What is Burlesque Dance?

By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

Burlesque dance is a sensual, sometimes bawdy and comedic dance style reserved for adults. Historically, burlesque dance was a part of variety shows as early as the late 1800s that featured lewd comedy, suggestive dancing, pantomime, and later, the striptease. One famous example of early 20th century burlesque can be seen in the movie “Gypsy” starring Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee, a real burlesque dancer, whose gimmick was to strip down to nearly nothing but never reveal anything more than an arm or a leg.

Burlesque has experienced a resurgence in popularity due to movies like “Burlesque” starring Christina Aguilera, and is being offered in dance studios and fitness studios as a fun, body positive class. Burlesque dance classes require very little dance technique and instead focus on individuality, sensuality and creativity. You will often use props like boas, fans, and chairs. In order to feel the most authentic, you may choose to wear heels and tighter fitting clothing, but burlesque classes are very inclusive, so anything goes! 

Many studios that offer burlesque also offer opportunities to perform or join a troupe, which can be empowering for newer participants. Studios also may offer private lessons for those folks interested but who are on the shyer side. Burlesque is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a unique adults only dance class!

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!

About the Author

Lesley Mealor

Lesley Mealor is a dance industry professional, with over 15 years of experience in all facets of the dance world, from dance education and adjudication, to dance retail and product development, to on-stage experience. A graduate of Oklahoma City University with a degree in Dance Performance, Lesley serves as the co-host of Making the Impact - A Dance Competition Podcast, and is a director of events for Spirit of Dance Awards. She resides in New York City with her plants and her cat, Charlotte.