Alibi V.18 No.7 • Feb 12-18, 2009 

Less Than Three

Burlesque as It Is

Author and performer reflects on the movement today

Vivienne VaVoom
Vivienne VaVoom
Cora Reed

Vivienne VaVoom has received Google news alerts about burlesque for five years. She used to get pinged maybe once a week, tops. "Now I get it once a day, and there's at least five or six things in it."

In a bang of feathers and bubbles and gems, burlesque re-burst onto the national stage trailing a sense of glamour that's permeated entire industries. "You see it in a lot of the fashions that have had a real vintage feel to them," VaVoom says. "There's a lot more really over-the-top kind of beautiful things."

Kirsten Easthope

VaVoom's been at it for about a decade in Denver, running the troupe Burlesque As It Was and teaching the art of the tease. She also runs a burlesque workout class with boas, gloves and chairs.

Though she admires and performs classic burlesque, the triple-V has a keen sense for what's different this time around. "If a woman didn't want to be a teacher and didn't want to get married and didn't want to fulfill other roles but still wanted to make money, she could turn to burlesque," VaVoom says. "This time around, it's much more of a creative outlet, and most women who are doing it are not making a living at it."

Instead, she adds, new burly-q is driven by creativity and a desire to perform. Today, burlesque is open to different interpretations and cultures, "whereas back then, it was really focused on a certain type and a certain way of doing it, because it was an industry.”

VaVoom authored a book about modern performers called Burlesque and the New Bump-n-Grind in 2004. She's penning a follow-up highlighting international performers from countries such as Japan, Sweden, France, England and Australia.

"When I started out, I had to explain to people what burlesque was, and I would give them a rundown that it isn't modern gentlemen club stripping," VaVoom muses. "Now I can just point to Dita Von Teese. People know what it is now, which is terrific."

VaVoom will take the stage with other burlesque performers from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Texas at the Third Annual Southwest Burlesque Showcase on Friday, Feb. 20. The show at the KiMo Theatre starts at 8 p.m. Tickets go for $15 and are available at the Kimo box office and through Ticketmaster.