What is the Difference Between Cabaret and Burlesque? Explained!

Cabaret and burlesque are two fantastic forms of entertainment that have captivated audiences for decades. They both feature a combination of music, dance, and theater, but they remain distinct from one another. Cabaret highlights a diverse range of performances that may include singing, stand-up comedy, magic, acrobatics, and more. It emphasizes individual skill sets and aims to showcase performers’ unique abilities and personalities. In contrast, burlesque typically features striptease acts as well as vaudeville-inspired comedy routines.

While both cabaret and burlesque share common elements, such as costumes and choreography, they differ in their approach to performance. Cabaret is generally more theatrical and features a wider breadth of performance styles, whereas burlesque focuses on creating an atmosphere of sensuality and tease that ramps up to an erotic climax. The goal of cabaret is to entertain and keep audiences engaged with a wide array of performances, while burlesque focuses on seducing the viewer’s imagination.

In today’s world, both cabaret and burlesque continue to thrive thanks to their unique identities and the passion of their performers. They offer an alternative to the mainstream entertainment that most people are used to, and they’re a great way to experience a wide range of niche performers and celebrate creativity. Whether you’re interested in expressing yourself through various performance styles or simply want to enjoy an evening of sensual entertainment, cabaret and burlesque offer something for everyone.

History of Cabaret and Burlesque

Cabarets and burlesque shows have become synonymous with live entertainment, but they are vastly different genres. While cabarets have been around since the early 16th century, burlesque shows were introduced in the late 19th century. Below explores the history of the cabaret and burlesque genres individually.

The History of Cabaret

Cabarets originated in France in the early 16th century, where they were small, private affairs held in the homes of aristocrats. These events included poetry readings, songs, and theatrical performances. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the idea of a commercial cabaret first appeared, where tickets could be purchased to enjoy the show and drinks could be ordered during the performance.

In the early 1900s, cabarets became more mainstream in cities throughout Europe, and even made their way over to the United States. Cabaret shows were known for their variety and sophistication, including dancing, singing, comedy, and theatrics. These shows were often held in small intimate spaces, and the performers would often interact with the audience, creating a unique and personal experience for each show-goer.

The History of Burlesque

  • Burlesque shows first originated in the United Kingdom in the early 19th century as a form of parody and satire of popular culture.
  • These shows began to spread to the United States in the late 19th century, where they gained traction in the form of theatrical shows featuring scantily-clad women.
  • In the early 1900s, burlesque shows became even more sexualized and focus shifted from comedy and parody to striptease performances.
  • Burlesque shows continued to gain in popularity throughout the 20th century, often featuring elaborate costumes and sets, as well as live music and comedy.
  • In the 1960s, burlesque shows began to decline in popularity due to the sexual revolutions and changes in societal norms, leading to the rise of other entertainment forms such as rock concerts and theater productions.

Cabaret vs. Burlesque

While both cabarets and burlesque shows feature live performances and are steeped in theatrical traditions, they are vastly different genres. Cabarets are known for their sophistication and variety, featuring singing, dancing, comedy, and more. Burlesque shows, on the other hand, are typically more sexualized and focus on the art of striptease. Despite their differences, both cabarets and burlesque shows have made significant contributions to the world of live entertainment and continue to inspire artists and audiences worldwide.

Types of Cabaret and Burlesque

While cabaret and burlesque are often grouped together as forms of entertainment, they are actually quite distinct. Cabaret refers to a type of performance that is more theatrical and can include a variety of acts such as singing, comedy, and dance. Burlesque, on the other hand, is more focused on striptease and satire.

  • Types of Cabaret: There are several types of cabaret that exist, including:
  • Classic Cabaret: This refers to the traditional style of cabaret, which emerged in France in the late 19th century. It features a variety of acts and performers, often with a focus on music and dance.
  • Vaudeville: This type of cabaret emerged in the United States in the late 19th century and is characterized by a variety of acts, including comedy, dance, and music.
  • Cabaret Noir: This refers to a type of cabaret that is more focused on dark and edgy themes, often featuring performances inspired by the works of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire.

Burlesque, on the other hand, has its own distinct subgenres:

  • Types of Burlesque: These include:
  • Classic Burlesque: This type of burlesque dates back to the 19th century and typically involves striptease performed by women in elaborate costumes.
  • Neo-Burlesque: This modern take on burlesque often includes a variety of performance styles, including comedic acts and singing.
  • Boylesque: This refers to a type of burlesque that focuses on male performers and can include striptease and other forms of performance art.

It’s important to note that both cabaret and burlesque have evolved over time, and new subgenres continue to emerge. Whether you prefer the theatricality of cabaret or the risqué nature of burlesque, there is something for everyone.

Cabaret and Burlesque Table Comparison

Cabaret Burlesque
More theatrical Focus on striptease and satire
Includes a variety of acts Primarily striptease
Can feature singing, comedy, and dance Often includes elaborate costumes and props

While there are clear differences between cabaret and burlesque, both forms of entertainment offer a unique and exciting experience for audiences around the world.

Performers in Cabaret and Burlesque

Cabaret and burlesque have their own distinct styles and performers. While both forms of entertainment feature music, dance, and comedy, the performers themselves vary

In cabaret performances, the focus is on creating a more sophisticated and refined atmosphere. Cabaret performers are typically professional singers, dancers, and actors who have trained for years to perfect their craft. The performers dress elegantly and perform in a more traditional theatrical setting, often accompanied by a live band or pianist.

On the other hand, burlesque performers tend to embrace a broader range of performers. While many burlesque performers may also have a background in dance or theater, burlesque is known for its inclusivity and acceptance of individuals of all shapes, sizes, and genders. Burlesque performers may also incorporate elements of comedy, magic, and other forms of variety entertainment into their acts, making them engaging and unique.

Types of Performers in Burlesque

  • Burlesque Dancers: These performers are the backbone of many burlesque shows. They often perform stripteases, but with a theatrical and comedic twist. They’ll use their bodies to tell a story and captivate the audience, attempting to portray a character or persona in their acts.
  • Comedians: Burlesque shows incorporate comedy as a way to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Comedians are an essential part of a burlesque show, adding humor and commentary to the performances.
  • Drag Performers: Gender-bending is at the core of burlesque, and drag performers often perform alongside burlesque dancers. They add a layer of gender fluidity to the show, incorporating unique elements of masculinity and femininity into their performances.

Type of Performers in Cabaret

Cabaret performances tend to have more traditional theatrical performances with a heightened sense of sophistication and elegance. The following types of performers are commonly featured in cabaret:

  • Chanteuse: A female singer who acts as the performer’s lead vocalist. She will typically sing a variety of songs from different genres in different languages, providing a diverse musical experience for the audience.
  • Cabaret Dancers: Similar to burlesque dancers, cabaret dancers are professional dancers who perform choreographed routines and acts.
  • Magicians: Illusions and magic tricks are also a part of cabaret performances. Magicians add an extra layer of mystery and intrigue to the performance.

Comparison of Performers in Cabaret and Burlesque

While both cabaret and burlesque feature a variety of performers, the styles of performances and the characteristics of performers differ. The following table compares the differences:

Performer Type Cabaret Burlesque
Dancers Professional dancers A broad range of performers, including professional dancers and amateurs
Comedians Professional comedians A broad range of performers who may have comedic acts
Drag Performers Less common A common feature, gender-bending is a key element of burlesque
Magicians Common Less common, but still featured in some burlesque shows

Fashions in Cabaret and Burlesque

Cabaret and burlesque both have a distinct fashion style that sets them apart from each other. While cabaret originated in the 19th century in France, burlesque started in the United States in the 1860s. Both these performing arts have evolved over time and so have their fashion trends. Here’s an in-depth look at the fashions in cabaret and burlesque:

  • Cabaret Fashion: Cabaret fashion is sleek, sophisticated, and elegant. It’s all about the glamour and glitz that we associate with the cabaret culture. The performers wear costumes that are usually black or dark in color, with sequins, shimmer, and feathers used to create a sense of grandeur. Cabaret costumes often feature slits, plunging necklines, and high waists that accentuate the performers’ curves. Stylized makeup, high heels, and fishnet stockings complete the look. Cabaret fashion has a timeless appeal and is still popular today, with modern-day cabaret shows incorporating contemporary elements to keep the style fresh.
  • Burlesque Fashion: Burlesque fashion, on the other hand, is all about fun, frills, and a touch of naughtiness. Burlesque costumes are designed to tease the audience and are often risqué, with a lot of skin on show. The costumes are usually designed to look like lingerie or corsets, with bright colors and bold prints that make the performers stand out. Feathers, tassels, sequins, and lace are also heavily used to add extra flounce and flair. Makeup is bold and dramatic, with dark red lips and smoky eyes a common sight. In burlesque, there’s a sense of playfulness and humour that’s totally different from cabaret.

Both cabaret and burlesque have influenced fashion trends over the years, with elements from their costumes showing up in modern-day fashion. Here’s a table that showcases some of the key fashion trends associated with cabaret and burlesque:

Cabaret Fashion Burlesque Fashion
Colors Dark hues, especially black Bright colors, bold prints, glitter
Materials Sequins, feathers, shimmer, silk Lace, tassels, corsets, fishnet stockings
Makeup Classic, elegant, stylized Bold, dramatic, dark red lips, smokey eyes

Whether you’re a fan of cabaret or burlesque, their fashions are an essential part of the experience. From the glamorous, timeless elegance of cabaret to the playful, risqué fun of burlesque, both these performing arts have their own unique style that continues to inspire fashion trends today.

Music in Cabaret and Burlesque

In both cabaret and burlesque, music plays a vital role in setting the tone of the performance. However, the type of music used in these art forms can differ significantly.

  • Cabaret Music: Cabaret performers generally use live music, featuring a piano, guitar, or small band. The music is often jazzy or bluesy, and the lyrics are typically witty and satirical. Cabaret music is designed to create an intimate atmosphere, drawing the audience in and making them feel like they are part of the performance.
  • Burlesque Music: Burlesque performers often use a pre-recorded soundtrack or DJ to provide the music for their routines. The music is generally more upbeat and danceable than cabaret music, often featuring pop, rock, or electronic elements. The lyrics can be suggestive or explicit, designed to complement the performer’s movements or add to the overall theme of the routine.

Another key difference between the music in cabaret and burlesque is the role it plays in the performance. In cabaret, the music is often just one component of a larger performance, helping to create a cohesive atmosphere and set the tone. In burlesque, however, the music is often as important as the performer, helping to drive the routine forward and create a sense of energy and excitement.

Music can also be used to add to the overall aesthetic of a burlesque performance. Many burlesque performers use music from a particular era or genre, such as 1920s jazz or 1960s rock, to create a specific atmosphere or to reference a particular cultural moment. In addition, burlesque music can also be used to create a sense of humor or irony, with performers using unexpected or humorous music choices to subvert audience expectations and add an extra layer of meaning to their routines.

Cabaret Burlesque
Live music Pre-recorded music or DJ
Jazzy or bluesy Pop, rock, or electronic
Witty and satirical lyrics Suggestive or explicit lyrics

In conclusion, while cabaret and burlesque share some similarities in their use of music, there are also key differences between the two art forms. Cabaret music is typically live and designed to create an intimate atmosphere, while burlesque music is often pre-recorded and more upbeat, used to drive the routine forward and create a sense of excitement. Understanding these differences can help audiences to better appreciate and enjoy these two distinct art forms.

Venues for Cabaret and Burlesque

Both cabaret and burlesque shows are usually held in intimate spaces with a cozy atmosphere to enhance the audience’s experience. However, there are some differences in the venues that are used to host these two types of shows.

  • Cabaret Venues: Cabaret shows are commonly held in small bars, nightclubs, and theaters. These venues offer an up-close and personal experience, where the performers are right in front of the audience. Cabaret venues often provide a more refined and sophisticated atmosphere, with plush seating arrangements and a focus on the artistry of the performance.
  • Burlesque Venues: Burlesque shows, on the other hand, are frequently held in clubs, halls, and other larger venues. These spaces offer more room for elaborate and theatrical performances. Burlesque venues often have a more relaxed atmosphere, with a focus on having fun and enjoying the show. The shows may be more interactive, with the audience encouraged to participate and some performers even coming down from the stage to mingle with the crowd.

As the popularity of cabaret and burlesque grows, more and more unique and interesting venues are being used to stage these shows. It is not uncommon to see cabaret or burlesque shows held in unconventional locations, including warehouses, ballrooms, and outdoor spaces such as rooftops or gardens. This variety of venues provides audiences with the opportunity to experience these performances in unique and memorable settings.

Venue Type Cabaret Shows Burlesque Shows
Bars and Nightclubs
Clubs and Halls
Outdoor Spaces

Overall, the venue for cabaret or burlesque show depends on the production and its intended audience. Both cabaret and burlesque shows offer a unique and entertaining experience, and the intimate venue only adds to the charm. Whether you prefer a more traditional venue or something more unusual, there is no shortage of exciting cabaret and burlesque shows to enjoy.

Future of Cabaret and Burlesque

Cabaret and burlesque are two distinct art forms that have been around for decades but are constantly evolving. As society changes, so do the entertainment options we seek, which affects the future of cabaret and burlesque in unique ways.

Below are seven subsections that delve into the future of cabaret and burlesque entertainment:

  • 1. Technological Advancements: With the rise of technology, cabaret and burlesque shows can now utilize special effects, lighting, and sound to enhance the audience experience. Expect to see more advanced technology used in future shows, with digital projections and immersive environments becoming the norm.
  • 2. Diversity and Inclusion: In recent years, diversity and inclusion have become essential topics in every industry, and entertainment is no exception. The future of cabaret and burlesque shows will reflect the diverse backgrounds of performers and audience members alike, with more representation of people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and individuals with disabilities.
  • 3. Sustainability: Environmental sustainability is becoming a pressing concern across the globe. The future of cabaret and burlesque entertainment will address this issue by reducing waste and pollution. Expect to see more eco-friendly venues, costumes, and performances that focus on a zero-waste approach.
  • 4. Virtual Reality: Cabaret and burlesque shows can now be experienced virtually, giving audiences access to shows from anywhere in the world. In the future, virtual reality technology will improve, creating more immersive experiences for audience members. This may lead to hybrid shows that combine virtual and live experiences.
  • 5. Cultural Influences: Cabaret and burlesque shows have always been influenced by various cultural movements. In the future, expect to see more shows that incorporate different cultures around the world. This could include performances that mix traditional cultural elements with modern cabaret and burlesque techniques.
  • 6. Social Commentary: Cabaret and burlesque have a long history of social commentary, especially concerning political and societal issues. In the future, expect more shows that address similar topics, with performers incorporating their personal experiences and opinions into their acts. This could include performances that address climate change, race, gender, and other societal issues.
  • 7. Collaborations: One trend that is likely to continue into the future is collaborations between performers and other artists, such as musicians, dancers, and visual artists. These collaborations will bring a new level of creativity and innovation to cabaret and burlesque shows.

In conclusion, the future of cabaret and burlesque shows will be shaped by technological advancements, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, virtual reality, cultural influences, social commentary, and collaborations between artists. These evolving trends will ensure that cabaret and burlesque entertainment remains entertaining and relevant for years to come.

What is the difference between cabaret and burlesque?


Q: Are cabaret and burlesque the same thing?
A: No, cabaret refers to a type of entertainment that includes music, dance, comedy, and vaudeville acts, while burlesque is a form of entertainment that features striptease and satire.


Q: Is the attire different for cabaret and burlesque?
A: Yes, cabaret performers usually wear formal or semiformal attire, while burlesque performers wear provocative costumes that are often revealing.


Q: Does cabaret involve audience participation like burlesque?
A: Cabaret may involve some audience participation, such as inviting audience members to sing along, but it is not typically as interactive as burlesque performances.


Q: Can the music be the same in both cabaret and burlesque?
A: Yes, both forms of entertainment may use similar music, but in cabaret performances, the music is used to enhance the overall show rather than being the main focus like it is in burlesque.


Q: Which one has a longer history, cabaret or burlesque?
A: Burlesque has a longer history, dating back to the 17th century, while cabaret became popular in the late 1800s.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between cabaret and burlesque, you can appreciate both forms of entertainment for their unique qualities. Thanks for reading, and be sure to visit again later for more interesting articles!