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Sneak Peek of New Orleans Burlesque Fest

Burlesque Fest
New Orleans Burlesque Fest take place September 13 - 14, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Michael Sauer)

The striptease event of the year is fast approaching. New Orleans Burlesque Festival, now in its 11th year, brings burlesque center stage from September 13-14. Rick Delaup, the creator and producer of Bustout Burlesque, founded the festival as an opportunity to see world-renowned burlesque acts without leaving the city. The festival pays homage to the classic burlesque scene for which Bourbon Street was once known for in the twentieth century, but the festival does not stick to just classic burlesque.

New Orleans Burlesque Fest (Photo courtesy of Darrell Miller)

The Background

Burlesque is often traced back to seventeenth century Italian theater. The word itself is rooted in the Italian word “burla,” translated as a joke or to make fun. These “burlas” were comedic interludes or other parodies. In London, for a large part of the 1800s, burlesque was widespread and included risqué performances and costumes. The performance art migrated to the United States in the 1840s in the form of the variety show and ultimately began incorporating striptease. Crackdowns beginning around the 1930s led to its eventual decline in popularity across the country.

In New Orleans, however, burlesque remained relatively popular throughout the next several decades of the twentieth century, eventually transitioning to the neo-burlesque movement. Throughout the twentieth century, Bourbon Street was a hub for burlesque and striptease. Clubs dotted the street and hosted big-name performers including Blaze Starr, Rita Alexander the Champagne Girl, Kitty West, aka Evangeline the Oyster Girl, and Stephanie Blake.

The Schedule

“The art of burlesque dancing is the art of striptease,” says Delaup. Attendees of any of the festival’s performances will quickly realize that burlesque is indeed an artform. In addition to the performers’ impressive abilities, glamorous costumes, mood lighting, props, and humor round out the shows. Burlesque Festival features two official performances.

Burlesque Fest
A performer at New Orleans Burlesque Festival. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Friday, Sept. 13

Mondo Burlesque

House of Blues – 225 Decatur St.
8:00 p.m. (doors open 7:00 p.m.)
11:00 p.m. (doors open 10:30 p.m.)

Mondo Burlesque features a whole slew of experienced performers with Felix Roxx as the star dancer. Tickets start at $22.

New Orleans Burlesque Fest (Photo courtesy of Darrell Miller)

Saturday, Sept. 14

The Queen of Burlesque

House of Blues – 225 Decatur St.
9:00 p.m. (doors open 8:00 p.m.)

Get in the spirit of old school burlesque at the main event, the Queen of Burlesque, accompanied by a live jazz band. Founder Rick Delaup aimed “to create a classic burlesque competition where the best traditional striptease dancers perform with accompaniment of a live jazz band, just as it was done on Bourbon Street in the 1950s.” After a vote by a panel of celebrity judges, this year’s Queen of Burlesque will receive her crown. The Queen of Burlesque competition is one of the most prestigious titles in burlesque. Tickets start at $22.

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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