How to Burlesque Dance

Burlesque is gaining popularity not only because it's fun but because the fashions of the burlesque era are back in favour. Burlesque does not equal stripping - a very good burlesque dancer may remove no more than a glove or a stocking. Of course, we are not all Gypsy Rose Lee.


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    Firstly, it's important to remember that you can do two types of Burlesque routines. The first is the traditional solo-strip where you will take your clothes off as much as you want. The second is a chorus dance, where you can take off your top maybe and dance the rest in lingerie or a frou- frou- little petticoat and Collette. It's your choice how far you go!
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    Find some appropriate music - not too fast but not too slow. Traditional Burlesque looks good coupled with big band, or 1940s show music, but it can really be danced to anything you like provided you keep the mood! If you go up tempo, be sure you can actually keep up!
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    Wear high heels - this will automatically help your posture and give you that sexy look. But make sure you can actually dance in them! Try twirling around in them, and if you stumble they're too high! 3" heel height is best for beginners.
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    Buy your accessories and costume. Make sure it's removable in the space and time you have allotted, and make sure it's not daffy or fiddly to remove. Zippers are great. You should only wear tight-lacing corsets and the like if you are a seasoned wearer. Basic costume includes: a fitted bustier, a nice bra and matching panties, a girdle or wide suspender belt/garters, and stockings, and opera or elbow length gloves. You can accessories with a feather boa from a fancy dress store if you're working on the cheap, or you can go more glamorous with your props.
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    Choreograph. Burlesque is about cheeky seduction, so don't be afraid to smile, flirt, wink, and gasp! Try to learn a few of the following moves first before putting into a routine:
    • To do a glove peel put both gloves on. Now using your right hand remove one finger at a time form your left hand, when all five have been loosened pull of the glove off and languidly toss it aside. Now do the same with the other hand.
    • Use your hands and fingers and make each movement exaggerated. Remember to bend your back, keep your legs straight and stick your behind out.
    • To perform a successful and tantalizing shimmy, quiver the bosom by alternately moving your shoulders back and forth. Do this with extended arms for a glam look, or put your hands in your lap or behind your back for a coy and sweet look. You can combine this with a cross-step where to walk left whilst facing your audience, you cross your left leg over your right leg and then pull your right leg out to a normal stance again. Try two steps each way whilst shimmying- best done with arms out or hand on hips.
    • A proper 'booty shake' can be done easily once you get out of your heels. Stand on the balls of your feet, and then alternately bend each knee. Then add some hip movement into the equation and you're all go!
    • To do a tantalizing step backwards to move away from your audience, put one foot behind the other, and swing your hip around to the back circling to the same side you stepped back with. It doesn't sound like much, but placed right, it's seductive!
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    Also, learning how to strip is a good thing to know before you choreograph. Make sure you can do it elegantly, which means without crunching up and bending over! If you must bend or reach to peel something, then use a chair to sit or balance on/against. Try to be seductive and sexy, without rushing or fumbling.
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    Perfect the format. You absolutely must have a strut before the strip, present yourself to your audience! First impressions count. Try striking a pose, and then have a little walk around- a circle will do nicely. In your routine, it's important to space out dancing and stripping equally, if indeed you are stripping. The more comes off, the more dance in between will seem appropriate. A classic bump and grind can be altered in so many way by bending forwards, bumping to the side, changing the rhythm... Experiment with it. A simple spring forwards of the hips is a bump, and a circling of the hips from front to back is a grind. Feel free to grind and swing your hips all the time during your routine though.


  • For choreography,remember your hands and arms! They can often swing around or look limp, always be aware of your fingers too. I prefer to use ballet-style guidelines when it comes to hands and arms. The arms should be graceful! Remember the shape of your legs and where your feet go. Try to keep feet poised together, and never point a foot inwards. Keeping your legs together is classic burlesque! Remember also to keep your posture. Bad posture makes a dancer look awkward.
  • A good strip is not about stripping. Find a prop, a signature if you like, that will make your dance memorable! (i.e. Dita's Martini Glass, Sally Rand's Feather fans...)
  • When choosing music, make it subtle and provocative.
  • Choose heels that you can walk in. If you intend on taking them off, stay away from buckles and lots of laces!
  • It's all about being sexy and seductive with class and elegance so only show as much skin as you are comfortable with.
  • Look to ballet and jazz and ballroom dancing for inspiration. You can incorporate elements of classic dance such as jazz, ballet, the elegance of ballroom, belly dancing, and even the can can! Go nuts with experimenting and making sure you can comfortably do it in your costume and shoes!
  • Use all the space available to you. Don't just stand in one place, move around and make eyes follow you.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Stockings
  • Boa
  • Music

Sources and Citations

  • Charisma Shinebright, Burlesque Artiste
  • Dita Von Teese's "Burlesque and the Art of the Teese" book.

Article Info

Categories: Dancing