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Monday, July 28, 2008

Commedia dell'arte to Performance Art: Burlesque

I have been wanting to do a series on one of my favorite art forms for some time. With the help of the burlesque hall of fame ( and wikipedia, here is some information on the genesis of Burlesque. Also, I will include images of some of the famous artists and genres but I wanted to give fair warning so that the kids are in bed and you aren't at work. Enjoy and more details to come!!

Burlesque refers to theatrical entertainment of broad and parodic humor, much like Commedia dell' arte which usually consists of comic skits. While some authors assert burlesque is a direct descendant of the , the term "burlesque" for a parody or comedy of manners appears about the same time as the first appearance of commedia dell'arte.

With its origins in nineteenth century entertainments and vaudeville in the early twentieth century burlesque emerged as a populist blend of satire, performance art and adult entertainment that featured strip tease and broad comedy acts that derived their name from the low comedy aspects of the literary genre known as burlesque.

In burlesque, performers, usually female, often create elaborate sets with lush, colorful costumes, mood-appropriate music, and dramatic lighting, and may even include novelty acts, such as fire-breathing or demonstrations of unusual flexibility, to enhance the impact of their performance.

Put simply, burlesque means "in an upside down style". Like its cousin, commedia dell'arte, burlesque turns social norms head over heels. Burlesque is a style of live entertainment that encompasses pastiche parody, and wit. The genre traditionally encompasses a variety of acts such as dancing girls, chanson singers, comedians, mime artists, and strip tease artistes, all satirical and with a saucy edge. The strip tease element of burlesque became subject to extensive local legislation, leading to a theatrical form that titillated without falling foul of censors.

Today in 2008, even mainstream media like National Public Radio has taken notice of burlesque.

NPR: While [its] initial attraction may be as much an exercise in camp and kitsch, its subtlety provides a more important lesson on the meaning of beauty, and the importance of tradition and memory."

Termed Neo-Burlesque, modern performers like Dita Von Teese, the Pontani Sisters and Dirty Martini are each, in their own ways, continuing to add to the traditional genre. Check out some of my favorite stars at the bottom of the page and stay tuned!

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