Unveiling What is Burlesque: Meaning, History, Types And More

Unveiling What is Burlesque: Meaning, History, Types And More

Hey there, curious minds! So, you’re probably wondering, What is burlesque?

Well, buckle up, because we’re about to take you on a sassy and seductive journey into the world of burlesque!

It’s all about glitz, glamour, and a whole lot of cheeky fun. From sultry dances to dazzling costumes, burlesque is the art of tease and titillation. Get ready to learn the ins and outs of this captivating and often misunderstood form of entertainment.

Let’s dive in and uncover the secrets of burlesque together!

What is Burlesque? Simple Definition

What is Burlesque Simple Definition

Burlesque, derived from the Italian words burla and burlesco, essentially means ridicule, mockery, or humor. It’s a form of entertainment that seeks to incite laughter through the caricature of serious works or by presenting subjects in a ludicrous manner.

While it’s often associated with provocative dancing and comedy, burlesque encompasses a wide range of creative expressions, from literature to theater and music.

Original History of Burlesque

Burlesque has a fascinating history that dates back to the early 16th century when it first appeared in Francesco Berni’s Opere burlesque. Over time, it found its way into the works of literary giants like Chaucer and Shakespeare.

In literature, burlesque ridicules its subjects through exaggeration and comic imitation, often using parody and mockery.

Types of Burlesque

Burlesque comes in different forms, each with its unique characteristics:

High Burlesque

Description: High Burlesque presents seemingly trivial or mundane subjects in a dignified and serious manner, often using exaggeration to create humor.

Example: Alexander Pope‘s The Rape of the Lock is a classic example of High Burlesque. In this mock-epic poem, Pope humorously exaggerates the importance of a woman’s lost lock of hair, treating it as if it were a grand heroic quest.

Theatrical Burlesque

Theatrical Burlesque is a form of entertainment that combines comedy, short skits, and sometimes even striptease. It’s known for its broad and earthy humor.

Example: Lydia Thompson‘s British Blondes introduced Theatrical Burlesque to the United States in 1868.

Their performances featured beautiful women, provocative dancing, crude comic sketches, and musical acts. This type of burlesque often parodied popular culture and societal norms.

Musical Burlesque

Musical Burlesque is characterized by its use of music to create a playful and seductive atmosphere. It often includes provocative movements and is accompanied by jazz-inspired songs.

Example: Richard Strauss‘s Burleske for piano and orchestra is a musical composition that embodies the essence of Musical Burlesque. It combines lively and sensual melodies with a playful musical style.

Read More: What is Comedy Music: A Lighthearted Melodic Journey, Types, Examples

Variety Show Burlesque

Variety Show Burlesque was popular from the 1860s to the 1940s and featured a mix of bawdy comedy and female striptease. These performances were a part of variety shows in cabarets, clubs, and theaters.

Example: The Hollywood film Cabaret (1972) captures the spirit of Variety Show Burlesque. While not a direct example of a live performance, the film showcases the energy, sensuality, and humor associated with this type of burlesque.

Modern Burlesque

Modern Burlesque is a contemporary take on the art form, blending elements of classic burlesque with modern twists. It often features a diverse range of performers and themes.

Example: The rise of modern burlesque has brought about numerous unique performances and troupes.

Performers like Dita Von Teese and events like the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas represent the evolution of burlesque into a thriving and inclusive art form.


Several elements characterize burlesque:

  • Exaggeration: Burlesque relies on exaggeration to create humor. It takes ordinary subjects and amplifies their traits to the point of absurdity.
  • Parody: It often parodies serious works or genres, poking fun at their conventions and tropes.
  • Caricature: Burlesque employs caricature to depict characters or situations in an exaggerated and comical manner.

Features of Burlesque

  • Entertainment: Burlesque is primarily a form of entertainment designed to amuse and entertain audiences.
  • Satire: It often carries a satirical undertone, using humor to critique or comment on societal norms or trends.
  • Provocative: In its theatrical form, burlesque can be provocative, but it’s essential to approach it with respect and decorum, as it is not the same as strip clubs.

FAQs about What is Burlesque

What does a burlesque dancer do

Is burlesque the same as stripping?

No, burlesque is a form of entertainment that combines humor, satire, and sensuality. While it may include provocative elements, it is not synonymous with stripping.

How did burlesque evolve over time?

Burlesque has evolved from its origins in literature to encompass various art forms, including theater, music, and modern performances that blend classic burlesque with contemporary elements.

Is burlesque suitable for all audiences?

Burlesque shows vary in content, so it’s essential to research and choose performances that align with your preferences and comfort level.

Is burlesque still popular today?

Yes, burlesque has experienced a resurgence of interest since the 1990s, with modern performances that appeal to diverse audiences.

What are the key elements of burlesque?

Burlesque is characterized by exaggeration, parody, and caricature. It uses these elements to incite laughter and often includes a satirical tone.

What does a burlesque dancer do?

Burlesque is a theatrical extravaganza that revolves around dance.

In burlesque dance, performers playfully and humorously exaggerate elements, often copying them in an exaggerated manner. This art form teases the audience with risqué acts and outrageous performances, often intertwined with cabaret-style entertainment.

It’s essentially a variety show that combines provocative and comedic elements, providing a unique and entertaining experience for its audience.


Burlesque is a versatile form of entertainment that spans literature, theater, music, and variety shows. It thrives on humor, satire, and exaggeration, offering a unique and captivating experience for audiences worldwide.

Whether you’re exploring literary parodies by Jane Austen or enjoying a modern burlesque show, this art form continues to evolve and entertain. For more insights into comedy, visit RachelParris.com to dive deeper into this captivating world.

Keen on uncovering more in the realm of comedy? Let’s peruse the list below.

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