings last weekend, but if you missed that show you can find regular burlesqueperformances at Bamboo 52, Bar 9, Carnival, Hells Gate Social, Honey, TriadTheater, and Vig 27. Check the individual websites for dates and times.