Cyd Charisse Passes

Click the immage above to read about Cyd Charisse at

If anybody ever set a standard for the way a glamourous dancer should walk across the stage, it was Cyd Charisse.

I first became really conscious of Cyd Charisse when I was in high school because my best friend's mother, Carol Richards, did Cyd's vocals in Brigadoon, and then my best friend performed in our school's production of Brigadoon. I remember my friend (who had her mother's singing ability and regularly blew me away with her talent and her genius) moving like a hurricane in a dance scene, and thinking, "Oh, that's so for me!" The dancing I felt I could get near; the singing, most definitely not (as those who saw me play and sing Black Dog at Houses of the Unholy can attest). There was no youtube then, and I really had to bust my buns to get my eyes on more of Cyd's performances, but when I did, this is what I saw:

Cyd Charisse was not a burlesque dancer, but the characters she portrayed in her numbers had such a fierceness, such an attitude of independence and personal power, and such strong tones of vixen and femme fatale, that it is inevitable she would be an influence on burlesque performers. Perhaps burlesque performers had an influence on her; I'm not an expert on her career and wouldn't know. I often think that if all it took were fancy costumes and character dancing to interest burlesque aficianados, we would not need the striptease part of burlesque--we could just refer to MGM musicals and never take off a thing. But for that sense of being undomesticated that draws so many of us to identify so intensely with the striptease artist rather than other with equally glamourous women who don't engage the aspects of burlesque (self-generated ideas, transcending formal training [or the lack thereof] to create one's own style, and a bit of outrageousness), clothing removal aside, that make it unique, there is no dancer outside of burlesque--or inside, obviously--quite like Queen Charisse. She was elegant, seductive, and beautiful, but also challenging.

Sadly, Carol Richards passed away last year, and Cyd Charisse just this month. Due to producing a student showcase and preparing for the Mermaid Parade this past week I'm a bit late with my tribute to Cyd's influence on the dancing style of many burlesquers as well as on the rest of the dance universe, but I was moved by her life and her death.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for


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