The art of Burlesque has a rich and fabulous history. With early roots in nineteenth century nightclubs of Paris, when Toulouse Lautrec painted the dancing girls of the Moulin Rouge such as Jane Avril, and the Victorian music-halls of London where performers like Marie Lloyd sang risque, raunchy songs to titilize and tease the audience.
Burlesque had another re-birth in the twenties and thirties, when frolicking flappers charlestoned through smoke-filled cabaret halls of Berlin and Chicago. Sultry temptresses such as Dorothy Knapp (pictured) and Sally Rand made names for themselves with their seductive fan dances and art-deco costumes.
Now, in cities across the world a sexy underground scene of neo-burlesque is emerging. Dita Von Teese is leading the worldwide phenomena, the vintage art of strip-tease is being celebrated throughout the city of London with classes, shows and venues popping up all over the city.
Miss Odelia Opium is a London based burlesque performer, who takes her inspiration from the Jazz age. With the aesthetics and costumes of Ziegfield girls she encapsulates the fun, glamorous allure of vintage burlesque.
Odelia was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and shed some sparkling light on the often mysterious, cloaked world of burlesque.
How did you get into burlesque performing? I got into Burlesque in late 2010 – just woke up with the idea one day! I decided to book a class with a local burlesque school and kept going until the graduation show. Never thought I’d perform in public really, but it happened naturally!
What would you say about the London Burlesque scene? The London scene is one of the friendliest and most supportive scenes! There is so much creativity and talent, plus everyone is given a fair chance, no matter what age or body type you are!
Do you have any favourite London venues? The prettiest stage I’ve ever seen must be Hoxton Hall, though sadly I never performed on it myself. For club venues I quite like Volupte and various theatre venues, places with a lot of history in them!
Who are your biggest influences? My influences come from all over history, which comes natural to me cause I’m a costume designer by day. A lot of my acts have themes from the 18th and 19th century up to the 1920s. I am inspired by Alphonse Mucha, Erte and Gainsborough. I love silent movies and the original 19th century music hall culture! I’m fascinated by people like Marie Lloyd with her saucy songs and beautiful costumes! There are a few burlesquers there today who capture the essence of bygone eras very well, such as Vicky Butterfly, Billie Rae and french performer Sucre d’Orge. Their creativity is very inspiring!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in burlesque? My advice would be: be unique in every aspect and find your niche.There’s already plenty of performers doing the same thing so you would want to stand out from the crowd! And most of all be polite and humble and you will go far.
Miss Odelia’s Opium Den, 30th March
Someone Call Me a Cabaret, 26th April
London Burlesque Festival; Crown Jewels, 11th May
Agent Burlieque, 7th June
the Cheeky Devil’s Club, 29th June
I will definitely be in attendance for some of these fabulous evenings, and you’d be crazy not to be too! If you’re lucky enough to live in London, and have a love for vintage eras & styles then get involved with the new wave of Burlesque hitting the city. For glamorous dinner and shows, visit the Wam Bam club, Volupte Lounge or Proud Cabaret. For a night on the town with drinks, dancers and debauchery go down to Madame Jojo’s where you can watch shows or even get involved yourself! For the seedy, Berlin cabaret vibe have a night down the Royal Vauxhall Tavern or Bethnal Green Woking Men’s Club.
The list could go on for hours, new, exciting venues and performers, each with their own niche are just waiting to be discovered all across the darkest corners of London.