In the October issue of the Canadian magazine Glow, I wrote a piece about the history and revival of burlesque. Not all of my interview with Dita Von Teese made it into the story so I'll be serving up occasional outtakes.
How is today's burlesque different than burlesque fifty years ago?
Well, burlesque was basically dead fifty years ago! The golden age of the burlesque theatre ended in the late 1940s when nightclubs became more popular. But in the '30s and '40s, when burlesque theatres were thriving, burlesque audiences were mainly working class men looking for a thrill. You had the grand theatres, like Minsky's, and the audiences of men AND women came out to see the really big stars, like Gypsy. But in your average burlesque show, in the golden age of burlesque, you would have seen a lot of men.
Now, we have a much more diverse audience. I can say that the majority of my own fan base is comprised of young women who are embracing glamour and are getting in touch with their inner bombshells by either performing burlesque in their hometown or for their lovers, or simply enjoying the style of dressing that was popular at the time. And I also think that many of today's dancers are performing for their own empowerment rather than to please their audience and make a living.
What is the difference between stripping and burlesque?
Well, if you ask me, I would say that there isn't technically a difference! Burlesque dancers WERE strippers! They used this term in burlesque. So burlesque is the show, and the dancers were strippers. Okay, so I know that what you really want to hear is what makes me different from a modern day pole dancer/stripper. Well, we are all one in the same, but burlesque is where this whole idea of removing clothes to music in front of an audience started, and pole dancing is where it has evolved to. I refuse to say that I'm "classier" or "better" than any other exotic dancer. I essentially do the same thing - perhaps with more spectacle, and with retro flair. I like the fact that burlesque alway has been risque, and I am confident with myself enough to say that I am proud to be a stripper.
Who are your burlesque role models? What is it that appeals to you about them?
Gypsy is a big role model for me, because she managed to become a major mainstream star, against the odds. Anyone can be an actress or a singer - it's acceptable. But to be a world famous stripper is an entirely different feat! So she did it, and that gave me the hope that if did my very best work, and stuck by my dream and didn't falter or change my path according to what the modern "formula" for success is, that I may have a chance to succeed as a burlesque dancer. I always understood that what makes someone unique is what makes them stand out, and I think that there are a lot of people that don't get that concept. They think that they should follow someone else's game plan.
~ Part One of Talking with Dita