Difference between Stripping and Burlesque

Updated on February 14, 2018

With burlesque becoming more popular in recent years, one question sometimes asked is what the difference is between burlesque and regular stripping. This article will help to explain the differences between the two.



Stripping refers to a performer, known as a stripper or an exotic dancer, removing his or her clothes during a performance, usually for money. Exotic dancers can be either male or female. Exotic dancers work in establishments known as strip clubs, where they are paid for their performances both by their employers at the establishment, and through tips given to them by patrons of strip clubs. These dances are done to arouse the viewers of the performances. Stripping can involve physically complex and acrobatic moves, often performed on a rigid pole set up on the stage for the performer.


Burlesque is a form of performance combining elements of theater, comedy, satire, music, and adult entertainment. Burlesque performers are known as burlesque dancers and can be either male or female, but are most commonly female. Burlesque originally began as a form of literature or theater that made fun of serious works by treating these works ridiculously, but would later develop into the on-stage performance that the word burlesque more commonly refers to today. Burlesque dancers are known to dress in elaborate costumes that will be stripped off during the performance, and burlesque performances will have comedy routines or variety acts occurring throughout the performance.

Comparison chart

Has some origins in burlesque, but ultimately does not have an origin relating to satire or humour.Origins in literature, satire, and making fun of social rules and conventions through performance.
Intention is usually for money or physical performance itself.Intention is usually for artistic purposes and the performance itself.
Exotic dancers work at strip clubs.Burlesque dancers perform on stage at independent events and usually do not work at specific establishments.
Focus of stripping is on physical movement and the act of stripping itself.Focus on burlesque is not just on physical act of burlesque dance itself, but on the humour of the broader performance.

Stripping vs Burlesque

What is the difference between stripping and burlesque? They are the origins of each performance, the intentions of each performance, and the elements of each performance itself.

It is true that burlesque and stripping began in a similar way. The original burlesque dancers of the early-to-mid 1900s are sometimes known as the original strippers, and the pole that is used during stripping performances is known as a burlesque pole. However, burlesque had its origins in literature and satire; burlesque was originally meant to make fun of certain social conventions and events, and modern burlesque performances reflect this. Stripping, on the other hand, was generally never meant to have a wider meaning beyond the exotic dancer removing his or her clothes.

Where the intention of stripping is for money and the physical performance, the intentions of burlesque are a performance within the broader context of the show it appears in. Some exotic dancers enjoy their work, so one cannot say that stripping is done only for money, but the intention of an exotic dancer stripping is most often physical: they show off their bodies and the way they can make their bodies move for money. Burlesque dancers, on the other hand, intend to entertain the audience in different ways. Burlesque dancers aim to make the audience laugh, and because burlesque is rooted in satire, burlesque dancers usually do not want to be taken too seriously in their performances, which are for fun. Exotic dancers, in general, do not intend their performance as a work of comedy or satire.

Exotic dancers work at strip clubs, whereas burlesque dancers do not necessarily work at specific establishments, but perform on stage for independent events. In addition, stripping is not known for the elaborate costumes associated with burlesque. Strippers usually dress in lingerie or underwear, whereas burlesque dancers often dress in e.g. skirts, corsets, high heels, and Victorian dresses. Stripping also does not have any variety show elements, whereas burlesque includes variety show elements, comedic acts, and satire. Stripping has a focus mostly on the stripping itself, whereas burlesque has a focus on things like humour, wit, and satire during the performances.

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