Stripper Talk #16: Family Friendly Burlesque?

Author of Stripper Talk, Sydni Deveraux

Hello world! It’s Stripper Talk time again! This is a place where I field questions and answer them to the best of my ability, hopefully giving anyone who’s interested in burlesque some insight.

This week’s question comes from Bella Sin of Ohio, USA

I have been having this question in my mind for some time and i hope you can please shed some light upon it.

Recently i have attended some family friendly functions where there was a burlesque performer, The first thing i hear is “This is a family friendly none strip performance” I paused and asked “How can it be burlesque if there is no tease element?” They stated there was children in attendance and she was not stripping.
I waited for the performance as she entered the stage fully dressed she did remove articles of clothing down to a corset and underwear and bustle and she also did do some suggestive moves, it was interesting for me to see the audience reaction some looked away and took their children some where else and others where odd lookers that keep watching.
But it really got me thinking is burlesque a child friendly show even if there is no removal of clothing? Is it still burlesque or does it move to interpreted dance?

I have performed in Pride (LGBT celebration) and i do a full show but i have always been uncomfortable with the fact that there is children in the audience so i stop doing them.
I my self offer a performance that is friendly to family in my mind*
I simply fan dance in full costume *I.E In A full dress long gown and i title it “Fan Dancer” there is no clothing removal and its always a classic song, its that still acceptable?
I do not know if im becoming a prude or something like that but i just dont feel like what i do is acceptable for children under 18 to see and it furthers my mind to the idea that we are all going to love the body acceptance of it but when some ones little kid is 5 ot 8 they dont comprehend what that really is.

Please help clear my mind

Thank you
Bella Sin

Hi Bella!

Thanks for your question- I’ve also been approached to do “family friendly” or even funnier, gigs where it’s all adults, they want a burlesque dancer (classic striptease) but no raunch, no “strip”. I’ve found this confusing, because unless you’re doing the comedy/vaudeville/sideshow aspect of burlesque, you’re doing strip and not stripping certainly takes the cherry, the frosting and the eggs out of the cake, doesn’t it?

I don’t think there’s such a thing as family friendly burlesque when it comes to the striptease dancer. We’re dealing in a language that talks about sexuality, and even it we weren’t to take something off, our costumes, movement and makeup are hypersexualized enough to cause questions in a child’s mind, regardless of whether they can articulate them. Just like many mothers wouldn’t want to see a Barbie come to life in front of their young children, I’m sure parents aren’t too keen on someone in fishnets parading to classic strip songs. It’s a language that regardless of cognitive understanding- I think it translates. There is no other purpose for the shimmy except to titilate. The bump? invokes the thoughts of bumping with another in the night. The grind? FORGETABOUTIT.

A fan dance with clothes is an interesting concept in that I absolutely don’t think this would be seen as striptease in description, especially since you’re not removing clothes. However, are the movements suggestive? The fluttering, the close and reveal- the fan dance is all about the “hide and reveal”- it’s a big flirtatious dance typically, and the movements suggest that we should be admiring the body they frame.

Personally, I don’t do “family friendly” events. I’m not a family friendly performer, and that’s alright with me. If they ask me to be, I suggest to them clowns, jugglers and aerialists that I think would be the trick and also let them know that in my estimation there is no such thing as “family friendly” when it comes to us strippers.

Always ask about events that aren’t already set out to be 18+, if there’s a possibility that children might be able to attend, make sure that the advertising notes you as a STRIPTEASE act, and that the MC gives a friendly warning. After that- dance your heart out. You’ve done what you can, and they should remove their children if their uncomfortable. You don’t need to be held accountable for any different parenting that’s going on.

Use your best judgment!

Sydni Deveraux

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3 thoughts on “Stripper Talk #16: Family Friendly Burlesque?

  1. Well the definition of burlesque is incredibly broad and there are many styles of burlesque performance that can be modified to be something presentable in a “family friendly environment” and in the world of burlesque there were/are dancers who did not do striptease. But I’d say it’s complex. For me, when I’m asked to do something “PG” but they still want “burlesque” it’s usually that they want a dancer, they want a corset and some feathers and they want the movement style to have a vintage elegance or flirtation versus a contemporary gogo dancer (not just family-friendly but often corporate events and so forth). I can sometimes incorporate elements of strip, but not a sense of striptease. I’m happy to provide that because I’m a striptease performer, but also a dancer, model and actor. I do tend to try to spin the verbiage back so it’s vintage burlesque styled dance, or modeling versus “performing burlesque” since that is currently so completely tied towards acts incorporating striptease or strip. But digging in deeper – what is the “family friendly” concept that is wanted? Like what you brought up with the fan dance – Is it taking away the nudity, the concept of stripping or the intentional flirtation and reference to sexual themes? You mentioned clown – clown is also a genre that deals very heavily with adult themes and it has to be clarified to most clowns that work deeply in the art form that an event is family friendly, because they can’t do their bit where they come out dressed looking like a banana on steroids and ask the audience to text them dirty pictures. Same for jugglers that have acts with erotic comedy etc. As an artist, you have to assess whether or not you consider it too much of a dilution of what you do to be worth it to participate in. A lot of my acts, even if they are more performance art and not burlesque strip, incorporate elements of erotic comedy or sensuality or themes of betrayal and heartbreak or aggression. There is a lot that goes into what makes a performance adult-themed and although I’ll do family friendly I definitely don’t feel as comfortable or free. I think part of the issue comes down to the label of “burlesque” because it means a lot of different things to different people both in and out of the genre. I think if it was there are burlesque dancers and then burlesque strippers or striptease artists then that would clarify things a bit, however there are many of us that are both or either and we also do clown or aerial work so it gets all weird, and it becomes key to ask beyond the word “burlesque” what is it specifically that they are looking for. A friend of mine who works with children recently mentioned that she would let children see my burlesque strip work…and I thought that it was interesting in that her interpretation was what I do is healthy and beautiful and shouldn’t be censored…then we started talking about “adult themes” and where the line is.

  2. I agree that the breadth of “burlesque” is extremely wide, but if their looking for the “striptease” without the stripping or the tease…’s something else entirely. Clowns may deal with adult content, but many have both options. I personally don’t think that “family friendly” and burlesque striptease go together….ever.

  3. It’s funny Sydni as I have almost had the opposite experience. Where in shows I’ve produced are – obviously – labelled as 18+. But if we use a theatre in Tasmania, Australia, because they aren’t a bar or club technically younger patrons can come in. Obviously made aware that the show includes nudity and adult content. But I can’t count the times that I’ve had parents beg (well not literally) but really push to bring their son or daughter with them. And in the end I usually warn them of content but leave it to their best judgement. However after speaking to them after shows I’ve found that often if they are young kids the parents note that they just like the feathers, sparkles etc etc, or for teenagers I’ve had them say that they wanted their son/daughter to see the different body shapes and sizes that are around and to give them a more of a realistic look (? I question this as I don’t look that real with the makeup but whatever) of women.

    And recently hired to do a private function. Rocked up and there were young kids there, and offered to stop at bra/knickers no pasties but the organisers didn’t mind.

    I know that’s off topic but I’ve found it so strange having ‘family friendly’ events actually be nonplussed about the nudity angle.

    On the odd occasion I’ve done non strip performances but I’d agree that they were just fan dances (feather and silk) where there is suggestion and some clothing removal but it has stopped at bra and knickers. As a classic performer too I don’t really find other options for doing PG rated burlesque. If this is what’s requested, I usually say that it will give a classic burlesque ‘feel’ and try to go with some traditional music and make it solely about the fan movement. I just couldn’t see anything else working that well. A tough call!

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