There’s a certain connotation that comes with the term burlesque and what exactly that can mean. In the early 1900s, it was as simple as a strip tease or a lewd comedic performance. But the modern era holds the true definition of burlesque to a higher standard.
Down off the corner of 15th and Brandywine in Philadelphia, sits a dance studio where inside there are no ballet, salsa, or ballroom dancers. Instead, Philadelphia’s own premier burlesque troupe is practicing for their next show on Feb. 14 at the World Café Live.
They are mothers, daughters, teachers and students, ranging in ages but they all have one thing in common, burlesque. What many would see as a dying art form, the Peek-A-Boo Revue has been working hard to reinvigorate and recreate for the modern era. The dance troupe, which has been performing for over ten years, is giving the city something unique in the way of a live show.
“It’s held together by this illusion of friendship,” Scott Johnston said in a sarcastic tone. He is one of the male performers in the show and has also been involved with the Peek-a-boo Revue since its inception in 1999 at the 5 Spot night club in Old City. “It began as a variety show with a lot of crazy stuff,” he said referring to the unusual acts included in a typical performance. For a majority of the years, the shows had found their home at the 5 spot, but venues quickly changed when a fire destroyed that club in 2007.
The Peek-A-Boo Revue is much more than just an old fashioned strip tease. It’s an entirely well conceived performance blending the art of burlesque with dance, music, and comedy. As well as an impressive stage performance, the troupe works with a live band that practices along side them in the small dance studio off of Brandywine.
“Some people will call us glorified strippers, “ said Krista D’Agostino, a veteran member of the dance troupe. “But I don’t care what they call me, I love what I do.” Like Krista, all of the performers are proud of their burlesque roots and the unique shows they put on around the city twice a month. “We’re a family, and I think that’s what keeps its going,” D’Agonstino said. With the entertaining blending of sex, comedy, and music, it’s safe to say that if burlesque is considered an art form, then the Peek-A-Boo Revue, with consistently sold out shows, is perfecting it.