Taking a look <smile> at feminine and female dance forms. Doing
done a little bit of research on this and I have some past history I
can talk about. One of the things that got me started was a dancer my
dad spoke about. He was in WWI in the R.A.F. and he spoke of a music
hall turn featuring a lady called Lottie Collins.
I looked up Lottie Collins iin Wikipedia and found out that she wore
flouncy skirts and that she kicked very high, revealing her stockings
held up by sparkley suspenders. People could see her whole leg! This
was scandalous in those days. She was British and a very popular symbol
of the Naughty Nineties. . Lottie went abroad to dance as well. Her
dance was a skirt dance, a sort of Can-Can done as a solo dance with
the flouncy skirts and the very high kicks. Here is the song.
Lottie Collins lost her drawers
Will you kindly lend her yours
Cause she's going far away
To sing Ta-ra-ra Boom-Te-Ay
Ta-ra-ra Boom-Te-Ay Ta-ra-ra Boom-Te-Ay
and so on.
I looked up skirt dance and apparently even respectable ladies back
in the gay nineteys would do a graceful skirt dance, leaving out the
high kicks but, perhaps, allowing an occasional shocking glimpse of
ankle. Can you imagine!
When I went to youtube.com to try and look up 'skirt dance' what
came up was belly dancing. My goodness, the costumes those ladies wear!
Aside from being a belly dance this dance form, with the costume, and
the pompoms and the spangles and what have you, is a skirt dance!
Leaving out the all the percussive effects with the heels and the castanets
when you just look at the costume you can see that Flamenco is also
a skirt dance.
Now Burlesque, and that is what I am working up to, is not a skirt
dance. No, the skirt is off or, if it's on, pretty soon it is off. My
first husband and I decided to take our vacation just around where we
were living which at that time was Detroit. I had never been to Burlesque
and I wanted to see what it was like. We went downtown to this hall
that was like an old movie palace. There was even a pit orchestra, absolutely
essential for the timing to emphasize bumps and grinds and for the drum
rolls needed by the comedians for their punchlines.
Comedians like Eddie Cantor and Milton Berle got their start in Vaudeville,
which was a theatre show featuring an assortment of short acts sometimes
called 'bits' or sketches. Burlesque was the last shimmy-shake hurrah
of vaudeville. There were actually baggy-pants comedians but I will
get to them in a minute, first the ladies.
The ladies wore pasties with tassels on them over their bosoms and
one very talented dancer could twirl these tassels in different directions.
I wondered if she had a concealed motor or exactly how she did that.
Each artist that came on, as we watched this revue, had a different
shtick, a slightly different take on the same old thing and the music
from the pit orchestra was a hoot because it was going
Boomp ta boomp!
Boomp ta boomp!
Boomp ta boomp boomp BOOMP!
as they moved their flesh in different directions “Boomp ta boomp!”
- there goes one hip. “Boomp ta boomp!” - there goes another hip.
”Boomp ta boomp boomp boomp!!” - a triple pelvic thrust.
I found it entertaining. I wouldn't say it turned me on but The chaps
in the front row were certainly very interested.
Then, they brought on one lady who was certainly well past her prime.
Her dimpled flesh resembled cottage cheese due to cellulite and you
felt that if you poked a finger into her ample thigh that the impression
would stay. She got up there and did basically the same “Boomp ta
Boomp” routines as the other ladies but it was really strange to see
it being done by this over-the-hill person. She was well over-the-hill,
but she knew the moves and just about made it work because she knew
Now, the comedians. Oh, my goodness gracious! The reason for their
baggy pants was that they did these blackout sketches in which the talent
and the comedians would set up various unlikely scenarios with the exotic
dancers as their foils, also known in the business as 'straight men'.
I can tell you that the exotic dancers were much better at bouncing
their flesh around than they were at acting. I've never ever heard
such wooden dialog in my life but there they were. They were beautiful
and the comedians just, basically, carried it.
The comics would get up to a point where they were going to do something
very very, very naughty with these ladies. Then they'd reach into
their baggy pants, held up by suspenders, searching for something down
there and BINGO! The lights would go out. It was a blackout. They did
quite a few of these blackout sketches. It was a standard routine.
The comedian were pretty funny, in their own fashion. It wasn't prime
time television humour but it was what it was. It was was the last gasp
of vaudeville and the vaudeville comedian before their acts were cleaned
up and moved to television.
© Sonia Brock 2006