Is there a difference between stripping and burlesque dancing?

There has been debates that have raged on for decades in the adult entertainment world, one of the famous ones is the Burlesque dancer Vs Strip club dancer debate. There are those who argue that Burlesque is more of a performance art form meant to, while stripping is simply about taking your clothes off for men to stare at your naked body. This might sound like a silly argument, especially if you have been to a strip club and watched the kinds of performances the girls put up there. The dancing, the acrobatics, it takes hours of training to work those poles. So maybe, some people have highfalutin ideas about burlesque.

Burlesque has been on the rise. For many years, it’s a subculture driven by the rise of women who are embracing positive body images and taking ownership of how others see their bodies. Stripping is not that political, It is not a subculture, a movement or part of any philosophy. Stripping is about immediate fun and enjoyment.  

Another difference is that burlesque clubs attract more women than strip club do but then, that also depends on the area.

Burlesque is often regarded as satire and sometimes, the audience get to participate.  Performers do more than dance but they act – topless. One could argue what the point of such theatre is and that when it comes down to it, strippers aren’t necessarily themselves, they have a stage name, an alter-ego associated only with their jobs. They may put on a costume for their performances but at the end of the day, they mood the make up, take off their stilettos and costumes and go home to husband’s and kids in normal jeans an t-shirts.  Burlesque dancers assume a character. The focus is on the entertainment and not so much on the nakedness or acrobatics dancers may get up to.


It is common to hear of strippers who have taken to stripping because they had run out of options but a lot of burlesque dancers don’t take up dancing because they feel they have to. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every stripper you meet is forced to perform because of their bad economic situation. Yes, money is a big part of it but a lot of strippers like what they do. They love their bodies and they like showing them off. 

So why is there a debate? Is it a judgement thing? 

You may heard of Gypsy Rose Lee or Sally Rand or Lili St Cyr. How about Dita Von Tees? The later is a name that many in the 21 at century may be familiar with. She has been linked to celebrities and famous people, most memorably Marilyn Manson. But Dita is a star in her own right. This burlesque dancer is held in high regard in the burlesque world and in the general world of entertainment. She has that classic old-world beauty, grace and sophistication that is used as a measure for what attributes a burlesque dancer should have. She is also held in high regard in the adult entertainment world. When asked by a journalist to distinguish describe the difference between Burlesque and stripping, Dita said she didn’t think there was much difference and as far as she was concerned, one was not above another. She said that most mainstream burlesque dancer were in denial. They are trying to take that main element that ties the two forms of entertainment (getting naked) it to make burlesque seem better.  She concedes that the public needs to be educated about burlesque as an artform and stripping as a form of adult entertainment instead of trying to play the morality game. 

Before strip club became popular, most people went to burlesque clubs. This paved the way for stripping as we now know it. The likes of Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand actually did strip and they pushed the envelop. Insinuating that these pioneers and the thousands more that came after them had no class is rude. To play the morality card when looking at burlesque and stripping is myopic.