Saturday, November 24, 2012
Recommended Reading: Striptease by Libby Jones
I can't believe I hadn't seen this book until recently! A friend posted it on my FB page and I immediately hunted it down, found it at Powell's Books, and snapped it up.
Published by Simon and Schuster on their Parallax imprint in 1967, this neat little book breezes through basic principles of striptease in about 50 pages. (Though 80 pages long, the last 30 pages are devoted to beauty.) It's a great way for beginners to grasp that striptease is process of intention and presentation worthy of mastery.
It's adorable, and it reminded me that a lot of the principles of striptease I teach are actually universal. The more I teach, the more I find that I describe steps and principles the way I do not because I'm inventive, but because I'm observant, and that other burlesque instructors observe and teach some of the same things. It's very reassuring!
For instance, I often point out to my students that the Stripteaser, as a category of performer, is barely a hundred years old. And in her introduction, Libby says, "...the art of striptease as we know it today is a true red-blooded stars-and-stripes invention, born in the burlesque theatre about half a century ago." Striptease instructors agree!
She also says, "Recently, there has been a great striptease revival..." !!!
Check out the table of contents:
I love the similarity to the section on classic moves in my own book. She even has a very short description of how to make pasties out of buckram, in a way very similar to the method I discovered fiddling around in my sewing studio ten years ago.
Here's a sample of the illustrations and instructions. It's not super detailed, but it's obviously the result of experience and thought:
She even talks about earring removal, one of my favorite topics in my striptease class!
I absolutely adore striptease for its own sake. It disappoints me when burlesque performers and aficianadoes with their own agendas, most of which I actually share on some level as I also love a narrative, a comedy, a circus, a political statement, make a point of belittling classic burlesque striptease. After all, making the every day act of removing your clothing into a theatrical event is an achievement, and doing it well--meaning that the audience can see and appreciate what you're doing, and delightedly falls a little bit in love with the tease and the teaser--is very much a skill. Classic striptease is actually an entirely modern response to the rise of a culture in which people are seen more than they ever had been in previous centuries. With the rise of new media technology,people now are photographed, filmed, displayed more than ever in human history. Striptease, particularly on the stage, is a way of saying, "Flesh is genius." Removing an elaborate costume with a wink and smile that says, "The glitter and glamour and rhinestones are all quite fabulous, but it's the personality under them that's the biggest deal," is a huge message. There's nothing trivial or trite about that!
Striptease is the ultimate form of theater. It's the ability to think about what the audience can see while making them think about what they can't see. It's about making the naked body, so freely available for gaze in every form of media, seem infinitely precious with every reveal. It's a friendly way to say, "Hey, you know how you go around all day not wanting to be caught looking at me, and I go around all day hoping no one is staring at me, and I go around all day not wanting to be caught looking at you, and you go around all day hoping I'm not staring at you? It's okay--you can look!" And sometimes even, "I dare you to look!" A playful, mischievous striptease isn't about being pretty. It's about being fully engaged and engaging. It's about the joy of the body, saying,"Check out this awesome thing--I live in it!" If that isn't the experience you've seen in a burlesque show, go to a another show! As the glove comes off and the audience applauds (with their naked hands!) at the sight of the stripteaser's hand making its appearance, you'll realise there's a bigger message here than mere consumption. That stripper's taking it off for YOU! Isn't that special?
You can find this out-of-print book by searching for it on powells.com, amazon.com, alibris.com, EBay, and other sources for used books.