"A variety show characterized by broad ribald comedy, dancing, and striptease."
I work with a growing Burlesque troupe in my town. The support we have in a fairly conservative community is pretty amazing. We always play to sold out houses and are able to donate 10% or more of our show profits to charity. Several of the girls involved, including myself, are or formerly were strippers. Many who are not familiar with Burlesque culture and history often lump it together with exotic dancing. Although some elements are similar, there are certain things that set a Burlesque show apart from a night at the strip club.
Burlesque is not only dancing and entertaining. It involves comedy and farce as well. A well done Burlesque show will take the audience through a range of feelings and emotions with a variety of performances. At one of our shows, you might see a Drag Queen lip syncing to a parody of a popular song, a beautiful and traditional fan dance a la Sally Rand or a sexy Catwoman bathing in milk to an Eartha Kitt song. There are live singers and hula hoop performers during our shows. Audience participation is widely encouraged. Jokes and off color humor are peppered in throughout the performances. The purpose of the show is to entertain and empower, both the performers and the audience. For the most part, there is a theme and structure to the show, keeping it flowing.
At a strip club, some of these elements can be found but the overall experience is different. While there will be girls taking their clothes off and entertaining you, it is a different type of feeling. A strip club is more personal and intimate than a Burlesque performance. The idea is make your client feel like he or she is the only one for you, then charm them out of as much money as possible. The purpose of the performance on stage is less fun/entertainment based and more seductive/monetary based. While the DJ might tell a few jokes between sets, and a dancer might play two songs that go together for her set, the whole night would usually not have a theme or structure like a Burlesque show would.
Oddly enough, although I have worked onstage as a stripper without batting an eye, I have yet to work up the courage to actually perform in one of our shows. I will hopefully have time to put together my first number soon. I love that we have ladies, and boys, of all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life in our troupe. We are a tight bunch and have tons of fun together. I highly encourage anyone who is interested to contact their local Burlesque group and get involved. Keep in mind that you don't have to perform if you don't want to. Don't have one near you? Start your own! It is a great way to meet folks, be creative and have FUN.