I fell into the world of burlesque kind of by accident. A few years ago I started attending a pole dance studio that also taught burlesque. Well actually it was the other way around. A burlesque teacher who dabbled in pole-fit. It was here that I learned about the glitter filled world of burlesque and places where dancers who didn’t look like mainstream dancers went to shine.
I made friends with women who were destined to be these kinds of dancers. Carving their way into the world to shine their own light in their own way. It was through them that I attended some shows and was fascinated by this world of feathers, silk fans, and nipple tassels. Modern burlesque is a reflection of American Burlesque of the late 1800’s. But there are many twists and turns. Every performer has their own personal style and signature way of performing. In 2020 I was excited to attend one of the first incarnations of “Shreklesque”. Put simply this was a Shrek themed show featuring some burlesque performers that I knew and others that I had seen and heard of. Not all were burlesque performers. Some were drag queens and some were “boylesque” performers; Males that danced in burlesque style and costumes but did not present as female.
At the time Brisbane was just emerging from the first panicked Covid – 19 lockdown. We were nervous about gathering in large groups but we were excited to purchase our tickets and head to a small theatre that was used predominantly for community theatre events to support this little group of performers trying to keep their art alive. Fast forward two years and I was just as excited to see the show again after two years of development and in a bigger, more professional venue.
I was not disappointed. I was treated to dance, drag queens, weird parodies of Shrek characters and a mound of green pubic hair among other things. All of the performers pushed gender norms in some way. Men dressed as women. Women performing as male characters from the movie although not disguising their femininity. A gingerbread man that was more sexual than any baked good should be. The “normal” standard for body shape was either parodied in the form of fake six packs or completely ignored in the form of larger than life performers.
None of this made the performances less. In fact it made for a richer, more diverse show. Everyone on that stage was just living their best life. Audience members did not judge anyone be it performers or each other. You want to wear a lime green outfit and bright purple hair? Go you! The show’s creator Trigger Happy has danced for most of his life. An injury prevented him from making it into the mainstream world of broadway but it doesn’t stop him from kicking high and dropping into the splits in a way no man feels comfortable watching.
There are those people in the world that would not be able to see past his size to appreciate his athleticism. People who think athletic = skinny. There are people who think that larger, less pert breasts have no place in public viewing. They are wrong. Humans come in all shapes and sizes. And some of us are born to entertain no matter what shape or size we are.