I just got home from Florida last night, where I was in Orlando to teach a Burlesquercise Intensive and a Pinup Workshop. During the burlesque intensive, some of the ladies told me that they really want to get out and perform burlesque and get a burlesque scene going in their area, but because all the tourism in the area is based on Disney World attractions, there are no adult-only venues. Apparently all the 21 and up bars quickly start serving food so that they can be all-ages venues, because everyone brings their kids to Orlando.
I was incredulous. “You mean there are NO small bars or theaters that you could use for shows? Nothing???” Apparently so. Well, we can’t let Disney keep us down! So I decided to focus on this issue for this blog entry:
“G-Rated Burlesque” may seem like an oxymoron to some people, but I actually recommend that all burlesquers, in any area, create a wide variety of acts ranging from G-Rated to PG-13 and even up to Rated-R material if they feel like getting racy (or even X-rated if they live in NYC). This is an important thing to do so that you will be ready to accept bookings in a wide variety of venues and situations, including those top-dollar corporate events.
So how can you keep it fun and sexy while not offending Mickey Mouse and the Disney gang? Here are a few ideas:
Strip without getting naked. Take your time sensually removing your jacket, your gloves, a hat… Take off one dress to reveal another (full coverage) dress beneath or double up on gloves, bras, stockings, and remove one layer of each… Take off your clothes behind or inside of a large prop, without ever actually revealing your scandlous flesh… I perform a version of my X-mas Stocking act (video below) this way, without ever showing pasties! Now that’s leaving them wanting more!
These are a few ways that you can allude to striptease without actually crossing the line into adult material. For inspiration, watch old song and dance videos! They were masters of this technique. Here are a few of my favorite all-ages-appropriate stripteases:
– “Take Back Your Mink” from Guys and Dolls. Striptease with a story line. I love this act.
– Cyd Charisse in Party Girl: Note the skirt removal and how she removes the scarf over her bodice! Striptease, but still acceptable for all-ages. Also note the bumps and grinds! Burlesque “bump and grind” moves were very popular in dance movies from the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Draw on Classic Burlesque Gimmicks. One great technique is to make reference to classic burlesque through its most iconic techniques and images, while avoiding the striptease. You can perform a fan dance, a shadow dance, and tassel twirling without actually getting naked or even taking off any clothing! Wear a nude leotard embellished with rhinestones or a sexy dress for your fan dance. Do a real or suggested striptease or a naughty pantomime behind a backlit screen for a shadow dance, and no one sees any skin at all! Put tassels on the outside of your gown or on top of your leotard and you can twirl to your hearts content without actually going down to pasties.
– Here is Sally Rand performing a fan dance. She often wore nude body stockings behind her fans. Note how she pulls the fans away while behind a screen.
– Here’s another example with Cyd Charisse. I don’t actually like the look of this nude outfit with tassels, but it demonstrates how it can be done.
Use innuendos. Another great way to keep it clean is to skip striptease altogether, but lay the innuendos on thick. This was a common way to make G-Rated material fun for adults in the 1920’s through 1950’s and can add to the “classic” feel of your performance. Here’s a great example, also from Guys and Dolls:
These are all great ways to keep it sassy and risque without crossing the line into depraved displays of nudity that will shock our good American parents. So long as there is no nudity, what can they say? I mean, if Britney Spears could grind and spin on a stripper pole in front of her concert audiences that included 8 year old girls, what’s wrong with a bit of saucy glove removal?