Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
Machete Rose discusses the Big Reveal.
Burlesque – we all think we know it. The problem with its fairly recent dizzying heights in popularity within the greater public, is that it’s more common for people to assume it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and create burlesque simply with a paint-by-numbers style of concoction.
Step 1) enter stage
Step 2) remove costume
Step 3) boobs
So the true ideals, inspirations and creativities behind burlesque get diluted into a depressing copy-and-paste definition.
I think this is why I’ve been met with certain amounts of confusion when some people try to understand what it is I do. An illustration of this came to me when chatting to a man who had only grasped burlesque as ‘posh stripping’. He asked my performer name – obligingly I told him I was Machete Rose. His next question was “Why do you want a name that sounds like you’re going to chop off my cock?” When applied to an audience, the answer to his question is that I don’t want your proverbial cock, I want your brain.
To date, I have never stripped to pasties on stage and to some it could be understood that the acts I perform are not ‘burlesque’. I don’t believe burlesque to be defined by nudity – a big part of it is about the reveal as a method, rather than a prescribed way of taking off clothes. Anticipation and seduction is still at work here, where a cleverly delivered reveal (when the performer shows their own brand of wit/comedy/intelligence/surprise) is just as sexy as a delicately peeled glove.
Don’t forget, everyone that performs is showing way more than just flesh on stage; a performer is so much more than that. They are revealing their ideas, their sense of humour, their taste in music, their storytelling skills, their dance movements, their costume design – the list goes on.
Not only that but burlesque is so much more than just flesh on stage. For example, a nod to comedy recognises its roots; stylistically a good burlesque fan could recognise a pin up pose from 1000 paces; with an appreciation of theatre, performers can tell a good story. The history of burlesque is so rich!
So for me, here is where the fun bit comes in. When I took to the stage as a solo performer for the first time, my choice of punch line was not dictated by “to be naked or not to be naked?” The fact that I continually choose an alternative to a pasties reveal is not that I am too nervous to do it; it is that I make an active decision to explore other punch lines.
There is a certain ‘accepted wisdom’ within any genre and it’s with this that you can really play with. When the audience expect to see something, it’s all the easier to explore using things like misdirection and parody. Ultimately I’ve found that when you hit them with the unexpected, it makes you bloody memorable.
Check out Machete Rose’s beautiful and expressive illustrations at Drawesome Illustration.