When I was in Seoul I threw some fetish proms with my very good friend Chris Backe. We had some great performers for our events, and one of my favorites was a troupe called White Lies Burlesque. In my travels to various places and in my career in promotions, I have noticed that most fetish events and parties end up booking a burlesque troupe.
Now I recently went to a burlesque show at The Lovecraft in Portland, and it got me thinking about why burlesque and kink are so often intertwined.
To start, what is burlesque? It can be hard to explain to the vanilla world sometimes. Yes, it is women taking their clothes off. But no, it is not strippers. I guess the main difference is that it is a more sex positive environment. It is a show, with performers who have talents from fan dance to acting, and they usually have a theme to their act. The girls from white lies had several bits that were wonderful and funny, such as the girl who would put blown up balloons all over her naked body, and then let people pop them one by one. Or the girl who did a dance with a cake that involved her eventually getting covered in it. I know, it sounds weird, but it’s a fun environment with lots of cheering and laughter and good-natured cat calls.
Think about a strip club (only North Americans know what I am talking about here but bear with me). There is loud music and a loud DJ who drones on from his booth, sounding like an announcer at a sporting event. There are a bunch of sullen looking guys and a girl on stage in high-heels, who comes out in some skimpy thing and takes it off slowly. No one cheers. The men look like wolves watching a sheep.
Now a strip club is similar to burlesque, in that it is girls getting naked that you can’t have sex with. I know this is an American thing and I know it’s weird to my European and Asian friends who do not understand why you would pay to see a girl naked instead of paying to have sex with a girl. And I can not explain that, though I have tried over many bottles of whiskey in bars all over the world. I don’t know why we like it, but we do. And it isn’t JUST us. The Japanese have Geisha, who do NOT have sex with the men they entertain. And burlesque is originally French, so obviously at some point someone in Europe thought a brothel wasn’t the only option.
Burlesque is about the tease. It’s about the joy of cheering while I girl does some awesome dance routine or kink routine, and laughing with your friends over cocktails. It’s not at all like a strip club, sex club, brothel, or anything else. It’s a unique and more classy experience, and it’s just a fun thing to do with your friends.
So the highlight of my night at The Lovecraft (Burlesque show on the first Tuesday of every month, if you’re in the area) was a performer called Morgue Anne, who stripped out of a straight jacket. I’d never seen anything like it, and I thought it was a wonderful performance. But don’t take MY word for it, because you can watch her.
Burlesque is unique for this reason. Where else are you going to see a girl wiggle out of a leather straight jaket or do a fan dance? It’s just not a common thing. And it should be, because it really is good fun.
As far as how kink relates to burlesque, I can only imagine it is because kinky folks like things a little more interesting than JUST naked girls. And we also appreciate more sex-positive experiences like burlesque.