Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bump and Grind the Story of Burlesque

Bump and Grind: The Story of Burlesque tells the story of Burlesque from its beginnings in the music halls to the modern day burlesque revival. It starts at the Bethnal Green Working Mans Club with the contestants of the Tournament of Tease. The girls are interviewed backstage to ascertain what they see burlesque as and why they think there has been a revival.

The DVD then goes on to describe burlesques beginnings. The word burlesque is thought to derive from the Italian burlesco meaning to 'make fun of' or 'send up' and the original burlesque act were bawdy and satirical plays of this nature. The burlesque tradition continued to the musical halls in the early part of the 19th century where working classes went to find some light comic relief from the strains of the industrial revolution. The acts were often bawdy and featured a lot of sexual innuendo.

In USA vaudeville dancers toured gold rush towns entertaining the men. The two styles met when Lydia Thompson and her British Blondes took their show to USA in 1860's. The show was a huge hit and was deemed very risque at the time even though the dancers wore tunics and flesh coloured tights. The show saw the beginning of the blond bombshell.

Bump and Grind explores the origins of the moves seen in burlesque dancing namely the bump, the grind, the shimmy and high kicks. The high graceful kicks seen in burlesque originated in France with the Can Can - a dance seen as very risque at the time as rumour has it that the dancers wore no underwear. The bump and grind motions come from the Hula dancing of Hawaii. This was brought to the mainstream by Mae West who performed the dance. The shimmy movements seen in burlesque originate from belly dancing. These were brought to burlesque by Little Egypt when a film of her belly dancing was circulated to movie theatres in the USA. Although Little Egypt is covered in the film it was deemed as scandalous in a very conservative age. These burlesque moves all parody moves during sex.

In the 1920s when women were moving to the city for work seeking their independence and jobs were at a premium burlesque became a way for women to become independently wealthy. Star such a Mae West started in the burlesque theatres and many burlesque stars went on to other enterprises such as Lili St Cyr who had her own lingerie line.

Burlesque gave way to pin ups when the war broke out as the men that would see burlesque shows were away fighting so pin ups of burlesque and film stars were sent to GI's. The most famous of which was Betty Grable.

The DVD also explores the burlesque outfit (whose flimsiness with just the erogenous zones covering is the predecessor of the modern bikini) and the Minski theatre with the first use of a runway lending the idea to fashion shows.

Bump and Grind also explores some of burlesque biggest stars such as Lili St Cyr, Gypsy, Sally Rand, Kalantan, Faith Bacon, Lois De Fee, Georgia Sothern and Rosita Royce and the DVD contains biographies for all these stars in the 'Bonus Features' section. Also in the bonus features are clips of Faith Bacon performing her fan dance, Sally Rand's bubble dance, a saucy Betty Boop cartoon entitled 'Silly Sandals' and Kalantan's fire dance.

Overall I'd say at $16.99 the DVD is good value for money as although the documentary in itself is not that long at just 60 minutes it is very informative and the DVD has heaps of extra features. The only criticisms I would have is that the beginning of the documentary at first watch made me think it wouldn't be as informative as it is. Its interviewing of unknown burlesque performers at a small venue seemed a bit low budget and didn't really do the rest of the documentary justice. My other criticism is at times the narrative of the history of burlesque seems to jump from one idea to another almost randomly with no chronology or linking ideas. However I feel that this is a very informative DVD and has plenty of good stock footage of old burlesque stars if that's your kind of thing!

Bump & Grind the Story of Burlesque can be purchased at for $16.99

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