A striptease or exotic dance is a performance, usually a dance, in which the performer (sometimes called an ecdysiast), "strips off clothing to arouse sexual desire by displaying the naked body in motion."
Stripteases are usually performed in strip clubs. The "teasing" part involves the slowness of undressing, while the audience is eager to see more nudity. Delay tactics include additional clothes being removed, putting clothes or hands in front of just undressed body parts. Emphasis is on the act of undressing along with sexually suggestive movement, not on the state of being undressed: in some cases the performance is finished as soon as the undressing is finished.
Along with physical attractiveness and appropriate clothing, the main asset and tool used by the exotic dancer in recent years is the stripper pole. Almost all exotic dancers are drawn to the profession by the potential for high earnings in the form of tips and commissions from lap/couch dances and champagne rooms.
In addition to night club entertainment, stripping can be a form of sexual play at home between partners. This can be done as an impromptu event or--perhaps for a special occasion--with elaborate planning involving fantasywear, music, special lighting, practised dance moves, and even dance moves that have been previously unpractised.
A variation on striptease is private dancing, which often involves lap dancing or contact dancing. Here the performers, in addition to stripping for tips, also offer "private dances" which involve more attention for individual audience members. Variations include private dances like table dancing where the performer dances on or by customer's table rather than the customer being seated in a couch.
For certain events, including bachelor/bachorette parties, the stripper's job often involves holding games or contests with sexual themes. In addition, the main guest of the party can sometimes be eligible for 'special' couch dances involving simulated sexual acts between two strippers.
The contact between a performer and a customer is regulated in ways that vary in response to local laws and club rules, ranging from "air dances" with minimal or no contact to "friction" lap dances at the dancer's discretion. In Eastern Europe, a lap dance can precede any number of added sexual favors for an additional price.
History of striptease
The ancient art of the strip tease traces its origins in the Sumerian tablets, on which were written the myth of the descent of the goddess Inanna into the Underworld (or Kur). At each of the seven gates, she removed an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry. As long as she remained in hell, the earth was barren. When she returned, fecundity abounded. Some believe this myth was reincarnated as the "Dance of the Seven Veils" of Salome, who danced for King Herod as mentioned in the New Testament. Many forms of the strip tease made their way throughout Sumer, Mesopotamia, into Asia and west into the near east and southern Europe, via Gypsies.
In South India, the dance evolved through the Devadasi temple and court dancers.
In the nineteenth century, French colonists in North Africa and Egypt "discovered" and seized upon the dances of the Ghawazee, especially a courtesan dancer known as Kuchuk Hanem, and exoticized the image of the nonwestern woman as one who would disrobe as part of a dance performance. It is likely that the women performing these dances did not do so in an indigenous context, but rather, responded to the commercial climate for this type of entertainment.
Middle Eastern belly dance, also known as Oriental Dancing, was popularised in the US after its introduction on the Midway at the 1893 World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) in Chicago by a dancer known as Little Egypt.
American strip tease nurtured its roots in carnivals and Burlesque theatres. The art and business enjoyed prosperity as the United States economy grew out of the depression of the 1930's through the fifties. In the sixties and seventies, with changing cultural expressions of sexuality, it declined in profitability and status. In the eighties and technology boom of the nineties, those in the profession enjoyed better acceptance and better working conditions.
In December 2006, a Norwegian court ruled that striptease is an art form and made strip clubs exempt from value added tax.
The People's Almanac credited the origin of striptease as we know it to an act in 1890s Paris, France in which a woman slowly removed her clothes in a vain search for a flea crawling on her body. Striptease enjoyed a revival with the advent of burlesque theatre, with famous strippers such as Gypsy Rose Lee.
In 1940, humorist H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast as a euphemism for strippers; it derives from the Greek ekdusis meaning "to molt." In the 20th century, the exotic dance club grew to become thriving sector of the Canadian economy. The artistes are affectionately referred to as "peelers" by the men of Canada.
In the latter 1990s, a number of performers and dance groups have emerged to create New Burlesque, a revival of the classic burlesque of the early half of the twentieth century. New Burlesque focuses on dancing, costumes and entertainment (which may include comedy and singing) and generally eschews full nudity or toplessness. Some burlesquers of the past have become instructors and mentors to New Burlesque performers such as Velvet Hammer] and the Pontani Sisters. The pop group Pussycat Dolls began as a New Burlesque troupe.
The dance of Salome portrayed by Franz von Stuck painted in 1906. The model was the dancer Maud Allan who performed the dance for real in her own show. The origins of striptease as a performance art are disputed and various dates and occasions have been given from ancient Babylonia to twentieth century America. However, although the Bible records Salome's dance, the first mention of her removing seven veils occurs in Oscar Wilde's play of 'Salome', in 1893: which some have claimed as the origin of modern striptease. After Wilde's play and Strauss's operatic version of the same, the erotic 'dance of the seven veils', became a standard routine for dancers in opera, vaudeville, film and burlesque. A famous early practitioner was Maud Allan who in 1907 gave a private performance of the dance to King Edward VII.
Other possible influences on modern striptease were the dances of the Ghawazee "discovered" and seized upon by French colonists in nineteenth century North Africa and Egypt. The erotic dance of the bee performed by a woman known as Kuchuk Hanem, was witnessed and described by the French novelist Gustave Flaubert. In this dance the performer disrobes as she searches for an imaginary bee trapped within her garments. It is likely that the women performing these dances did not do so in an indigenous context, but rather, responded to the commercial climate for this type of entertainment. Middle Eastern belly dance, also known as Oriental Dancing, was popularized in the US after its introduction on the Midway at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893 World's Fair) in Chicago by a dancer known as Little Egypt.
The French tradition
The People's Almanac credited the origin of striptease as we know it to an act in 1890s Paris in which a woman slowly removed her clothes in a vain search for a flea crawling on her body. At this time Parisian shows such as the Moulin Rouge and Folies Bergere pioneered semi-nude dancing and tableaux vivants. One landmark was the appearance at the Moulin Rouge in 1907 of an actress called Germaine Aymos who entered dressed only in three very small shells. In the 1930s the famous Josephine Baker danced semi-nude at the Folies and other such performances were provided at the Tabarin. These shows were notable for their sophisticated choreography and dressing the girls in glitzy sequins and feathers. By the 1960s "fully nude" shows were provided at such places as Le Crazy Horse Saloon.
The American tradition
American striptease nurtured its roots in carnivals and Burlesque theatres featuring famous strippers such as Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand. The vaudeville trapeze artist Charmion performed a "disrobing" act onstage as early as 1896 , which was captured in an Thomas Edison film, "Trapeze Disrobing Act" in 1901 . Another milestone for modern American striptease is the possibly legendary show at Minsky's Burlesque in April of 1925: The Night They Raided Minsky's. The art and business enjoyed prosperity as the United States economy grew out of the depression of the 1930s through the 1950s. In the sixties and seventies, with changing cultural expressions of sexuality, it declined in profitability and status. In the eighties and technology boom of the nineties, those in the profession enjoyed increased acceptance and better working conditions.
The British tradition
In Britain the Windmill Theatre, London, pioneered the art of striptease, from 1932 onwards (closing in 1964), though, in accordance with British law the nude girls were not allowed to move: appearing in stationary tableaux vivants. The Windmill girls also toured other London and provincial theatres, sometimes using ingenious devices such as rotating ropes to move their bodies round, though strictly speaking, staying within the letter of the law by not moving of their own volition. According to the film Mrs Henderson Presents, mice were also employed to get the nudes to move. Another way the law was bent was the fan dance, in which a naked dancer's body was concealed by her fans and those of her attendants, until the end of her act in when she posed naked for a brief interval whilst standing stock still. The Windmill girls were a major morale booster during wartime London as was the cartoon-strip stripper Jane, modelled on one of the Windmill girls, who appeared in the Daily Mirror.
By the 1950s touring striptease acts were used to attract audiences to the dying music halls. Changes in the law in the 1960s brought about a boom of strip clubs in Soho with 'fully nude' dancing and audience participation. Pubs were also used as a venue, most particularly in the East End with a concentration of such venues in the district of Shoreditch. Though often a target of local authority harassment, a remnant of these pubs survives to the present day. An interesting custom in these pubs is that the strippers walk round and collect money from the customers in a beer jug before each individual performance. Private dances of a more raunchy nature are sometimes available in a separate area of the pub.
Striptease in Japan
Striptease became popular in Japan after the end of World War II. When entrepreneur Shigeo Ozaki saw Gypsy Rose Lee perform, he started his own striptease review in Tokyo's Shinjuku neighborhood. During the 1950s, Japanese "strip shows" became more sexually explicit and less dance-oriented, until they were eventually simply live sex shows.
Recently pole dancing has come to dominate the world of striptease. Apparently this form of dancing can trace its origin to a performance by one Miss Belle Jangles at Mugwumps strip club in Oregon in 1968. From here it spread to Canada where, in the late 20th century, the exotic dance club grew up to become a thriving sector of the economy. Canadian style pole dancing, table dancing and lap dancing, organised by multi-national corporations such as Spearmint Rhino, was exported from North America to the United Kingdom, Central Europe, Russia, and Australia etc. In London, England a raft of such so-called 'lap dancing clubs' grew up in the 1990s, featuring pole dancing on stage and private table dancing, though, despite media misrepresentation, lap-dancing in the sense of bodily contact was forbidden by law (see Vlad Lapidos (1996) The Good Striptease Guide to London).
In America a notable contemporary practitioner of striptease is the rock singer Courtney Love. In one notorious incident in March 2004, she disrobed on prime-time American TV in front of host David Letterman while standing on his desk.
In December 2006, a Norwegian court ruled that striptease is an art form and made strip clubs exempt from value added tax.
In the latter 1990s, a number of performers and dance groups have emerged to create New Burlesque, a revival of the classic burlesque of the early half of the twentieth century. New Burlesque focuses on dancing, costumes and entertainment (which may include comedy and singing) and generally eschews full nudity or toplessness. Some burlesquers of the past have become instructors and mentors to New Burlesque performers such as Velvet Hammer]], Hope Talmon or Cyrelle St. James Co. and the Pontani Sisters. The pop group Pussycat Dolls began as a New Burlesque troupe.
Until the 1970s, strippers were almost invariably female, performing to male audiences. Since then, male strippers, performing to female audiences, have also become common. Male and female strippers also perform for gay and lesbian audiences respectively, as well as for both sexes in pansexual contexts. Before the 1970s dancers of both genders appeared largely in underground clubs or as part of a theatre experience, but the practice eventually became common enough on its own.
Visits by women to shows and clubs featuring male strippers, usually as a group for an activity such as a bachelorette party, have now become part of mainstream culture in Western countries. (See The Full Monty, and Chippendales). Unlike the enforced sedate atmosphere at clubs featuring female exotic dancers for male audiences, the female audience for male strippers is very vocal, rowdy, and even aggressive. Female patrons getting up on stage with the male exotic dancers and helping them strip or joining them stripping is commonplace. Sometimes the male strippers come off the stage and perform directly in front of a group of patrons.
In some countries physical contact with the dancers is permitted and fondling the strippers is considered part of the show. Often there are interactive games that involve varying degress of physical contact, sometimes to the embarrassment of the females taking part, but always with the enthusiastic support and cheering from their friends who are watching the daring/raunchy activities.
Usually, the nightclub management and their bouncers do not try to restrain their female audiences unless disturbances and fights break out. Female patrons tend to "push the envelope" to see how far they're allowed to go. At some shows the female patrons masturbate the dancers briefy, with many in the audience 'having a go'. At some shows the dancers allow the one or more in the female audience to perform oral sex on them briefly. Most commonly, it is the female patrons testing the boundaries who are the ones that start restraining themselves before the bouncers do.
Some more adventurous acts may include extended erotic intimacies between the dancers and the customers, all as part of the show.
Audience participation can include small groups of clothed females dancing 'up close and personal' with a nude male dancer, each taking the opportunity to touch, caress, and kiss (etc) his body and body parts as they wish, during the dance.
Gay male strip clubs feature men who appear initially in skimpy undergarments (which are quickly removed if full nudity is allowed) and socks. Fondling the strippers is commonplace and considered fair game, even as it is often technically prohibited. In cities such as Washington, D.C. where full nudity is allowed, the male strippers at gay venues stand on the bar or stage and masturbate to maintain erection, allowing the customers to also masturbate or ejaculate them for tips.
Relationship to the erotic movie industry
Many erotic actresses and actors in the US make their main living from their earnings from personal appearances as featured exotic dancers, in much the same way that many musicians make their main living from live performance, with their recordings serving as advertising. Many in the striptease industry appear in pornographic movies or magazines to be paid more for appearing at stripclubs as "feature dancers" because they are porn stars, which clubs advertise to bring in a bigger paying audience. The more famous the porn star, the more the exotic dancer will be paid by the stripclub to perform at their club.
- PDX Black Book (support and information website by and about exotic dancers in Northwestern US)
- The Naked Truth (support and information website by and about exotic dancers in Canada)
- Stripper Web (United States based exotic dancer community offering support and advice)
- Striptease bookmark (European striptease bookmark page)
- Strippers (Resource of information about strippers)
- Dancer Dolls (Resource of information from real strippers)
|This page uses content from SM-201; the original article can be viewed here.|