Burlesque performer Sailor St. Claire. Boston's tenth-annual Great Burlesque Expositi|Courtesy of Kristen Chalmers1/3 Burlesque performer Sailor St. Claire. Boston's tenth-annual Great Burlesque Expositi|Courtesy of Kristen Chalmers
Burlesque performer Gala Delicious. Boston's tenth-annual Great Burlesque Exposition |Courtesy of Kristen Chalmers2/3 Burlesque performer Gala Delicious. Boston's tenth-annual Great Burlesque Exposition |Courtesy of Kristen Chalmers
Boston's tenth-annual Great Burlesque Exposition kicks off this weekend in Cambridge.|Courtesy of Kristen Chalmers3/3 Boston's tenth-annual Great Burlesque Exposition kicks off this weekend in Cambridge.|Courtesy of Kristen Chalmers
When Boston’s “Betty Blaize” first got started in the city’s burlesque scene ten years ago, the group of performers here was small – a few troupes here and there taking their acts to local clubs.
A decade later, she said, burlesque is hot in Boston and cities around the country. Classes are filling with students, both amateur and professional. Venues are regularly booking burlesque line-ups. There is probably a burlesque show happening somewhere in the city on any given weekend.
“I would say it’s thriving,” she said. She asked Metro to print only her stage name. “The scene has really, really, really grown, and that’s pretty wonderful.”
“Blaize” is one of the organizers of Boston’s Great Burlesque Exposition, a three-day convention blending performances, classes, conference-style talks and vendors that kicks off on Friday. The annual expo, a showpiece for the industry at a time when its popularity is hard to miss, is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in 2016.
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A lot has changed between the expo’s founding and the ten-year milestone, she said. For one, she said, attitudes about sex have continued to evolve.
“The feminist movement had gotten to a point where something like this was a plus,” said Blaize, who is also lead choreographer for a group called The Boston BeauTease. “People were coming along and saying, ‘It’s not either or. I get to be smart and sexy.’”
Now, there are hundreds of practitioners in the city alone – from those who take classes for fun to those who are serious about taking their skills to the stage, said “Mr. Scratch,” the expo’s founder.
A performer and instructor at the Boston Academy of Burlesque Education, “Mr. Scratch” also asked Metro to use his stage name.
Some performers embrace the old-school Jazz Era style, he said, while others have adopted updates that borrow from comic books, science fiction and pop culture icons like Princess Leia from “Star Wars” or characters from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Some call it “nerdlesque.”
And this weekend’s expo, expected to draw 700-900, caters to many of modern burlesque's quirks, he said.
He told Metro he launched the festival a decade ago to help performers manage their careers as burlesque began moving from fringe fascination to a recognizable part of the city's culture.
“In 2006, if you were a burlesque performer, the idea that you could make a reasonable living at it was just non-existent,” he said. “Burlesque was just sort of on the verge of taking off, and I really felt like if we didn’t take ourselves seriously that nobody else was going to.”
Everyone is welcome this weekend, he said, from the scene aficionados to people who are curious and looking to experience a show for the first time.
But for the pros in attendance, the schedule includes a mix of speakers and workshops that would be hard to find elsewhere.
“We cover everything from Google AdWords to budgeting to how to make a beautiful brassiere,” he said.
The festivities begin at noon on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge and run through Feb. 7. Tickets for the parties, shows and for access to a vendor hall, costume exhibit and drop-in classes start at $10 and run up to $225 for a weekend-long pass.