Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Burlesque was originally a form of art that mocked by imitation, referring to everything from comic sketches to dance routines and usually lampooning the social attitudes of upper classes. It was often ridiculous in that it imitated several styles, and combined imitations of authors and artists with absurd descriptions. In this, the term was often used interchangeably with "pastiche," "parody," and, at the turn of the 18th century, "mock-heroic." Possibly due to historical social tensions between the upper classes and lower classes of society, much of the humor and entertainment focused on lowbrow and ribald subjects.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, burlesque has come to be a genre of adult entertainment, focusing on aspects of humor, satire and sexual tantalization.
The genre's origins are rooted in the 1840s, early in the Victorian era, a time of culture clashes between the social rules of established aristocracy and a working-class society. The genre often mocked such established entertainment forms as opera, Shakespearian drama, musicals, and ballet. The costuming (or lack thereof) increasingly focused on forms of dress considered inappropriate for polite society.
By the 1880s, the genre had created some rules for defining itself:
- Minimal costuming, often focusing on the female form.
- Sexually suggestive dialog, dance, plotlines and staging.
- Quick-witted humor, lacking complexity.
- Short routines or sketches, with minimal plot cohesion across a show.
In the 1930s, a social crackdown on burlesque shows lead to their gradual downfall. The shows had slowly changed from ensemble ribald variety performances, to simple performances focusing mostly on the strip tease. The advent of various forms of pornography gradually replaced titillation.
- History of Burlesque: http://www.musicals101.com/burlesque.htm
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