The ABC Guide to Burlesque: Part 2

Welcome back to the ABC’s Guide to Burlesque! This week we will be exploring some more of the sub-genres of burlesque, each with a unique flair and defining style of their own.

Cheesecake Burlesque
First up is ‘Cheesecake’ burlesque (which has nothing to do with food, before you ask; that’s a whole different genre of its own, which we won’t go into here!) Cheesecake burlesque is a popular trope in the genre, often inspired by the classic pin-up imagery of the 1940s and 50s. Popular artists of that time, such as Gil Elvgren, created cute, kitsch artworks featuring a host of lovely ladies (think: the cute, innocent, girl next door, waving or blowing a kiss) which remain popular today, inspiring books, calendars and of course burlesque. Adopting cheeky poses, these ladies would often find their skirts blown up by a naughty gust of wind (ooh, cheeky!) or trapped in a door… revealing a saucy bit of leg!

One of Elvgren's famous pin-ups
One of Elvgren’s famous pin-ups

Cheesecake burlesque is a massively popular sub-genre of the art form, arguably because it is a safe, accessible and not-too-sexy style of performance. For newer performers, not yet overly confident in their stage presence, cheesecake provides a cheeky veil behind which they can project their character without coming across as overtly sexual or aggressive. Instead, they play the naïve girl next door. However, there’s often more to that girl than meets the eye and as the routine progresses, you’ll often find that their inner vamp cannot help but reveal herself!
Classic 1950s star Bettie Page epitomises the cheesecake style; beautiful but unassuming, she drove men wild with her sweet smile and cheeky wink, something which many performers today still pay homage to in their style or acts. It’s also worth noting that Bettie was also famous for her fetish films with the infamous Irving Klaw, but that’s a story for another day…

Bump n’ Grind Burlesque
Next, we’ll move on to ‘Bump n’ Grind’ burlesque. A fusion-genre, it’s a perfect example of burlesque’s tendency to draw inspiration from and parody another type of performance; in this case, bellydance. Bump n’ grind burlesque centres on the bumps, grinds, swivels and gyrations of the body, mainly the hips, to create a fascinating style of performance. Costumes for bump n’ grind numbers usually feature layers of beading and fringe (particularly on the pants and bra) which work perfectly with the style of movement to create a hypnotic visual.

Leading US burlesque star Michelle L’Amour (tagline: ‘The ass that goes pow!’) has forged an incredibly successful career in the neo-burlesque scene thanks to her amazing control and skill of her derriere! Her pelvic control is incredible, rendering her able to create seemingly effortless routines simply around bump n’ grind, with a little bit of shimmy-shaking thrown in for good measure!

What’s that I hear you say… men do burlesque too? They certainly do! Boylesque is a recognised sub-genre in the world of burlesque, so much so that it’s now celebrated with its own awards within the burlesque community  and its own festivals too (New York Boylesque Festival celebrated their 3rd successful year in 2013). New York burlesque star Tigger is widely-known as ‘The Original King of Boylesque’, having won the first ever title of ‘Mr Exotic World’ at the 2006 Miss Exotic World pageant.
Here at the ABC, we have our own resident boylesquer, Impressive  Johnson. Graduating from our Edinburgh performance classes several years ago, he’s become an integral part of our shows, playing a pivotal role in our Comedy Can-Can as well as doing his own solo work.

Impressive Johnson
Impressive Johnson

Boylesque performances can vary hugely; from camp, comedy skits, to glamorous, classically inspired pieces, to an almost more Chippendale-style performance, boylesque continues to grow and diversify as more and more men take to the burlesque stage in the 21st century.

That brings us to the end of Part 2 of The ABC’s Guide to Burlesque. Join us next week for the next instalment, where we’ll be looking at Sing & Fling Burlesque, Alternative Burlesque and Polesque!

Part 3 is now live, check it out: The ABC Guide to Burlesque – Part 3.