Revival of Burlesque Sparks Neon Nightlife in Las Vegas Again


Born amidst the 1860s, the flamboyant charm of burlesque has remained an instrinsic thread in the American cultural fabric. In recent times, this once popular art form has been experiencing a revival, its effervescent pulse strongly beating in the neon-lit city of Las Vegas again.

Imagine yourself at the Jubilee Theatre at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas, where the globally acclaimed queen of burlesque, Dita Von Teese, artfully commandeers the stage. She is the headliner of “Dita Las Vegas: A Jubilant Revue,” a show that debuted in October last year. But don’t be mistaken into thinking that’s your only option. From vintage nods like “Lady Like — A Retro Modern Burlesque Show” at Virgin Las Vegas to fiery performances at “Fantasy” in Luxor and the titillating “X Burlesque” at Flamingo, the city of sin offers a plethora of burlesque spectacles.

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Even the pop sensation, Lady Gaga, has joined the bandwagon, often featuring burlesque performers during her “Jazz + Pop” residency at Dolby Live at Park MGM. The downtown Cheapshot Showroom & Discotheque, too, opens its doors to these sensual performers, adding a decadent touch to their shows.

Stripping away layers of society’s preconceived notions, “this burlesque thing seems popular” notes Dirty Martini, a performer in “Dita Las Vegas.” She sheds light on the producer’s perception, figuring that if its popularity lures more people to the shows, then why not embrace it?

Von Teese now stamps her imprints on what used to be the sacred domian of the Las Vegas showgirl. In a heartwarming homage to this iconic character, her theatrical magic now spreads across the same stage of the last showgirl production, “Jubilee!” in the Jubilee Theatre which dimmed its lights to an end in 2016. The legacy lives on as Von Teese has repurposed some of the original, glitter-studded Bob Mackie-designed costumes and headdresses.

Burlesque, originally whisked into Las Vegas on Boxing Day 1950 by Gypsy Rose Lee, paved the way for performers like Lily St. Cyr. She fondly remembered for her tantalizing act of dropping her undergarments from a birdcage suspended over her audience, creating quite the spectacle at the El Rancho in 1956. This audacious streak continued with Tempest Storm, the highest-paid burlesque dancer of all time, seducing the audience at the Dunes in 1957.

Nevertheless, the cheeky allure of the topless showgirl eventually took center stage. A symbol of Sin City, she preserved the spark of burlesque which made a comeback later, finding its place under the spotlight anew in the 1990s.

Notable personalities such as Holly Madison elevated the genre by headlining in “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood and establishing a burlesque club at the Mandalay Bay, intensifying its popularity.

Today, neo-burlesque has redefined the art, with inclusivity at its core. Burlesque performances have evolved to include both men and women in outfits traditionally worn by showgirls, catering to a more diversified audience. Buttercup, a burlesque performer and an affiliate at Las Vegas’ Burlesque Hall of Fame, reiterates that even though burlesque has always elicited laughs and pushed the societal boundaries, the core difference now lies in its representation.

This renewed, inclusive art form has revitalized the narrative. This sentiment is echoed by Buttercup when she elucidates on the empowerment women experience while attending these shows, a testament to female liberation and self-expression in a society that often hushes voices.

Presenting her own burlesque show, “Sinful,” Buttercup further contributes to this fascinating art form, her next show slated to adorn the stage at Fat Cat Las Vegas on May 11. Burlesque, once regarded as tantalizing entertainment, now serves as a vivid display of body autonomy, inclusivity, and unabashed femininity, throwing the doors wide open for a new era of American cabaret.