Paris is getting a taste of good old-fashioned burlesque this month, with Dita Von Teese, the star of the US-based Burlesque revival, making a series of appearances at the Crazy Horse.
Burlesque, a risqué form of cabaret that combines striptease with artistic performance, emerged in the late 1920s as part of the vaudeville scene in the USA. Popular up until the 1950s, the art has experienced a revival since the early 1990s, with burlesque-style pop acts emerging and Hollywood stars making guest appearances – often without taking their clothes off.
But that’s not true burlesque, says Von Teese. "The striptease aspect is vital to burlesque. I'm very offended by sanitised, commercialised ‘faux-lesque’ as I like to call it. Burlesque was about the striptease. End of Story. The great burlesque stars - Gypsy Rose Lee, Lily St-Cyr, Sally Rand - they took off their clothes. It's important to me because it's disrespectful to the history of it, and those women who made it famous, to discount what they did."
Von Teese is currently performing at Paris’s Crazy Horse until February 15. It’s her second run at the Paris cabaret, famous for its lines of high-stepping showgirls.
"Performing at the Crazy Horse means a lot to me. The first time I came to Paris, it's the first place I went to,” she says. “I've seen the show 20 or 30 times. I was obsessed with it and all the people who had been there since it first opened in 1951. I thought it was very strange that all the US presidents would go there when they came to Paris. That would never happen nowadays… It's a different time. "
Paris’s burlesque revival is in its early stages
"You had a lot of American stars like Josephine Baker who came to France and found big success. It seems to me that Paris really embraces its risqué ladies, from courtesans to showgirls, in a different way. There is something really special about it.”
Paris’s burlesque revival is in its early stages, but Von Teese says she gets more and more fan mail from young women in France. In Paris several acts have emerged in the last three years, with various styles from Lady Flo and her multi talented cabaret acts, to the Bump 'n’ Grind Honeys, a neo-burlesque troupe with tattoos and a rock 'n’ roll edge.
The scene is still very small, meaning burlesque event organisers have often had to book burlesque acts from the states and the UK.
Gentry Lane, who writes the "Gentry de Paris Burlesque Review" and organises various nights, has now started "L'Ecole Supérieure du Burlesque", which teaches pupils all the skills necessary to become glamorous burlesque dancers. She is hopeful this will mean she will soon be able to ask them to star in her future shows. Her students range from a sex-phone line worker to someone who works in a bank and are between their 20s and their 40s.
Date created : 2009-02-13