In their latest piece for the Village Voice, writer Alessandra Schade reports on the past, present and future of burlesque. The art form, writes Schade, has gone through many transformations and challenges. From moving through censorship to feminist critique, queer culture, female empowerment, gym classes and modern reality shows, burlesque has touched all areas of culture.
“More than a hundred years after its emergence in America as a scandalously popular form of taboo entertainment, burlesque has entered a new phase, where it can be said to be anything, adopted by everyone, and understood by no one,” writes Schade. “At its heart, burlesque has always been a practice of wildly theatrical experimentation with identity, a world of cross-dressing and disruptive sex play, where women have dared to defy the rules of social propriety to exploit and subvert the gazes of men, women, and culture. Now, though, the identity of burlesque itself is in crisis. As mass-market permutations of burlesque sweep through the gyms, streaming services, and night-school classes of mainstream America, serious burlesque performers who treasure the radical, destabilizing values of the art are feeling marginalized and misunderstood.”