Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Inside the empowering and joyous world of burlesque dancers

We asked some of the best international burlesque dancers why they love their art.
Sassy Stiletto

New York City’s annual Burlesque Festival twirls, shimmies and scintillates its way into the city on Sept. 21-24, with shows featuring the best acts from around the world. Events range from free to $75, with tickets on sale now.

As a warm-up act for what’s to come, we asked several performers to tell us how they got into burlesque, why they love it and what you need to know about their art. 

Angie Pontani

New York City

​How long have you been doing burlesque?

I started in burlesque in the mid-1990s when there was a teeny-tiny fledgling scene beginning to develop in NYC. We weren’t even calling it burlesque then!

What made you want to try it out?

I found my home in the chameleon type of art that burlesque offers. You can take virtually anything and create a show around it. One day I’m glamorously creeping out of an oversize oyster shell, and the next I’m a bedazzled baseball player; it’s never boring.

What makes for a successful burlesque act?

I think having a great passion for your performance is what makes a great act. Someone can have a glorious costume, great music and choreography, but if you don’t have heart, it can fall flat.

What do you want people to understand about burlesque?

The history of burlesque is so rich, I would love for more people to know how deep burlesque’s roots go! It was a birthing ground for so many great comics and jazz musicians. Its comedic and satirical style has influenced so many popular television programs and our culture.

Johnny Nuriel and Isaiah Esquire

Portland, Oregon

How long have you been doing burlesque?

Isaiah has been dancing in dance teams since the age of 15 and performing in burlesque shows for over a decade. I got my start in theater/opera, then aerial dance and have been performing in burlesque/circus/variety show for five years. And when we finally met each other, we knew what we had to do!

What makes for a successful burlesque act?

True attention to detail. When putting an act together, Isaiah pours his mind into every detail of a piece: timing, staging, costume, accents, musicality. All elements must be aligned.

Why do you love being a burlesque performer?

The most amazing part about being a performer is having the ability to transport people to another world.

What do you want people to understand about burlesque?

Isaiah and I are part of a touring cabaret called the Caravan of Glam, which brings queer art to conservative red states. The show's audiences are predominantly heterosexual. Our mission in some ways is bringing new perspectives to the table. We both wear makeup, lashes, high heels, sparkly outfits, and possess a natural androgyny. We challenge stereotypes of masculinity.

Michelle L'amour

Chicago

What made you want to try burlesque?

I’ve been doing it for about 15 years, but it was all an accident really. I was asked to choreograph a burlesque show since I have a dance background. I said yes, without knowing what I was saying yes to. Then I heard the music and knew exactly what to do — what I had been doing in my bedroom for years!

What makes for a successful burlesque act?

I like when there is some thought, creativity and innovation in the act. I have seen, and still see, A LOT of burlesque — I like to be surprised and interested from start to finish.

Why do you love being a burlesque performer?

I love the challenge of combining dance with the artistry of striptease. I love coming up with different ideas for costuming and how to take that costuming off. I love to surprise and engage the audience. Onstage is where I'm most comfortable.

What do you want people to understand about burlesque?

It takes a lot of luggage to be naked!

Bella Blue

New Orleans

What made you want to try burlesque?

I wanted to try out burlesque mainly as a way to keep dancing. It has taken me all over the world, and I have met so many incredible people along the way.

What makes for a successful burlesque act?

A successful burlesque act is one that has your audience less focused on the fact that you are nearly naked/naked and more enthralled with how you got that way.

Why do you love being a burlesque performer?

I really love being a part of people's experiences and memories. To me, that is a huge honor. People come to shows for all kinds of reasons, and it's our job to make sure and put the audience first; what I get in return is a genuine connection with a stranger and the privilege of showing them my art. How cool is that.

What do you want people to understand about burlesque?

I want people to understand that burlesque is everything and nothing. It’s not an industry run by cookie-cutter expectations. It's a space where people create, inspire and get inspired, compete, perform, commune. It can be whatever you want it to be.

Sassy Stiletto

San Diego

What made you want to try burlesque?

I threw myself a birthday party at a nightclub and hired a performer, since there was a small stage with beautiful lighting and a red velvet curtain. After meeting with her, I asked if I could come onstage with her for a small 30-second portion as the birthday girl. She was all for it and suggested I schedule a lesson. I had an amazing time!

Why do you love being a burlesque performer?

Beyond what it's like to be a performer of any kind and getting lost in your art, the burlesque scene is full of the most genuine people you will meet in real life. I am overwhelmed by this community and their acceptance and thoughtfulness towards one another. My "regular" self is very vanilla. I was concerned that I wouldn't have a place here, but I always have.

What do you want people to understand about burlesque?

I think women that shy away from a show would be surprised to hear that audiences are made up of more women than men. Shows are body positive, age positive, gender positive, lifestyle positive… positivity positive! We can use so much more of that. It's freeing to see people of every imaginable make-up comfortable in their skin. Sit back, relax, laugh, feel the feels, and get inspired.

Mara de Nudée

Paris, France

What made you want to try burlesque?

I have always been comfortable onstage since I started ballet at 5 years old and drama a bit later. I remember watching Crazy Horse [French burlesque variety show] on TV when I was a kid; I have always been fascinated by eroticism and femininity.

What makes for a successful burlesque act?

Be unique! Always ask yourself, ‘What makes my act special?’ When I am in the audience, I love to be moved and seduced by the singularity and the energy of an artist.

Why do you love being a burlesque performer?

The creation of the act is pure happiness! I imagine a story, I design the costume and work with amazing designers, work on the choreography, choose and edit the music myself. This is also something I love about my work, creating with other artists.

What do you want people to understand about burlesque?

We celebrate diversity thanks to an extraordinary and fun form of entertainment!