Showstyle or showgirl burlesque is a Classic Burlesque subgenre.
The term SHOWGIRL is used for a female dancer or performer in a stage entertainment show. It is sometimes applied to a promotional model employed in trade fairs and car shows. In burlesque it is a broader term used for extravagant classic burlesque performances.

The origin of Showgirls

Showstyle burlesque finds its origin in the early 1800s. In Parisian music halls and cabarets (Moulin Rouge, Le Lido, Folies Bergère) you had dance ensembles in extravagant costumes and spicy Cancan dancers. This kind of entertainment eveolved late 1800 to music-hall performers in mesh bodysuits performing chorus lines. In 1950 Margaret Kelley (aka Madame Bluebell) & Donn Arden first brought Parisian-style nightclub shows to Vegas. Showgirls were the opening and closing act for Las Vegas headliners, sometimes dancing around the headliner at casinos. Their showstyle wasn’t about the bump and grind, or just about being a model wearing an outrageous outfit. They presented their dancers as the embodiment of elegance, grace and unattainability. Around that time the Minsky’s Follies had topless showgirls performing in Vegas at the Desert Inn (hotel & casino). More venues (like Ziegfiel follies) embraced the extravagant performing style with topless or ‘covered’ chorus lines. This led to 2 types of showgirls: the nudes (topless) and the bluebells (covered).

Showstyle Burlesque

Showgirls are often associated with Latin music and dance, particularly samba. Showstyle burlesque is inspired by the classic showgirls. It combines the elegance, grace and outrageous costumes of the showgirl chorus lines with the sass and tease of burlesque. So not necessarily the latin music. In general, fairly cheerful and bombastic music is chosen in showstyle burlesque like musical soundtracks.

In this style the basic techniques from showgirls are used.

  • The basic showgirl pose: the champagne foot or bevel.
    • How to do the closed Bevel? Roll your shoulders to the back, engage your corset muscles, place your hands in your side. Turn your supporting foot slightly out, place your feet toe-to-toe and cross your knees.
    • How to do the Open Bevel? Roll your shoulders to the back, engage your corset muscles, place your hands in your side. Turn your supporting foot slightly out, place the tip in front of your supporting foot and cross your knees.
  • The showgirl walk: “tipping
    • Keep your head at one level when walking, glide softly on the floor. This walking motion is so smooth that exposed breasts do not bounce or jiggle. This takes practice and grace to accomplish.

Showgirl costumes & icons

Showgirl costumes are lavish with feathers, fringes and lots of glitter. In the old days the costume used to consist of a mesh bodysuit with faux merking and pasties (nude illusion), fishnet tights, high heels, headdress, fingerless gloves and a bustle. Later the mesh bodysuite got replaced by a decorated thong.

Besides a headpieces some outfits have higly decorated backpacks and/or hip packs aswell. Feathers of all types of birds are used to bedazzle and augment the size of the costumes without adding much weight.

sally rand grace & waaiers,

chorus showgirls = mesh bodysuit (nude illusion), fishnet tights, heels, headdress, fingerless gloves, bustle

Feathers of all types of birds are used (ostrich, turkey, chicken) to augment the size of the costumes without adding much weight.  Even so, many of the more lavish outfits weigh 30-40 pounds, usually due to the weight of the rhinestones and the steel frames they are welded to that form backpacks, hip packs or headpieces.  Moving gracefully while wearing these on one’s head, shoulders or hips can be quite challenging.   There are even bras made of steel wire with rhinestones welded to them, that a showgirl wears against her bare skin.

danceshoes with non-slip suede soles, a metal shank in the arch for support and they are very light-weight and flexible and high heel

Dive into the glitter and glamor of showstyle burlesque!

  • Do you want to learn how to pose, walk and kick like a Showgirl? Then be sure to follow the showstyle themed workshop by Lilith D’Licious.
  • Watch a showgirl burlesque example by our students.

Have fun, just shimmy & shake!

Lilith D’Licious
Headmistress of Sinners Dollhouse

The costumes of burlesque – Coleen Scott

The burlesque handbook by Jo Weldon
Pretty things by Liz Goldwyn
Burlesque, the art of tease by Dita Von Teese