Since the late 17th Century burlesque has been used to describe a theatrical extravaganza and, in the United States, refers to performances in a variety show format featuring bawdy comedy and female striptease in cabarets and clubs that were popular in the 1900s.
The tradition lives on here on Cape Cod with the Falmouth-based Brazen Belles. Seven local women, who have taken on alter egos (aka Pepper Grinds, Savannah Boudreaux and Bobbi Pins), put on live shows that draw on many historical eras and address modern stereotypes of women. The Belles have performed in local pubs, at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, and as far away as Vermont.
The singing, dancing, and acting, all performed in corsets, feathers and tulle is always meant to be entertaining, “is never intended to be offensive of harmful to others, but rather empowering, particularly to women, by embracing the existence of female sexuality in light of differing body types, genders, race and ethnicity, and upbringings.”