Burlesque was popular in London from the 1830s to the 1890s, and was the speciality of certain London theaters, including the Gaiety and Royal Strand Theatre. Burlesque shows were introduced to the U.S. in the 1840s. It contained quick-witted, sexually suggestive dialogue and skimpy costumes for female performers. American burlesque continued until the 1930s, but concentrated more on striptease elements.
Eliza Blasina wearing horse-head headdress, short costume with attached horsetail, rows of round beads or bells around ankles, wrists, neck and upper arm.
Burlesque originated in 17th century Italian theater as a type of comic interlude. The word derives from the Italian “burla,” a joke, ridicule or mockery.
Burlesque can be applied to literature, music and theater. It’s often a form of humorous parodies or pastiches of serious dramatic or classical works. It was related and partly derived from the English tradition of pantomime, in which a musical theatre parodied a serious work such as a Shakespeare play, with the addition of music and songs and humorous verse.
The dancers in these images are all associated with American musical theater, a popular form of which was burlesque. The collection contains a wide variety of materials related to striptease research and memorabilia, spanning from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day and exploring all aspects of striptease in performance, from early burlesque/vaudeville to modern strip clubs and the neo-burlesque movement.
Burlesque shows were introduced to the U.S. in the 1840s. Influenced by minstrel shows and “leg shows,” American burlesque was closer in form to sketch performance. It contained quick-witted, sexually suggestive dialogue and skimpy costumes for female performers.
American burlesque continued until the 1930s, but concentrated more on striptease elements. A moral crackdown led to its eventual demise, though the art form has experienced a recent resurgence in some cities.
These images are drawn from the Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance from Burlesque to Clubs. They come from the personal collection of Dr. Charles H. McCaghy, professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University. Read more…