The Rise of New Burlesque

The last decade has seen burlesque in the UK becoming a thriving, popular and – in some areas – mainstream industry; a far cry from the underground movement where neo-burlesque began. Burlesque and vintage fashion and styles have come back into fashion, shows have moved from pub venues to West End theatre stages and the number of new performers coming onto the scene continues to rise. Burlesque has even become popular in dance classes, often for those with no performance background (as evidenced by the popularity of our burlesque hen parties across the UK, and our weekly classes in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff). But why has burlesque boomed so much in the last 10 years?

Vintage Revival
The vintage revival of the noughties can be seen to run almost parallel to the rise of new burlesque in the 21st century and this is no coincidence. The two go hand in hand in many respects; aspects of fashion prevalent in both burlesque and the vintage revival, such as circle skirts and pin-up hairstyles are hugely popular. Music is another area of crossover, with lots of numbers from the 1940s and 1950s being used in burlesque performance, as well as packing out the dance floor in contemporary rockabilly club nights. Both burlesque and vintage style have experienced a resurgence in recent years and have grown side by side.

Empowerment / Feeling Good About Yourself
The ‘empowerment’ aspect of burlesque has played a massive role in the increase in popularity of the genre over the last few years. Far from being a tawdry, secretive past time, burlesque has given women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and styles, the confidence to step onstage and celebrate themselves for who they are. This is apparent in our own classes and workshops; the Academy of Burlesque & Cabaret has introduced hundreds of ladies to the magical world of burlesque, helping them gain confidence as they explore their burlesque alter egos, before stepping up to perform with a confidence and poise many of them could not ever have imagined.

Fabulous ladies posing after one of our burlesque hen parties!
Fabulous ladies posing after one of our burlesque hen parties!

Artistic Expression
The freedom of creativity offered by burlesque as a performance genre has been a draw for many artistes, a lot of whom hail from different backgrounds (acting, circus, singers, other types of dance) but have chosen to channel their creative expression via burlesque. Whether they are incorporating other skills, merging genres or turning burlesque on its head by completely subverting the norm, these performers have chosen burlesque as their performance medium.

But why? Arguably, it could be attributed to the sheer freedom of artistic expression that burlesque offers, quite unlike any other theatre or dance style. EVERYTHING that you put onstage in your act is yours; from initial concept, to costuming, music, choreography, style, movement, the extent of the ‘reveal’ and the delivery of the act. You can script your burlesque performance with a freedom, uninhibited by other creative input (unlike, say an actor following the instructions in a script, telling them to play a part in a certain way) and as such, burlesque offers an exceptional and unique freedom of artistic expression.

Whatever the reasons (and these are just a few ideas, based on our experience of the UK burlesque scene) burlesque is clearly back, bigger and better than ever, offering parody, humour, glamour and tease to an ever-increasing audience.

Check out The ABC Guide to Burlesque blog, as we look at all the different kinds of burlesque happening in the world today.