Telluride Theatre: Burlesque, 3/27 – 3/30

Telluride Theatre: Burlesque, 3/27 – 3/30

Telluride Theatre presents “Burlesque,” a fun-raiser for the nonprofit. The happening takes place at the historic Sheridan Opera House, 9 p.m. nightly. Wednesday, March 27  and Thursday, March 28 is “Cheap Thrills.”  Tickets are $30, $45, & $87.50 for a VIP table. Friday and Saturday, March 29 and March 30, is Burlesque Live! Tickets are $40, $55 and $137.50 for a VIP table seat. Get your tickets here or by calling 970-708-7629. Ages 21+ only.

Starting out as a class nine years ago for 11 women, Telluride Theatre’s annual fundraiser, Burlesque, has grown into a winter of education, creation and rehearsals, culminating in home-grown performances.

The week of events resurrects the raucous and raunchy variety shows of Telluride’s Victorian vaudeville era, featuring dancing, comedy and beautiful local women. Forty+ ladies are participating in Burlesque this year (and a few brave men).

The Beginning Class has 23 women of all ages who learned the art of Burlesque throughout the winter. At over eight weeks of classes the ladies learned to shimmy, shake, strut, strip and tease. They “graduate” in the CHEAP THRILLS performances Wednesday, March 27. By popular demand, Telluride Theatre added another CHEAP THRILLS show to take place on Thursday March 28.

Sasha Sullivan and Melissa Harris have taught the class together for all nine years:

“It has become a celebration of the feminine, a way for women in town to bond, have fun and explore a different side of themselves,” states the class founder Sullivan.  “The women who take this class all take it for different reasons. But everyone comes out changed. Burlesque taps into the sensual, beautiful, individual, feminine side of ourselves. It is an honoring of who we are as women.”

CHEAP THRILLS is a showcase of the work each student has done. Each creates a character, devises her own piece and even makes her own pasties as part of the work (err pleasure).

On Friday March 29 and Saturday March 30 THE HOUSE OF SHIMMY SHAKE, the “advanced” women of Burlesque (some who have been performing for all nine years), present a new original Burlesque show, BURLESQUE LIVE!

And for the first time ever the ladies will be performing to the sounds of a LIVE band!

“Six years ago, we started doing the advanced show to give women who wanted to continue to perform the opportunity. It has grown and grown… And now we create our own polished performance each year. So many women in the HOUSE OF SHIMMY SHAKE are serious Burlesque performers, who dedicate their lives to the art form.”
Sullivan says of BURLESQUE LIVE! “We have always wanted to do burlesque with a live band… and here it is! Telluride Theatre’s music director Ethan Hale and I have been working for months to compile and arrange the music, gather and rehearse the musicians and singers and get it all together. It is going to be a really special show.”

BURLESQUE LIVE! is directed by Sullivan and features over 20 local women, three musicians, four fabulous women singers.

Burlesque: A brief history

What’s the difference between a burlesque performer and a stripper?” Burlesque shows often include stripping, but your average strip club will not include any burlesque. But my favorite answer to this question (courtesy of A. Randy Johnson) is “strippers make money; burlesque dancers make costumes”.

The word “burlesque” comes from the Spanish or Italian word “burla” which means to mock, trick, or joke. The original use of the word burlesque was seen in the 16th and 17th century to describe parodies, and grotesque or ridiculous imitations, often of authors or artists of the time.

Victorian burlesque was essentially musical theater parody of popular ballets, operas and plays. For example, Shakespeare plays were common subject for these burlesque shows. Attractive women were included, often dressed as men, but the shows were only moderately risqué in style. At this stage there was no nudity or striptease involved in burlesque. The Victorian burlesque humor was more similar to that of the English pantomime than the burlesque you see on stage today.

When did nudity first become part of burlesque?

In the late 19th century, shows featuring what we now call “striptease” started appearing simultaneously and independently in both America and Paris. In America, stripping was seen on both the vaudeville and burlesque circuits, with the trapeze artist Charmion famously performing a “disrobing” act on stage in 1896 later caught on film by Edison. In Paris theater such as the Moulin Rouge, there were acts featuring scantily clad women dancing and in tableaux vivantes (“living pictures” where performers do not move or speak). It was in this environment in the 1890s that an act was first performed during which a woman slowly removed her clothing … looking for a flea!

In the 1920s and 30s striptease became a predominant part of burlesque. In American burlesque shows, such as those put on by the Minsky brothers, high-profile “star strippers” such as Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, and Blaze Starr were featured. In the 1930s, in England, Laura Henderson started putting on nude shows in the Windmill Theater (although the law would not allow the performers to move) and Josephine Baker danced in a banana skirt, semi-nude, at the Folies Bergere in Paris.

Prohibition and a crack down on burlesque theaters started the decline of burlesque in America in the 1940s. In England in the 1950s there were still touring striptease shows to try to attract audiences back to the declining music halls. The 1960s, in both England and the U.S., saw the introduction of topless go-go dancers. However, by the 1970m, burlesque had all but died out everywhere.

The 1990s saw the formation of the “Neo-burlesque” movement, which pioneered the revival and updating of the traditions of burlesque. The neo-burlesque scene now attracts performers from a range of performance backgrounds.

This quote from Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

“Neo-burlesque acts can be anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem.”

Where striptease is involved, which it most often is, the emphasis is on the tease rather than the strip and most often performers only go down to G-string and pasties rather than full nudity. Although neo-burlesque performers are often inspired by a nostalgia for the glamor of the old days and enjoy honoring previous burlesque performers in their acts, neo-burlesque is taking its own evolutionary path as newcomers to the scene bring their own perspective and approach.

Today burlesque is nothing short of an art form.

As Telluride Theatre will prove once again.

Telluride Theatre is dedicated to creating a thriving theatrical presence in the Telluride region by producing original company-driven professional work, culturally relevant community theater, and year-round education programs. The company creates theater that lives in moments of truthful human connection, promotes joyful celebration and is an open dialogue, accessible to all audiences.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.