That “Dark Prettiness” of Burlesque
Long before the globalization of the libido, there were cabarets, and the burlesque genre continues to transgress the most hetero-normative societies with humor and pleasure.
What is socially peripheral is so frequently symbolically central.
– Peter Stallybrass & Allon White
Twenty years since its last resurgence, burlesque remains contentious: for some it is reactionary, for others it is liberating. Either way, its manner of making hegemonic normalcy appear odd is fascinating: cabaret performances are always a celebration. With their transgressive and flexible nature (the form has adapted to different cultures and circumstances over more than a century), this performance genre enjoys a delightful illegitimacy that dances between heavy velvet curtains and oscillates between humor and tease.
Long before the globalization of the libido there were cabarets, and always with aim for style. The most interesting factor is that, despite sexual globalization (the feminine figure with certain features, free pornography and the striptease dives that sprang up practically all over the world), cabaret has always found a crack through which to emerge and continue transforming the accepted logic with role play, sexualized bodies and that “horrible prettiness” that Robert C. Allen refers to in his book about burlesque.
It is not easy to define burlesque as a self-contained term, precisely because it overflows the lines of definition. But it is a tradition that can trace its origins back to the success of Lydia Thompson in the UK, who became a pioneer of the burlesque scene in New York in the mid-19th century, until its decline in the mid-20th century and its resurgence, as neo-burlesque, in the 1990s. It could be said that it is a fluid form of performance that reinvents itself with the change of eras and paradigms, and that its most conclusive characteristics are humor and teasing.
The humor is achieved via techniques of exaggeration, the reversal of expectations and interference with the audience. The provocation or teasing is achieved using extravagant and very revealing disguises and, after the 1920s, with some form of stripping (although almost never completely naked, and only as a way of implying sexuality and not as sexual gratification). In this sense burlesque is one of the purest forms of eroticism. The characters that perform are never passive sexual objects (as occurs in pornography, for example) but rather empowered characters that carry out and lead a fantasy that is never expected to come true.
On the other hand, cabaret is one of the only spaces that exist where the binary (man/woman, heterosexual/homosexual) hierarchy does not have a predefined place and which, even by subverting those principles, it can provide comfort to a hetero-normative audience (through humor). There is a certain intimacy (perhaps achieved by the dim lighting, the sexy and exaggerated scenery and of course the humor) that is not confrontational and as a result creates a certain kind of wellbeing. The cabaret actor is a kind of hybrid-self who celebrates the queer and the periphery of all that we call identity.
Burlesque has always been around as an attempt to fragment society (we are all included, and all that separates us in a cabaret unites us). Crucially, humor, by being a vehicle of criticism and subversion, is also an ingredient of temperance in such a direct performance. With this in mind we could say that cabaret, that genre that is so hybrid and flexible, is a refuge for all that we think separates us from the other and one of the only places that is left for us to celebrate stimulus and comfort in the face of differences.
When ancient rituals became religion
The emergence of religions irreversibly changed the history of humanity. It’s therefore essential to ask when and how did ancient peoples’ rituals become organized systems of thought, each with their
Seven ancient maps of the Americas
A map is not the territory. —Alfred Korzybski Maps are never merely maps. They’re human projections, metaphors in which we find both the geographical and the imaginary. The cases of ghost islands
An artist crochets a perfect skeleton and internal organs
Shanell Papp is a skilled textile and crochet artist. She spent four long months crocheting a life-size skeleton in wool. She then filled it in with the organs of the human body in an act as patient
A musical tribute to maps
A sequence of sounds, rhythms, melodies and silences: music is a most primitive art, the most essential, and the most powerful of all languages. Its capacity is not limited to the (hardly trivial)
The enchantment of 17th-century optics
The sense of sight is perhaps one the imagination’s most prolific masters. That is why humankind has been fascinated and bewitched by optics and their possibilities for centuries. Like the heart, the
Would you found your own micro-nation? These eccentric examples show how easy it can be
Founding a country is, in some ways, a simple task. It is enough to manifest its existence and the motives for creating a new political entity. At least that is what has been demonstrated by the
Wondrous crossings: the galaxy caves of New Zealand
Often, the most extraordinary phenomena are “jealous of themselves” ––and they happen where the human eye cannot enjoy them. However, they can be discovered, and when we do find them we experience a
Think you have strange reading habits? Wait until you've seen how Mcluhan reads
We often forget or neglect to think about the infinite circumstances that are condensed in the acts that we consider habitual. Using a fork to eat, for example, or walking down the street and being
The sky is calling us, a love letter to the cosmos (video)
We once dreamt of open sails and Open seas We once dreamt of new frontiers and New lands Are we still a brave people? We must not forget that the very stars we see nowadays are the same stars and
The sister you always wanted (but made into a crystal chandelier)
Lucas Maassen always wanted to have a sister. And after 36 years he finally procured one, except, as strange as it may sound, in the shape of a chandelier. Maassen, a Dutch designer, asked the