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July 27, 2011 at 3:44 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Burlesque Dancing - Get Fit, Have Fun and Feel Sexy

By Jeany Miller More Blogs by This Author

These days, the word burlesque has evolved from depicting the taboo to describing spirited behavior and an eye for fitness. Women of all shapes, sizes and ages are starting to head to local dance theaters and workshops to learn the art of burlesque, a dance style that evolved from 19th century theatrical parodies. At one time, burlesque was considered passé, but today the trend extends from New York City to Tucson and beyond. Here’s a look at why this is.

History of Burlesque

Most people believe burlesque refers to female strippers, bumping and grinding raucously to a room of panting, cheering men. In reality, burlesque once referred to a wide range of comic plays to entertain the lower and middle classes, of Great Britain and the United States. These shows made fun of (or burlesqued) the operas, plays, and social habits of the upper classes.

By the 1860s, British burlesque relied on the display of shapely, scantily-dressed women to amuse audiences. This contrasted sharply with traditional Victorian standards, whereby women concealed their bodies with billowing hoops, frills, and bustles. In New York, demand for burlesque performances outnumbered performers, and copycat troupes quickly set-up shop. To prevent unauthorized reproductions, the scripts from these shows remain unpublished, and material sometimes changed from week to week.

Female managers were the norm of these early shows. It wasn’t until male managers took over in the 1880s that feminine wit was slowly replaced with a determination to reveal as much of the female body as local laws allowed. Obscenity and vulgarity were avoided, and the point was to entice audience members rather than offend. In the 1920s, however, burlesque comedy gave way to strip tease shows. Ladies barely covered themselves, and the more they removed on stage, the happier the audience was. These shows were eventually shutdown for “corrupting public morality.”

Burlesque Dance Classes

The revival of burlesque is not evidenced by theater billboards, but rather in the classes offered by professional dancers and stage performers. Since the 2010 release of the movie “Burlesque,” starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, gyms have introduced burlesque dance classes to legions of women. The New York School of Burlesque, for example, has existed for eight years but now provides more fitness-focused classes complete with modern twists and spins.

New York Sports Club offers a 45-minute Burlesque Boogies class at one location that plays songs from the “Burlesque” movie. After a warm-up, students do moves like a "bump-and-grind" and a "shoulder shimmy." The instructor has also incorporated squats and lunges into the dance sequence.

Burlesque classes are usually available in a variety of formats. Some, for instance, provide a creative outlet for those interested in performing. Students learn a choreographed dance routine and create their own basic costumes to wear during a scheduled performance.

Other classes instruct students on the fundamentals of burlesque for entertainment and exercise purposes. Moves that may be taught include the "basic walk," "shimmy," and "bump-and- grind." These courses may also provide exercises in improvisation and short combinations of choreography that incorporate the moves. Participants are usually encouraged to wear exercise clothing and comfortable shoes--and to bring a pair of high heels if desired.

Still, another option is a burlesque class that refines the moves previously learned. Props such as feather boas, gloves, and fish-net stockings may also be incorporated to mimic the feel of a burlesque performance. There is generally no nudity, and clothing props are often worn over dance wear. Some classes impose an age minimum, such as 21 years, to maintain a mature environment.

Burlesque classes are a fun way for women to get fit and feel sexy. Sign up with a girl friend! You'll both have a blast! :)

Photo Credit

Chris Blakely


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1 Comment

  • I'm not a big dancer - I would feel embarrassed! Some people just have no rhythm I'm not afraid that I may be lacking in this category!

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