With a Retro Tease night at The Firestation set to bring a little glitter to Windsor in September and a new burlesque class on the cards, Beat Magazine took a moment to get to know Glamour L'Amore - aka Charlotte Hammond - Glitterbox Burlesque’s fiery focal point.
Beat Magazine: Burlesque has seen a re-emergence of interest in recent years, what do you think has motivated this?
Charlotte Hammond On some level, the renaissance of Burlesque no doubt stems from the nostalgic yearning for a simpler time when woman were seen as more glamorous, (think Marilyn Monroe), and a sneaky-peek at a stocking clad leg was still a thrill.
During the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, sex was everywhere you looked so there was little requirement for the art of striptease. But I believe that the continued interest with burlesque is due to the fact that it caters to everyone - the girls (or boys) themselves can be any shape, size or age. Plus, the scene is fun, colourful, glamorous, supportive and spectacular, so it appeals to women. Many men, and women too, misunderstand that the burlesque community is very female led and women can let their own fantasies run wild…one night they are at home cooking for the children and the next they are a star in glitter and feathers dancing on a stage. What’s not to love about that magic?
BM: How large is the British Burlesque community? Where did the ‘scene’ originate and how supportive is it?
CH: Whilst I have no doubt that burlesque has been quietly rumbling on in various forms within the retro and vintage loving sub-cultures across the globe since it’s inception, the current boom is believed to have been kicked off in America by the Purple Hammer troupe, before making its way to London in the early ‘noughties’.
Burlesque lovers and dancers alike are so proud of being a part of this fabulous glamorous world that, certainly wherever I have gone, support is in abundance. Arms are flung open to welcome new comers in and if you don’t find that’s the case then you’ve gone to the wrong place! The scene is for everyone, no matter what size or age, experience or confidence. The world of neo-burlesque is fun and gorgeous!
BM; One of the consequences of 70’s feminism was that it opened up a debate regarding 'the objectification of women’, making this socially unacceptable for many. Isn’t Burlesque is just an attempt to make 'stripping’ acceptable again?
CH; I would suggest that this is incorrect because the new wave of burlesque, known as neo-burlesque, is strongly female driven. It is women wanting to be able to express themselves within their own rules, as opposed to those of men within a strip club. They are dancing for themselves, because it feels good, whether they are a mother of seven, 80 years old or a professional dancer.
Burlesque is often wrongly compared to stripping. Since it’s birth in the 1940’s, ‘Burlesque’ as a word has come to encompass a broad range of acts from the traditional comedy routines of the mid 19th century, to the classic late 19th century style troupe dances, plus the development of belly dancing, magic, singing, fire routines and yes, the traditional striptease. Nowadays, if you see a show which is all about the peeling (stripping), or is overtly sexual then you have gone to a commercial show which has more to do with making money than adhering to the Burlesque and cabaret principles.
BM: Burlesque has a historical relationship to cabaret/the variety show, would you like to see more of these mixed-performances and what does burlesque bring 'to the table’?
CH: Burlesque was conceived at the same time as cabaret so the scenes have always worked in tandem. In fact, in the 1840’s, where it all began, the comedy and cabaret shows in the UK and USA were known to be ‘burlesquing’ or making fun of, the upper class’s operas, plays and social habits. So in fact, initially burlesque had nothing to do with stripping off at all!
The reason that striptease began to play a part was, as the interest in these spoof plays wore thin, the use of underdressed women attracted the Victorian audience back. Nowadays, a show which has only dancers peeling without a hint of irony cannot call itself burlesque – it is stripping. The cheeky glint in a dancer’s eye as she traces up her now bare arm with her hand is all part of the cabaret. When a comedian comes on and mocks something happening in the world he is ‘burlesquing’ –cabaret and burlesque should be intertwined.
BM: Sum yourself up in one sentence please?
CH: I am welcoming and warm with a (sometimes saucy) smile on my face, plus I have a love of dancing, cocktails and feathers!
BM: Which Burlesque dancers do you admire?
CH: The world of burlesque is extremely small because if you get inspiration from a dancer from any era, then you get inspired by the dancers who she loved and who they loved etc. I became a fan of Betty Page after discovering her in a film called Teaserama (1955) and whilst researching this 1950’s starlet I came across Dita Von Teese talking about how she is inspired by Betty. Whilst many will claim Dita is overrated and too commercialized, I simply admire the way she has brought burlesque to the lives of so many women.
When the burlesque-bug gets you, as you’ll find in our classes, it opens you up to a self-confidence and inner-belief that you never thought you had, and Dita kindly offered this secret to the entire world! With her stunning array of costumes, routines, traditional and modern stage shows and tiny corsets she is a superstar, but her quiet, reserved nature when off stage and out of character is such a contrast. She is a lovable seductress, which I think should be the aim for any burlesque dancer who is hoping to be a success.
You can find out more about Glitterbox, including class dates and events at http://www.glitterboxburlesque.com