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Burlesque Reunion in Las Vegas June 2-5: Stars Fight Those Who Would Strip Away Risque History

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Our friend David Moye writes on – Like a feather boa placed tenuously over a busty dancer’s cleavage, burlesque finds itself in a precarious position.

On one satin-gloved hand, the art form is at its highest level of popularity since the 1950s, thanks to a new generation of neo-burlesque stars like Dita Von Teese and Michelle L’Amour, who bring a 21st-century touch to the old bump and grind.

On the other hand, burlesque still deals with misconceptions both within the community of people who do it and the general audience, who still confuses it with stripping, Christina Aguilera’s recent bomb notwithstanding.

Laura Herbert, the executive director of the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, is hoping to change that impression one pastie at a time.

“There’s a joke that’s more truthful than I’d like it to be,” she said.

“What is the difference between a burlesque performer and a stripper?
Strippers make money. Still, I believe that if your outfit can fit in your closed fist, you’re probably not a burlesque performer.”

Discussions of where burlesque is and where it’s going will be hot topics when the Burlesque Hall of Fame holds its 54th Annual All-Star Burlesque Reunion June 2-5 at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Both modern-day dancers and retired legends will strut their moneymakers onstage throughout the weekend, competing to be Miss Exotic World 2011 and discussing the tricks of their trade offstage as well.

For Dita Von Teese, a world famous dancer who rose to fame as Marilyn Manson’s former girlfriend, the event is akin to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual induction weekend.

“There really isn’t a title that matters more than this one for upcoming neo-burlesque performers,” she told AOL Weird News. “But even more importantly, it brings burlesque performers and fans together from all over the world, making it a great showcase for new acts and for veteran performers to connect with the burlesque community.”

That connection is important to Herbert, especially when thinking about the past. A self-proclaimed history nerd, Herbert fell in love with burlesque as a child despite growing up as the daughter of an ardent 1970s-era feminist.

“My parents wanted me to be a judge, but I wanted to be a ‘Solid Gold’ dancer,” she laughed. “However, I think if you scratch a neo-burlesque dancer, you will find a feminist.”

In fact, to stand-up comedian Jessica Halem, the burlesque dancers of the 1930s and ’40s were the original feminists.

“With burlesque dancers, you’re seeing the powerful sexuality of women being owned on stage,” said Halem, who sometimes performs her comedy in burlesque shows. “Especially in an era when women otherwise were expected to be school teachers, mothers or secretaries. The women who did burlesque were saying, ‘I don’t want that. I want to travel.’ They took a harder path, a path less taken.”


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