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It appears that burlesque is as common now as pub rock was in the 80s… in fact there is a part of me that thinks the rise of the popularity of burlesque may even manage to topple the pokies… (hmmm perhaps wishful thinking?) Many a bright young lass have been finding their sass and slide around the traps… and some unlikely of actors and designers doubling as burlesque performers… but there is something in it that captures imaginations. I am not so stirred by the sexual taboo – for me, there is a weighty and long history of cultural and political commentary at play.

The origins of burlesque are really like that of a revue or vaudeville variety show: originally being “a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects.” It takes a learned and thinking audience to appreciate that which is being referenced or subverted, and in a contemporary climate of visual stimulation, extreme physical portraits – I’m thinking body modification ( http://www.oddee.com/item_96617.aspx or even the more tame and still fascinating Embarrassing Bodies http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoQjBjomY_0 ) and overly sexualised images in advertising http://www.boredpanda.com/sexy-ads/ burlesque faces a tough crowd.

In the last ten years or so, the popularity of burlesque has proliferated. And now as an everyday and accepted aspect of mainstream entertainment. My most recent experience of burlesque was at the Seymour Centre – not a convention venue with the seats cloaked in black- and a clever conversion found audience on stage at the York sitting at small round tables covered in velvet table cloths lit by flickering lanterns. The aesthetic alone nodding to a different time and place – far from our airbrushed and obvious advertisements of today – a circus gone wild, a well-traveled variety show with a few surprises.

Finucane & Smith’s Burlesque Hour: the Glory Box edition is: Circus infused with terror, clumsy and self-destructive ballet, visual visceral moments of heart breaking torch songs, food abuse designed to make you go blind and a velvet voiced Pamela Rabe intimidating all with her insistent line of questioning (the recitation of an ancient Sumerian poem, circa 1200) “Who Will Plough My Vulva?”

With a few exceptions the music and sensibility of this burlesque pitched this show perhaps 15 years ago or so (not a 1940s pinup girl show – and more grunge rock than high-gloss elegance), and now a study of female sensuality, a portrait of natural women performing surprising acts.

My education and appreciation of burlesque as an artform and statement continues to deepen – and I’m sure to think about it in years to come.