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 dance intimately in a grand ballroom, just you and I;
you kiss me, and I am yours completely.
You stun in a formal white dress, chandelier earrings, and a diamond necklace.
Strappy heels add to your appeal, and I am immersed in your rapture;
I spin you around as we dance if beautiful synchrony.
Tonight, whisper your heart’s sincerity — and capture the depths of me.
Reveal secrets to me, and know in your heart that you can trust my confidentiality.
Again, kiss me deeply, and know that I love you with everything that I have in me.
As we dance slowly, let me be lost in the comfort of your femininity.
Seductive utterances are not enough; hold onto the essence of my being,
and know that I could never live without you.
Another spin, and from behind is how I hold you—
With loving arms around you, we rock from side to side in sweet caress.
You place your hands on top of mine, and what I feel…
What I feel in this very moment, I can’t describe.
Right here and right now, I dance with a goddess in my eyes;
You tilt your head back, and your hair becomes a gloriously flowing waterfall;
I love you; you move me deeply — without saying anything at all.
The cold desolation of the void encompasses me. The utter blackness of it depresses me and wounds my spirit. I will not let it feed on my distress. With tears flowing from eyes of anger, and with bare feet, I will dance. I will cry out from the abyss. Wildly and in uninhibited rage, I will dance in silent darkness.