Telluride Theatre: “Burlesque,” Live at Telluride’s Opera House, 12/15 – 12/19!

Telluride Theatre: “Burlesque,” Live at Telluride’s Opera House, 12/15 – 12/19!

Telluride Theatre once again hosts Burlesque, live at Telluride’s Sheridan Opera House.

Doors & SHOW Bar, 7 p.m.; show time 8 p.m.
December 15 & 16 – Cheap Thrills, $25, $35, $350 VIP table. December 17, 18 & 19, The House of Shimmy Shake’s.$40, $55, $550 VIP table for 4. Tickets here. Ages 21+ only.

Go here for more about Telluride Theatre.

Telluride Theatre is back indoors for the first time since March 2020 with the triumphant return of Burlesque to the Sheridan Opera House stage, December 15-19, 2021.

Starting out as a class 11 years ago for 11 women, Telluride Theatre’s annual fundraiser has grown into its own culture celebrating EVERY body, sensuality and freedom of expression. This Telluride tradition harkens back to the raucous and raunchy variety shows of Telluride’s vaudeville era, featuring dancing, comedy and beautiful local women. Sasha Cucciniello (The Cooch) and Melissa Harris (Miss Deviled Legs) have taught the class together for over a decade.

“Burlesque in Telluride has become its own unique thing. A celebration of the feminine, a way for women in town to bond, have fun and explore a different side of themselves,” said the class founder, show director and writer Sasha Cucciniello. “Everyone who participates chooses to for different reasons. But everyone comes out changed. We all do. Burlesque taps into the sensual, beautiful, individual, feminine side of ourselves. It honors who we are as women.”

The March 2020 Burlesque shows were shut down two weeks before performance due to COVID-19. The Beginning Class has had to wait since then for their graduation show. Over the last five weeks, 24 women (and a few men) have worked hard to shimmy, shake, strut, strip and tease. The 2020 Beginner Class  “graduates” in the CHEAP THRILLS performances Wednesday, December 15  and Thursday, December 16.

CHEAP THRILLS is a showcase of their work; each student creates a character, devises their own piece and even makes their own pasties. The show is at 8 p.m. both nights, with doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $35 reserved seats or $350 for a VIP table of four up front.

Friday, Dec.  17 through  Sunday, Dec. 19 is THE HOUSE OF SHIMMY SHAKE’S HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA featuring three nights of  the more experienced women of Burlesque and some of Telluride Theatre’s performers and musicians. Together they have created a totally original holiday show, a great (adult) way to celebrate the season.

“Since we wanted to graduate the 2020 beginning ladies before starting the 2022 class in January, I thought let’s make a FULL Burlesque weekend out of it.” said Sasha. “December was really the only time in our schedule we could do it and the ladies and I have always dreamed of a holiday show. We then thought to combine music, comedy, and burlesque to make it extra vaudeville special. It is a truly unique, fun, wild and sexy show.”

Don’t miss the HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA Friday, Dec. 16 through Sunday Dec. 18. The show is at 8 p.m. both nights, with doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 and $55 reserved seats or $550 for a VIP table of four up front.

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 a 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 dates back to the 16th and 17th century when it was used 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 subjects. 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 theaters 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 1970s, burlesque had all but died out everywhere.

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. We create theater that lives in moments of truthful human connection, promotes joyful celebration and is an open dialogue, accessible to all audiences.

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