A high school teacher in Richmond, Virginia recently resigned in disgrace after a video of her burlesque dancing surfaced. Lottie Ellington (stage name) performed in a 2014 Michigan Burlesque Festival and when the organizers of the festival distributed the video, parents at Hopewell High School were outraged. An embarrassed Ellington resigned from the school and hasn’t spoken to any media or released her real name in the wake of the scandal. Though Ellington felt the need to run from her burlesque dancing past, some burlesque dancers of the past have chosen to embrace their history.
The art of burlesque comes from 1860’s New York, and some of the medium’s oldest living performers are stripping down in the present. French photographer Marie Baronnet documented these women for her book Legends: The Living Art of Risqué. In a CNN interview, Baronnet said it took just some makeup and costumes for the women to feel empowered once again: “They would just suddenly know how to move.”
The idea to put together a book showcasing burlesque dancers of the past came when Baronnet meet an 85-year-old former burlesque dancer named Dixie Evans in 2011. Known for her burlesque parody of Marilyn Monroe, Evans passed away in 2013, but she helped Baronnet get in touch with many of the former burlesque dancers. All of the women featured in Baronnet’s book, ranging in age from mid 60’s to mid 90’s, were former burlesque dancers back in their heyday.
Through the interviews Baronnet conducted for her book, the models expressed how they were pioneers of feminism. In a separate interview with Senior Planet, Baronnet says the women told her they felt “a real sense of freedom and independence” through burlesque dancing.
The art of burlesque has seen some revival in the past decade in costumes, dramatic makeup, movies and night clubs like the Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub in Atlantic City, which opened in 2012. Baronnet gave these women the glory they deserved through costumes, makeup and the flash of a camera. She transported them back to a time when they felt feminism, sexuality and art were at its finest.
The video below features a slideshow of the glamour shots of the legendary models.
(featured image via Feature Shoot)