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Vintage Burlesque

Updated on June 29, 2017

History of burlesque dancing

Here's a little background about American burlesque ...

Old time burlesque dancing has roughly been around from the1860s- 1940s. This dancing was popular in clubs, theatres, and cabarets. This form of dance did include female striptease. While in other countries burlesque dimmed down but in America it thrived. American burlesque focused on the female body and talent. After this was getting more attention even films started to incorporate burlesque scenes in movies which ranged from the 1930s to the 1960s, especially in Hollywood.

Song and dance was a major factor in burlesque, the performers usually added there own flavor and pizzazz so they could not be hard to spot. Fabolous hair, makeup, body figure, and costume were just a cherry on top but could you grab an audience with your stunning looks, teases, dance and or voice? Most of the time a burlesque dancer was accompanied by a comic considering this was all about entertainment. On another note some people may refer to burlesque entertainers as strippers but some actually never stripped out of their costumes but wowed a crowd with their dance and song. Yes believe it or not burlesque dancing wasn't just all about who could get out of their clothes the fastest but actual talent. The key to a good burlesque dancer is to keep them coming back for more and not giving them everything, essentially isn't that what it is all about, teasing ?

vintage burlesque

Burlesque dance

As you can see from the video vintage striptease was solely about the dance and captivating the audience with periodically removing pieces of garment. Striptease dancers were not just "vintage strippers" there is a difference between striptease and just stripping. I suggest if you're looking to watch vintage old-time burlesque to not search stripper videos from long ago. Also in the video this performer never was completely nude. As for as the nipple toppers it creates a sense of "I wonder what they look like" which would make the man what to come back for more, hoping to see more. The art of teasing always grabs the person and leaves their imagination running wild.

Burlesque music

Wondering how vintage burlesque music sounds ? Take a listen to these songs..

burlesque songs

Louis Prima- Night Train

Bill Hagen- Temptation

Barry Adamson- The Man With The Golden Arm

Kevin MacLeod- Arcane

Tony Bennett & Norah Jones- Speak Low

Just to name a few ..

Famous vintage burlesque dancers

Now I will go on to share a couple of my personal favorite vintage burlesque dancers and a brief description ..

Lilly Christine


Lilly Christine "The Cat Girl" - Born Martha Theresa Pompender of Italian-Polish decent, raised by a physical education teacher in upstate New York, Lilly Christine was a vegetarian as well. You're probably wondering how she got the nickname "The Cat Girl" it was from her unique muscle control and suppleness of a cat. As for Ms. Lilly Christine she incorporated many cultures in her dance routines such as her Voodoo mambo dance, French , African , Indian, and Native American. Lilly was very popular in a New Orleans club "Prima's 500 Club" in the French Quarter. Lilly never performed nude and didn't want to be called a stripper but interpretive dancer she's considered to be a Queen of Burlesque.

Quote by Lilly Christine: "Men, men...the indispensable catus felis!... I love them all!"



Zorita- Born Kathryn Boyd adopted to a family of Methodists in Ohio grew up into a shapely woman by the time of 15 years old. Apparently that was enough to jump start her career into Burlesque. Her routines included snakes! Yes Pythons and Boa Constrictors. Not only did that grab people's attention but her half and half performance. Zorita's costume consisted of half of a man's attire and a woman's attire. The irony is she would date men for the better things then move on to relationships with women which she preferred.

Lili St.Cyr


Lili St.Cyr- Born Willis Marie Van Schaack in Minnesota , Lili has always been into dance even as a child in ballet. Not only did she have multiple roles in movies but multiple husbands, 6 to be exact all ending in divorce. Despite that and a brief run in with the law for "lewd lascivious act" she was acquitted. She received her big break in Hollywood and even became friends with Marilyn Monroe. It was rumored around that Marilyn Monroe and Lili St. Cyr had an affair. With all the drama Lili even tried suicide and until this day her mug shot is still floating around online.

Ethlyn Butler


Ethlyn Butler- This woman stood 6 feet and was a famous shake dancer. Her figure also caught the eye of many. Dance and talent was never out of the question was Ethlyn Butler. She later started ballet, not only that but fortune telling. Once before she told crowds the winning numbers "019" and it nearly broke bankers. After gaining wealth she decided to become a cultured artist.

Chelo Alonso


Chelo Alonso- Born Isabel Garcia of Cuban and Mexican decent dominated when she entered the world of burlesque even getting the title "The New Josephine Baker" and "The Cuban H-Bomb". Starting at the age of 17 she fused the classic Bump and Grind with Latin flavor. She later became more in films and flourished.

Which burlesque dancer was your fave?

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    • woahthere profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from USA

      Yes indeed she was too bad there isn't a lot of information on her

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      4 years ago

      Ethlyn Butler was beautiful. This is some interesting history.


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