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VIDEO: Naked Ambition

07 Dec 2023

WATCH: Art is about expression, creativity and freedom yet when it comes to burlesque, performers still have to battle stigmas and stereotypes - even from within the creative community.

This video is made with the support of NZ on Air Public Interest Journalism Fund.

You can call it the art of getting naked.

If you have ever been to a burlesque show, you’ll know it can involve anything from fiery feminist polemic to feathery showgirl to glitter-bearded-boylesque. 

But whatever the shape and size, it all comes back to the same thing.

Burlesque is the art of the tease. It’s an artistic discipline dedicated to telling the story of the body; about sensuality, sexuality, physicality, femininity…all of it. 

It’s a performance space for all these provocative, interesting, beautiful, challenging, and poignant stories about sexuality, sensuality and society.

And yet, despite the fact that desire and sexuality have been twin flames of classic art for centuries, it still gets blowback. It’s still, as someone once told me, “just getting naked, right?”

Now it’s not entirely unexpected that it ruffles a few feathers. 

People are weird about sex - so you can see how we’re weird about sex in art. But it doesn’t negate the fact that burlesque has many varied stories to tell about the body and what’s within it.

So I sat down with three burlesque performers, shot on location at Auckland venue Club Burlesque, to find out what they want to say about sexuality in their art and why they think society may have trouble hearing it.

Now, this is just the personal opinions of the individual performers. No one's claiming to speak for the industry or performers as a whole - there are many different takes on burlesque and boylesque to green-alien-cats-protesting immigration-laws-esque.

But these personal experiences are illuminating - they act as a mirror. One we can hold up to ourselves and ask, 'what’s the deal with society’s cringe about sexuality on stage?'

You can find more of The Big Idea's video series here.