Glamour, glitz, theater, comedy, body positivity, freedom of expression and striptease – what’s not to love? The art of burlesque first came onto the scene in the mid-nineteenth century, and though its popularity somewhat cooled in the early 1900s, it’s now having a big moment of revival.
Neo-burlesque, as the movement is called, has people packing cabarets once again. We’ve pulled together a list of top-notch venues every burlesque enthusiast should put on their itinerary.
Allways Lounge and Theater, New Orleans
Allways Lounge and Theater, located in the Faubourg Marigny area of the Big Easy, keeps things sexy with its stacked schedule of live music, comedy shows, and of course, burlesque performances. The cozy stage wrapped in New Orleans magic has become a mainstay of the neighborhood, and the acts push creativity to a whole new level. Inclusivity is important here, and LGBTQ+ acts (including boylesque) are frequently featured on their calendar. Entry cost varies based on the show.
Nasty Boys Saloon, Treviso, Italy
If you’re looking for the winning combination of burlesque, Americana and barbecue, look no further that Nasty Boys Saloon in Treviso, Italy (you thought we were going to say Texas, didn’t you?). This spacious venue hosts music acts of all genres – though it has a soft spot for rockabilly and other old school rock-and-roll acts – and it recently held its first burlesque festival. If you’re looking for a raucous, saloon-style evening, this is your spot.
The cabaret scene in Paris
The Grand Dame of burlesque and cabaret culture, Paris is awash with burlesque options to fit every fancy. If you’re looking for elaborate productions, Le Moulin Rouge and Lido are the most famous options – head to these theaters for flashy cabaret with huge troupes of dancers, detailed sets and all the sparkle. If you’re looking for a more classic, intimate burlesque show, make your way to the La Nouvelle Seine, the floating theater that hosts the cheeky Cabaret Burlesque every weekend; entry is €21.
Skull’s Rainbow Room, Nashville
Tucked away in Nashville’s historic Printer’s Alley, Skull’s Rainbow Room has been entertaining audiences with a wide range of music and performance acts since 1948. Greats including Etta James, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney and Johnny Cash have played here, and today it’s home to nightly jazz and a late night burlesque revue that packs the house on the weekends. Performers glide across the bar’s signature checkerboard stage at 10pm on Thursdays and 11pm on Friday and Saturday. Cover for the show is $20.
London Burlesque Festival, London
London is home to a thriving burlesque scene, and the Big Smoke hosts not one, but two large scale burlesque events per year. The London Burlesque Festival features over a hundred variety performers in venues across the city; dates vary by year but generally fall in late spring and early summer. If you miss the main festival, the same folks that bring you the LBF also host the World Burlesque Games, Europe’s largest burlesque competition, in the fall.
Kleine Nachtrevue, Berlin
Berlin’s club and cabaret scene is the stuff of legend, and Kleine Nachtrevue really lives up to the city’s reputation. A scalloped gold ceiling complete with chandelier, theater seating and a shiny mid-century-style bar set the scene for your immersive burlesque experience. The venue hosts early (9pm) and late (11:45) shows, and acts include traditional and modern burlesque. Reserve your seats ahead of time online and pay in cash at the door (no cards accepted); tickets range in price from €20-35.
The stages and museums of Las Vegas
Unsurprisingly, Sin City is an epicenter of burlesque and performance art, hosting an abundance of cabarets and theater shows ranging from traditional burlesque to burlesque-inflected circus shows to hilarious productions featuring burlesque zombies. Vegas is also home to the Burlesque Hall of Fame, a fascinating museum dedicated to the history of the art form in the United States; get a glimpse into the glamour of yesteryear by wandering the photography and costume exhibits.
If you’re new to burlesque shows, you’ll quickly realize that this isn’t like any show you’ve ever been to before. Given the sexy nature of a burlesque performance, it’s important to follow good etiquette as an audience member. A few tips for next time you head down to the theater:
- Never touch the performer unless specifically invited. This is their profession, and touching them during their performances is disrespectful and a violation of consent.
- Know the venue’s tipping policy – some shows allow tips while others don’t. Be prepared by bringing small bills!
- Many shows prohibit photography, so think twice before whipping out that camera and double check with the performer and/or the venue.
- Cheer loud! Burlesque shows invite (respectful) audience interaction, so don’t be afraid to show your favorite performers some love when they pull off a particularly sexy dance move.