Exploring What is a Burlesque Show – A Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on burlesque shows! In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of burlesque, exploring its history, the beauty of stripping down, the power of confidence it brings, and its impact on self-expression and empowerment. If you’ve ever been curious about what a burlesque show entails, you’ve come to the right place!

Burlesque is a form of theatrical striptease that has captivated American audiences for more than 150 years. It is a versatile art form that can be playful, sensual, comedic, or emotional, allowing performers to express themselves in unique and empowering ways. Over time, burlesque has evolved, and today, it has expanded to become a space for self-love, creative expression, and body positivity.

In this guide, we will uncover the illustrious history of burlesque, highlighting notable performers who have embraced the art form to challenge beauty standards and celebrate their individuality. We will also dive into the transformative power of burlesque, examining how it builds confidence and empowers performers both on and off the stage.

To fully understand the enchanting world of burlesque, we will explore the vibrant culture and community surrounding it. From local venues in Washington D.C. to iconic troupes and unique performances, we will take you on a journey into the heart of the burlesque scene.

Key Takeaways:

  • Burlesque is a theatrical form of striptease that has been captivating American audiences for over 150 years.
  • Neo-burlesque, emerged in the 21st century, embracing self-love, creativity, and body positivity.
  • Performers like Bebe Bardeaux and GiGi Holliday have found empowerment and challenged beauty standards through burlesque.
  • Burlesque costumes are meticulously designed to showcase performers’ curves and add to the mesmerizing tease element.
  • Burlesque shows feature a variety of music styles, adding to the immersive experience and showcasing the diverse nature of the art form.

The Beauty and Confidence of Stripping Down in Burlesque

Burlesque, as an art form, celebrates the beauty of the human body in all its diverse forms. Performers like Bebe Bardeaux have embraced burlesque as a means of embracing their own bodies and encouraging others to do the same. Through burlesque dance and performance, individuals find a space where they can love and emphasize the parts of their bodies they may have once been embarrassed about.

In her mesmerizing acts, Bebe Bardeaux uses eye-catching elements like glitter and beads to showcase and celebrate her unique features. By doing so, she inspires others to embrace and celebrate their own unique qualities. This emphasis on self-love and body positivity is at the heart of burlesque, where each performer has the freedom to define and showcase their beauty in their own way.

One of the striking elements of burlesque performances is the meticulously designed costumes. Burlesque costumes are a blend of traditional burlesque elements and modern fashion, creating visually stunning and tantalizing outfits. These costumes are specifically tailored to highlight the performers’ curves and add to the tease element, enhancing the overall performance experience.

Take, for example, the stunning corsets, feather boas, and intricate lingerie commonly seen in burlesque performances. These costumes are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve to enhance the performers’ movements, creating an immersive and captivating experience for the audience.

The attention to detail in burlesque costumes extends beyond just the garments themselves. Accessories such as gloves, stockings, and headpieces are carefully chosen to complement the overall look and add to the allure of the performance.

The beauty and confidence of stripping down in burlesque lie not only in the physical aspects but also in the emotional journey of self-acceptance and empowerment. Burlesque dance and performance provide a safe and nurturing space for individuals to celebrate their bodies, unleash their creativity, and build confidence in their own unique beauty.

Strip away the layers of self-doubt and embrace your true beauty. Burlesque opens the door to self-love and body celebration like no other art form. – Bebe Bardeaux

Elements of a Mesmerizing Burlesque Costume

Costume Element Description
Corsets Tight-fitting garments that accentuate the performers’ curves and create an hourglass figure.
Feather Boas Luxurious and playful accessories that add texture, movement, and a touch of glamour to the performances.
Intricate Lingerie Elegant undergarments adorned with lace, sequins, and other decorative elements that tease and reveal glimpses of the performers’ bodies.
Gloves Long, fitted gloves that elongate the performers’ arms and add a touch of elegance and sensuality to their movements.
Stockings Sheer or patterned stockings that enhance the allure of the performers’ legs and emphasize their movements.
Headpieces Elaborate accessories worn on the head, such as fascinators or tiaras, that add a touch of drama and sophistication to the overall look.

The art of burlesque dance and performance celebrates the beauty of the human body and empowers individuals to embrace their uniqueness. Through meticulously designed costumes and the freedom to explore their own definition of beauty, performers can confidently strip down and captivate audiences with their mesmerizing acts.

The Confidence-Boosting Power of Burlesque

Burlesque artist GiGi Holliday knows firsthand the transformative power of burlesque on confidence and self-worth. The combination of movement, performance, and self-expression in burlesque can have a profound impact on one’s sense of empowerment.

One of the unique aspects of burlesque is its ability to incorporate elements of comedy, allowing performers to step into characters and explore their comedic talents. This combination of burlesque comedy and striptease creates a space for performers to express themselves in a lighthearted and entertaining manner. The audience’s laughter and enjoyment enhance the performer’s confidence and reinforce the positive impact of their act.

Furthermore, the theatrical nature of burlesque adds another layer of empowerment. The elaborate costumes, captivating stage presence, and carefully choreographed routines transport performers and audience members alike to a world where self-expression and sensuality are celebrated. The confidence built on stage translates into everyday life, empowering performers to embrace their unique identities and express themselves authentically.

“Burlesque gave me the permission to be me, to express my sensuality and to explore my comedic side. It was a transformative experience that boosted my confidence both on and off the stage,”

says GiGi Holliday.

Burlesque theater provides a safe and inclusive environment where performers can let go of inhibitions and challenge societal norms. It offers a platform for individuals of all backgrounds, body types, and gender identities to confidently showcase their talent, beauty, and creativity.

The confidence-boosting power of burlesque extends beyond the stage, infiltrating performers’ everyday lives. The skills gained from burlesque, such as body positivity, self-expression, and the ability to command attention, have a lasting impact, empowering individuals to embrace their authenticity and stand tall in a world that often tries to dictate their worth.

burlesque striptease

Benefits of Burlesque for Confidence Examples
Enhances self-esteem and self-worth The act of performing on stage in front of an audience can boost an individual’s confidence by affirming their talents.
Promotes self-expression Through burlesque comedy and striptease, performers can express themselves creatively, embracing their unique personalities.
Celebrates sensuality Burlesque provides a space where performers can explore their sensuality and embrace their bodies without judgment.
Encourages authenticity Burlesque empowers individuals to be themselves, unapologetically embracing their identities and defying societal expectations.

Exploring the World of Burlesque Shows

Attending a burlesque show is a great way to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of burlesque culture. In Washington D.C., several venues host regular burlesque shows, providing an exciting and diverse entertainment experience. Some of the notable venues include:

  • Bier Baron
  • The Birchmere
  • SAX Dinner Theater & Lounge
  • The Howard Theatre

These venues are known for their unique atmospheres and offer a platform for talented performers to showcase their burlesque artistry. Troupes like DC Gurly Show and DMVariety are recognized for their exceptional performances and contribute to the thriving burlesque scene in the city.

Burlesque shows are not just about the performances; they also celebrate the rich and diverse facets of burlesque culture. One important element is the music. Burlesque shows feature a wide range of music styles that elevate the overall experience. From classic jazz tunes that take you back in time to modern pop hits that add a contemporary twist, the music creates an immersive atmosphere and enhances the overall ambiance of the show.

Burlesque culture is deeply intertwined with other art forms and movements, such as queer culture and punk culture. This fusion brings a unique edge to the performances, making them even more captivating and thought-provoking. It showcases the inclusive nature of the burlesque community, embracing diversity and empowering performers to express themselves authentically.

burlesque music

Sample Burlesque Show Playlist

Song Title Artist
Feeling Good Nina Simone
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend Marilyn Monroe
Fever Peggy Lee
Burlesque Christina Aguilera
Puttin’ on the Ritz Taco

Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to the world of burlesque, attending a live show is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a chance to delve into the captivating culture, witness extraordinary performances, and be part of a supportive and inclusive community.

Embracing Burlesque History

As a burlesque performer and historian, Bebe Bardeaux emphasizes the importance of delving into the rich history of burlesque. Understanding the roots and evolution of this art form allows performers to pay tribute to those who paved the way and build upon their legacy. Burlesque history is a fascinating journey that reveals the art’s profound cultural impact and its ability to challenge societal norms.

In the vibrant burlesque scene of Washington D.C., the art form has evolved into its own unique style, embracing political acts, drag kings, and fat burlesque. This departure from traditional glitz and glamor highlights the inclusive nature of burlesque and celebrates diverse bodies and identities. Burlesque has become a platform for self-expression, breaking barriers, and promoting a more inclusive society.

Moreover, burlesque history is intertwined with queer and punk culture, adding a distinct and rebellious flavor to the art form. From its early roots in the vaudeville era to its embrace of feminism and empowerment, burlesque has served as an outlet for marginalized communities to express themselves authentically and challenge social conventions.

burlesque history

Sample Table: Influential Burlesque Performers

Name Style Achievements
Bebe Bardeaux Sensual and comedic Winner of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Queen of Burlesque title
Gigi Holliday Daring and theatrical Renowned for her political acts and fierce stage presence
Dita Von Teese Glamorous and classic Revived interest in burlesque globally and elevated the art form to new heights
Michelle L’amour Seductive and innovative Creator of the renowned “Butthoven’s 5th Symphony” act

Exploring the work of influential burlesque performers can provide inspiration, serve as a source of education, and ignite the creative spark within. Their unique styles, captivating performances, and groundbreaking contributions have left an indelible mark on the world of burlesque, making them icons to be celebrated and revered.

Discovering Your Burlesque Persona

Once inspired, individuals can embark on the journey of discovering their own burlesque persona. Whether an individual prefers to keep it simple or go all out, the key is authenticity. Creating a persona that reflects one’s unique style and story is paramount in the world of burlesque. By experimenting with costumes, makeup, and stage presence, performers can fully embrace their identity and express themselves in a way that feels true to who they are.

Burlesque provides a platform for self-discovery and creativity, allowing individuals to channel their artistic abilities and showcase their unique personalities. Developing a burlesque persona is a personal and empowering process that allows performers to celebrate their individuality and captivate audiences with their own distinct charm.

Through burlesque, individuals can explore different aspects of their personality and shed societal expectations. It’s an opportunity to release inhibitions and fully embrace one’s desires and fantasies. The burlesque stage becomes a place of self-expression, where performers can liberate themselves and create a persona that represents their truest, most authentic self.

Experimenting with Costumes and Makeup

Costumes and makeup are essential elements in creating a captivating and memorable burlesque persona. Performers have the freedom to design and assemble costumes that reflect their desired image. From glamorous gowns to edgy corsets, the possibilities are endless. Makeup, too, plays a crucial role in adding depth and enhancing the overall stage presence.

By experimenting with different styles, themes, and colors, performers can accentuate their unique features and bring their persona to life. Whether it’s classic vintage beauty or bold and avant-garde aesthetics, the choice of makeup can further highlight the essence of one’s burlesque persona.

Expressing Through Stage Presence

Stage presence is an integral part of a burlesque performance. It encompasses how a performer carries themselves, moves on stage, and interacts with the audience. Developing a captivating stage presence involves finding a balance between confidence, charisma, and vulnerability.

Performers can explore various movement styles, from graceful and sensual to vivacious and energetic, to convey their personality and captivate the audience’s attention. Engaging with the audience through eye contact, smiles, and playful gestures adds an interactive and immersive element to the performance.

“When I step onto the stage, I become someone larger than life—a persona that embodies my deepest desires and brings them to life. Burlesque has allowed me to express parts of myself that I never knew existed, and it has been an incredible journey of self-discovery and empowerment.” – Eva Mystique

Embracing Individuality and Celebrating Uniqueness

At the core of burlesque lies the celebration of individuality and the freedom to be oneself. Each performer brings their own unique style, story, and personality to the stage. From the extravagant to the minimalist, burlesque embraces diversity and encourages performers to embrace what makes them special.

By embracing their individuality, performers create an intimate connection with the audience. Audiences are drawn to the authenticity and vulnerability expressed through a performer’s burlesque persona. It’s the uniqueness of each performer that makes the burlesque experience captivating and unforgettable.

burlesque persona

Discovering one’s burlesque persona is a liberating and empowering process. It allows individuals to step into their own spotlight, unearth hidden desires, and share their art with the world. Whether it’s a demure seductress, a mischievous cutie, or a fearless seductress, a burlesque persona is a reflection of the performer’s true essence, empowering them to embrace their creativity and showcase their unique personality.

Putting Yourself Out There in Burlesque

Burlesque offers various opportunities for individuals to get involved beyond performing on stage. One such opportunity is “kittening,” which involves stage-managing and assisting performers during shows. This behind-the-scenes experience provides insights into the inner workings of a burlesque production and deepens appreciation for the craft.

Additionally, joining the burlesque community through local troupes and organizations allows individuals to connect with fellow performers, share knowledge, and gain a deeper understanding of the art form.

By immersing themselves in the burlesque community, individuals can cultivate meaningful relationships, expand their network, and find support and encouragement from like-minded artists.

“The burlesque community is a place of love and acceptance,” says burlesque performer Eva Mystique. “It’s a space where we can celebrate our bodies, our talents, and our unique perspectives on sexuality and performance.”

Being part of the burlesque community offers opportunities for collaboration, inspiration, and growth as performers learn from one another’s experiences and techniques. Through workshops, classes, and networking events, individuals can continue to develop their skills, refine their acts, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations in the burlesque world.

Local Burlesque Troupes and Organizations

Troupe/Organization About
DC Gurly Show A dynamic group of burlesque performers known for their diverse performances that challenge societal norms.
DMVariety An inclusive and supportive community of burlesque artists and enthusiasts dedicated to promoting diverse expressions of burlesque.
Burly Producers United An organization that brings together burlesque producers from across the country to share resources, exchange ideas, and collaborate on projects.
Bourbon & Lace Burlesque A collective of burlesque performers and producers focused on empowering women and celebrating individuality through performance art.

burlesque performance

Performer Description
Betty O’Hellno A glamorous performer known for her elegant performances and elaborate costumes.
Eva Mystique A versatile performer who effortlessly transitions between sensual and comedic acts.
Fox E. Martin A dynamic performer who combines bold choreography with powerful storytelling.
Jacqueline Boxx A trailblazer in the burlesque world, challenging norms and expectations with her avant-garde performances.
London St. Juniper A vintage-inspired performer known for her elegance, grace, and cheekiness.
Maki Roll A unique performer who fuses traditional and contemporary styles for a captivating experience.
Mermaid Chè Monique A mesmerizing performer who transports the audience to a world of fantasy and enchantment.

Embracing Burlesque as Feminism and Empowerment

Burlesque has long been associated with feminism and empowering women in performance and in life. By reclaiming their bodies and showcasing their sensuality on their own terms, burlesque performers challenge patriarchal norms and stereotypes. Burlesque allows women to embrace their feminine power, emphasizing that femininity and power are not mutually exclusive.

It provides a platform for self-expression, body positivity, and breaking free from societal expectations. Through burlesque, women can explore and celebrate their individuality and unique beauty, irrespective of societal standards. The art form fosters a sense of empowerment, enabling women to redefine what it means to be respectable and powerful in today’s world.

Within the burlesque community, feminism is at the heart of the movement. Performers like Bebe Bardeaux and GiGi Holliday use their acts to challenge gender roles and promote inclusivity. By embracing burlesque, women are able to confidently express their desires, aspirations, and own their sensuality. This form of self-expression encourages body acceptance, self-love, and a celebration of diversity, ultimately inspiring women to embrace their uniqueness and unleash their inner power.


What is a burlesque show?

A burlesque show is a form of theatrical striptease that combines elements of playfulness, sensuality, comedy, and emotion. It has been entertaining American audiences for over 150 years.

What is the history of burlesque?

Burlesque has a rich history that dates back to the mid-19th century. It has evolved as an art form and profession, with the emergence of neo-burlesque in the 21st century.

What types of dance are performed in burlesque?

Burlesque dance can include a variety of styles, from classic striptease to contemporary forms. It is often characterized by sensual movement and choreography.

What can one expect from a burlesque performance?

A burlesque performance can range from funny and lighthearted to seductive and emotional. It often incorporates elements of comedy, striptease, and theatricality to create a captivating experience.

What kind of costumes are worn in burlesque shows?

Burlesque costumes are meticulously designed to highlight performers’ curves and add to the tease element of the performance. They combine traditional burlesque elements with a touch of modern fashion, creating visually stunning and mesmerizing outfits.

What role does comedy play in burlesque?

Comedy is an integral part of burlesque. Many burlesque acts incorporate humor and wit, adding an entertaining and lighthearted element to the performance.

Are striptease performances common in burlesque shows?

Yes, striptease is a common element in burlesque shows. It is done in a playful and seductive manner, often leaving the audience with a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Where can one watch a burlesque show?

Burlesque shows are often hosted at theaters, lounges, and dinner theaters. In Washington D.C., venues like Bier Baron, the Birchmere, SAX Dinner Theater & Lounge, and The Howard Theatre regularly host burlesque shows.

What kind of music is used in burlesque performances?

Burlesque shows feature a variety of music styles, from classic jazz to modern pop hits. The music adds to the atmosphere and immerses the audience in the burlesque experience.

How is burlesque connected to culture and subcultures?

Burlesque is deeply intertwined with queer and punk culture, adding a unique edge to the performance. It has also become a space for self-love, creative expression, and body positivity.

Why is it important to learn about burlesque history?

Understanding the roots and evolution of burlesque allows performers to honor the work of those who came before them and build upon that legacy. It also provides valuable insights into the cultural and social significance of the art form.

Who are some notable burlesque performers to follow in Washington D.C.?

Some notable local burlesque performers in Washington D.C. include Betty O’Hellno, Eva Mystique, Fox E. Martin, Jacqueline Boxx, London St. Juniper, Maki Roll, and Mermaid Chè Monique.

How can one discover their own burlesque persona?

Discovering your burlesque persona involves experimenting with costumes, makeup, and stage presence to create a character that reflects your style and story. Authenticity is key in finding your unique voice in the art form.

Are there opportunities to get involved in burlesque beyond performing on stage?

Yes, individuals can get involved in burlesque by stage-managing and assisting performers during shows, an opportunity known as “kittening.” This behind-the-scenes experience provides insights into the production and deepens appreciation for the craft. Joining local troupes and organizations also allows individuals to connect with fellow performers and gain a deeper understanding of the art form.

How does burlesque empower women?

Burlesque has long been associated with feminism and empowering women. By reclaiming their bodies and showcasing their sensuality on their own terms, burlesque performers challenge patriarchal norms and stereotypes. It provides a platform for self-expression, body positivity, and breaking free from societal expectations.