I considered making the title of this post "Why Burlesque Doesn't = Stripping" though I think that equation needs a "Necessarily" in it, but I honestly can't be bothered to argue with people who get very heated about this, I have more important things in life to be angry about.
Now don't get me wrong, I honestly, truthfully think there's nothing wrong with stripping. Some of my best friends are strippers. Oh goodness, that sounds like a "I'm not a racist...." OK strike that, reverse it.
Actually no, don't. I really don't think there's anything wrong with stripping. Provided it's in the right place, for grown-ups eyes only and strippers are doing it because they want to (or have decided they need to, to make some money) and not because someone else is making them. There are some very talented and entertaining strippers in the world, those who also call themselves burlesquers and those who don't.
I also think the human body is a beautiful and wonderful thing. If you want to take your clothes off, then take you clothes off, but don't do it somewhere you'll be arrested for indecency and don't show us how all your bits work in public.
But I also think the human body is a very funny thing. Boobs, for example, ARE beautiful when they're still. But when you jiggle them, they're funny. OK, perhaps that's just me.
"But Tempest!" I hear you cry, "Aren't you getting sidetracked?"
"And if we're to get you back on subject, didn't Dita Von Teese say that burlesque is stripping?"
"Wasn't the main outcry burlesquers had with Cher and Christina's Burlesque movie that there wasn't any stripping?"
"So are you saying burlesque isn't stripping?"
Nope, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that burlesque CAN BE stripping, but it can also NOT involve stripping. What I am saying is Stripping isn't the be all and end all of Burlesque. Burlesque can also be this and this....no clothes removed at all there.
And for me, I can firmly tell you that I'm not a stripper. And I tell you why. (However, I'm sure this isn't going to stop people calling me a stripper and that's fine too, it's just words and as I said above there's nothing wrong with stripping).
OK, this is why I'm not a stripper = my pasties.
"Ooooh" I hear you jump in, "you're really kidding yourself if you think two bits of material stopping you being nude mean your NOT a stripper!"
I could at this point get into a whole discussion on obsenity law, intent to sexually arouse, definitions of nudity.....especially from the British legal point of view, but don't worry I won't (in the distance I hear Elsa Wolf, obsenity law historian/junky sigh sadly).
But no, that's not what I said......I totally get that lots of burlesquers strip down to pasties and a g-string or merkin doing a STRIPTEASE, and yes, that's strippping.
But my style of burlesque isn't about showing you my body for my body's sake. I'm a 43 year old, overweight, mother of two. My boobs are currently fighting a battle with gravity and basically winning....for now, I don't have to sling them over my shoulder yet. The right one is slightly lower than the left but it's always been that way even when I was a 32A. I have stretch marks. I have stretch marks on my stretch marks. I have a belly that's fighting to open doors before my boobs get to them. Although I love my body and know that there's a very specialised market that also find it very sexy (if all the explicit requests on myspace and facebook are to be believed), I don't take my clothes off on stage to show you my body.
Instead I take my clothes off on stage for comedy and as part of a transformation. I start as one thing, I try and lull you into a comfortable feeling about what's going to happen and then I take you somewhere totally different I hope will surprise and amuse you.
Supposedly every joke in the world sets up an assumption and then confounds it. This is how I structure my burlesque routines. So I start on stage wrapped up in bandages to Bad Manners "I'm a Mummy" and unwrap myself to become Shaggy, who then finds Scooby Doo in a box and we serenade and seduce each other and finally snog to Queen's "Somebody to Love". I start as a clumsy, quirky girl and turn into a sexy Dalek...
Sometimes I take my bra off, sometimes I don't - it all depends on the joke or story I'm trying to tell. In my Dalek act I keep the bra on because it's the main visual joke - it has my guns sewn into it.......and as more recently the guns have been a tad flaccid I can get more laughs trying to perk them up. If I took the bra off you'd lose the effect of me being a Dalek. Plus my Dalek act was specifically designed to be 'safe' when I want it to be, so that I can (and have) performed it outside burlesque shows...I've done it in an art exhibition in front of kids and played it totally for comedy and hopefully I'll perform it at some ComicCon's in the future.
But when I do take my bra off, am I doing it to be sexy? Nope. I'm usually doing it because the final visual joke is underneath - and my pasties are usually the punchline to the whole joke. Look.....these are the clothes I take off in my Jessie/Lady Gaga "Telephone" routine, each layer comes off to reveal something else hopefully interesting to look at whilst I'm dancing/mucking about:
I get a huge laugh and applause when I take the bra off and having been in a Jessie costume I have two Buzz's on my chest......but on the final big note of the song I pull the string for the big finale, the Buzz's jump to attention:
In my Glam Rock act I take my bra off to reveal two 70's style orange space hoppers on my boobs. And then to make them bounce I jump up and down. There honestly couldn't be anything less sexy than that, but it's damned funny and has the audience in stitches.
And why do I take my bra off for my Russian Doll act? Well, firstly because I've got these two visual jokes under it:
The Bobettes as they're known (my big Russian Doll prop is called Bob). Not a lot of burlesquers have pasties as elaborate as mine. Lots have simple round ones, many have them sparkly, but mine are always a final surprise/joke. (Anna Fur Laxis has a fab one that lights up though).
AND......do you know what, tassel twirling is a A LOT OF FUN!! I found out I could do it, and that I can do several different twirls (I've almost got isolating each boob's twirling down so I get it right each time, but even when the tassel plays up, it's still tons of fun). And you can't tassel twirl with a bra on......actually that's not true, you can sew your tassels onto the outside of a bra, and this is probably what I'll do when my boobs lose their fight with gravity ;)
So that's my answer when asked am I a stripper. Please feel free to argue my points (ooh err missus, sorry I've got into innuendo mode now), I'm off to stick some cardboard bats to my garage door, as you do (pics to follow).