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The Problem With Modern Burlesque

The Problem With Modern Burlesque

What is Burlesques? How does one perform Burlesque? Is there a specific way or place that Burlesque is done? What are some of the problems related to modern Burlesque? This article explains some of the problems related to modern Burlesque.

Burlesque dancing is an art that can be dismissed as stripping because the actors end up stripping at some point. The difference between burlesque dancing is that the stripping is part of a play and is meant to make the performance more interesting while stripping; the presenter's only presentation is stripping. Therefore the audience in Burlesque dancing hopes to watch a play that might include some stripping, too, while in stripping, the audience is there to watch the nakedness only. Modern Burlesque usually includes strip teasing, flashy costumes, and sensual performance. Such features were absent in the traditional Burlesque. The following are the problems associated with modern Burlesque;

The Costumes have Changed

 According to Wellman (2015), the appearance of the modern burlesque dancers is not the same as that of the original burlesque dancers. Time has changed, and they now look like sex symbols. The play is supposed to be innocent dancing but what has taken stage now seems like soft pornography. Society no longer wants the older version of burlesque dancing. Society wants something more risqué and raunchy. The modern Burlesque is like looking at a live sex game.

The Image perception Has Changed

In the original burlesque dancing, you did not have to meet society's beauty standards. You did not have to be a tall size eight, and there were no strippers or models. They were sometimes voluptuous women. Their boobs or bums did not have to be a certain size. The audience was only interested in their talent. The boobs and bums were just props. They would sing, dance, and juggle. 

Technology Has Killed Talent

Khandpur (2015) explained that the original burlesque dancers were employed based on their talent. But the modern burlesque stage has been taken over by a female individual who would not stand a chance in the traditional setting. The truly talented dancers have been overshadowed by the new breed that got a chance in technology, for instance, through YouTube. They present themselves as Burlesque dancers, yet they are talentless.

The Inclusion of the LGBTQ Community

Inclusion of the LGBTQ may not be a problem, but it has revolutionized how people view Burlesque. The new generation understands its sexuality. Some people imagine that it may be a drag act. A burlesque performance is an art. It is nice that the LGBTQ community has also been incorporated into it, but it is unfair when the entire act is dismissed as an act of a certain community. Burlesque performance should be respected as a performance that stands on its own.

Strippers Masquerading as Burlesque Dancers

Some strippers refer to themselves as burlesque dancers, which has made the profession misunderstood. According to Burton (2017), Burlesque dancing has changed so much that it is difficult to differentiate between burlesque dancing and stripping. Modern burlesque dancing is sexier than traditional burlesque dancing. The burlesque dancing is edging closer and closer to stripping. The burlesque performers seem to be conscious of their looks as they want to be sexier. The strippers, on the other hand, are already sexy. Lotze et al. (2019) explained that the only difference between burlesque dancing and stripping is that the former are talented performers involved in art, and the latter are talented performers whose main role is to arouse their audience sexually. Historically, burlesque dancing was a variety of entertainment, including songs, dance comics, stand-ups, and skits. You could even take your wife to the performances. The art form in modern times does not present traditional, modern dancing. Burlesque was meant to be a raunchy play. The audience does not pay to be aroused as they would expect of a striptease but enjoy a performance that usually involves storytelling. There is a joke that wonders burlesque dancing has evolved over the years. It is almost impossible to differ on the difference between burlesque dancers and stripping. 

“What is the Difference Between Burlesque Dancing and Stripping?”

“The difference is that when strippers pay $20 for a costume and make $200 in a night, burlesquers make $20 a night after paying $200 on a costume".

The difference is in the labor that each has to reach the audience. The stripper is a lot more work than the Burlesquer because the strippers have to interact with the audience person-to-person while the Burlesquer interacts with the audience as a group. Therefore a burlesquer is not like a stripper. Burlesque dancing versus stripping has been described as two genres like a sister but not twins.

Sexual Harassment

In the traditional burlesque acts, the audience would not touch the performers. The stripping is so much that some people view the burlesque performances as people who would be willing to get into some sexual activity. Adams (2019) stated that the modern Burlesque is confusing to the audience. They do not know whether to view the performers as stripteasers. They also do not know whether the performers are like prostitutes who would not mind being touched and involved in some sex, making burlesque dancing unsafe for performers. It kills the spirit that was once associated with burlesque dancing. Burlesque dancing is supposed to be an art. The performance entertains as if it were a caricature or a parody, sometimes based on politics or people’s lifestyles, with some hints of nudity, people are supposed to laugh at the end. No one should have the courage to touch or sexually harass a Burlesque dancer. Not to mean that it is acceptable to touch a stripper or a prostitute without their consent. But in the minds of right-thinking members of society, it is understandable that a person could misunderstand the hints that a stripteaser or a prostitute may be misunderstood because the interaction is one-on-one. It is unimaginable that a Burlesque dancer, an employee under some contract, could be interested in sexual overtures because they exposed some nudity. Traditionally, Burlesque dancers were respected as performers.


Burlesque is a form of art. The name Burlesque originates from the Italian word 'Burlesco' and the word 'burla,' which means a joke, mockery, or ridicule. Originally, the focus on nudity was low. Nudity gradually invaded the art until it evolved into a striptease. So stripteasing is inspired by burlesque dancing. When burlesque dancing was prohibited, stripteasing was the replacement. Nudity is an important factor in stripteasing, but that's not the case in burlesque dancing. A Burlesque dancer would never go completely nude.


Adams, W. D. (2019). Book of Burlesque. BoD–Books on Demand. 

Barton, B. (2017). Stripped: Inside the lives of exotic dancers. NYU Press.

Khandpur, G. (2015). Fat and Thin Sex: Fetishised Normal and Normalised Fetish. M/C Journal18(3).

Lotze, M., Domin, M., Gerlach, F. H., Gaser, C., Lueders, E., Schmidt, C. O., & Neumann, N. (2019). There were novel Findings From 2,838 Adult Brains On Sex Differences In Gray Matter Brain Volume. Scientific Reports9(1), 1-7.

Wellman, E. (2015). Taught It to the Trade: Rose La Rose and the Re-ownership of American Burlesque, 1935-1972. The Ohio State University.