Black Burlesque (an exploration)

Recently, mid–twentieth century Black burlesque has piqued my interest. I am fascinated with the night life of the time period, particularly — the rich cultural demographic of Harlem, Manhattan, New York. I view the women of the burlesque art form as pioneers of fearless feminine sexual expression; Black women, in particular, because of the overt racial discrimination and stereotypes of the era. In my brief viewing of films of the era, I have taken notice of the intricacies in the performances, and the layers of skill intertwined throughout the dances are quite captivating. If I may say, I have had a few interesting conversations about the comparability of burlesque performers and so called “strippers” of the modern day era; I think the most highlighted point referenced in all three dialogues, is that stripping is an evolution of burlesque, (a theory which I reject) which in turn caters to a modern audience who would be dismayed and dissatisfied at the prospect of women dancing in only partial nudity. In my opinion, burlesque and stripping have certain similarities, but they are largely incomparable and should be seen as two completely separate entities. I consider burlesque, circa 1950’s an art form in a theatrical setting, and I consider stripping, pornographic adult entertainment in a setting of monetary exchange for services rendered. There are indeed many skilled strippers who perform wonderfully and have mastered incredible dance routines, though I know patrons of strip clubs might not particularly care about the skill involved as much as the removal of clothes in those specific settings. I have not yet extensively researched burlesque, but I have found that its origin was in England, circa late 1830’s in the Victorian era.

We will hold each other until our last kiss, when we are turned to dust, and the earth’s winds gently carry us and scatter our remnants among the fallen leaves, beautiful flowers and redwood trees; when the earth no longer spins on her axis in perfect balance like a beautiful ballerina on her toes in the company of an audience. In those moments, I will tell you that I love you, with immeasurable purity and the depths of infinite sincerity. At the twelve gates of heaven, look for me, and whisper the three words that you mean with all your heart; touch me—kiss me in light, and fall into my arms.

Melancholia of the Living

Suffering of a heavy heart causes weeping unceasing.
Winds through willow trees blow and their leaves know
The coming lament of the season;
Eyes cry sometimes for no known reason.
The feelings of yesteryear are still there,
But the resolve to keep living is hard to muster.
In last shallow breaths with arms outstretched they call for their mothers.
The movie of their lives are played within the blinking of an eye;
The foundations shake, and soaring eagles start to cry.
The stillness of lifelessness is contemplated …
The living go on in agony and forlorn, in disconcerted waiting.
Cold darkness calls in seductive whispers,
Promising peace and tranquility to the listener,
But the primal instinct to survive causes rise,
And the tormented continue to live and suffer.
Oh, that they could live without pain and agony in blissful harmony.
The burdens of the anxious and the oppressed are many;
The blissful and the happy are looked upon with wondrous envy.
Who will hear the wails of the sorrowful?
Who will take up their banners and resume their march
While they lie in wounded state paralyzed with the prognosis of their fate?

Oh heaven hear their plea, for their suffering is constant
And their pain unbearable. Grant them reprieve, for they
Fall to their knees overcome with sorrow and are no longer able.

Tears are blown in the wind in winter chill,
With ashen faces solemn and still.
They hold on for another season.


With tears, the infliction of mortality was fiercely debated.
Memories of childhood joys appeared, but familiar faces were faded.
With a mixture of hysterical laughter, murmurs, and wailing,
The final act was finally abated with a crumpled note nearby,
With a name at the end stated.