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The art of the tease 

Street Smarts

Burlesque has been a popular and avant-garde form of entertainment in the U.S. since the 1800s. But even the most progressive styles of art can experience growth. We ask locals what they think about burlesque — what defines it and how it has evolved to become even more inclusive.

click to enlarge Austin "Ace ASS Wild" Cass
  • Austin "Ace ASS Wild" Cass

Austin "Ace ASS Wild" Cass of the Academy-Austin Bluffs area is a senior supervisor.

How would you define burlesque dancing? I would define it as an artful and tasteful striptease, more focused on the tease than anything else. To me it's an expression that manifests itself in so many forms.

Have you ever attended a burlesque performance? I have been to quite a few shows. I loved it so much that I am going through the Peaks and Pasties Academy of Burlesque to learn and perform the art form myself. I graduate in June; however, I've known of Peaks and Pasties for years. I can still remember seeing Lola Spitfire spinning her fire tassels, and that's honestly what interested me in the first place. I also still have my pasties that I bought from Hazel Humdinger that same show.

What do you think differentiates burlesque from exotic dancing like stripping? Is there a difference? There is very much a difference. I think mostly it's derivative in the story that's told onstage. There's nothing wrong with exotic dancing, I just see burlesque being very focused on a story and a character to portray. While we are paid as performers, I think the end game is different than exotic dancing. Monetary gain isn't in the cards with burlesque, it's all in the experience of the show as a whole!

What do you think of burlesque's shift from female-only performances to more diverse dancers such as men and those in the LGBT community? I find it to be a safe space full of love and compassion. It's all about loving yourself and body positivity. Whether you are an observer or a performer, you can feel the palpable energy for everyone. There's no judgment of each other, just enjoyment. I love to see the diversity in the male and LGBT community on the stage.

click to enlarge Hilary Sneed
  • Hilary Sneed

Hilary Sneed of southwest Colorado Springs is a banquet server.

How would you define burlesque dancing? I would define burlesque as a sexy form of professional dancing.

Have you ever attended a burlesque performance? What did you think of it? There was a girl in my belly dancing class that did burlesque and she invited us to one of her performances. I was young, so I thought it was similar to stripping, minus the "take all your clothes off" part.

What do you think differentiates burlesque from exotic dancing like stripping? Is there a difference? My impression is that burlesque is more choreographed, while stripping is like improv. Strippers have to do whatever moves to get their tips.

What do you think of burlesque's shift from female-only performances to more diverse dancers such as men and those in the LGBT community? People have been held back from doing the things they want because of their race, gender or sexuality. I'm all for breaking those unnecessary boundaries.

click to enlarge Rachel Garcia
  • Rachel Garcia

Rachel Garcia of Denver is a data management and logistics specialist.

How would you define burlesque dancing? It's a theatrical performance reminiscent of artistic and interpretive dance.

Have you ever attended a burlesque performance? Yes. In a few shows I have seen many of the performers were trained in the same school; their performances reflected each other's a little too closely. I have seen a few shows that were quite outstanding.

What do you think differentiates burlesque from exotic dancing like stripping? Is there a difference? I believe it is the amount of effort that goes into one's craft and the goal of the performer. Most exotic dancers get paid via tips directly from their clients. I believe burlesque are paid by the house like any entertainment act (if not volunteering or promoting). So, there could be a differentiating line there as well.

What do you think of burlesque's shift from female-only performances to more diverse dancers such as men and those in the LGBT community? I have actually seen male burlesque at a primarily female show. The energy of the male dancer at that show was at least 10 times that of the girls that evening. It really was outstanding. I don't see how being LGBT would have any impact on one's performance, because that is exactly what it is, a performance. I've seen many hosts who are in drag because it is a part of the show. I would not think it would have any impact on whether or not someone was good at it.

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