Burlesque: experience or trigger for transformation? : The journey from spectator to entertainer
Szász, Gerda (2020)
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The objective of this thesis is to explore whether attending a live burlesque event can be categorised as a single isolated experience, or rather an opportunity for an individual to face a dilemma and recognise an aspiration, thus embarking on a transformational journey. Mapping the experience journey of the guest highlights the important touchpoints of a well-designed compelling experience, while mapping the journey from the audience to the stage might shed a light on the transformational trigger potential of this artform. Analysing the journeys to the stage of once spectators turned performers is essential in understanding if there are common motives behind their urge to perform or turning points they’ve all gone through leading to the outcome of change in traits. The theoretical framework of the thesis consists of two parts. In the first chapter "The art of exaggeration" introduces the term of burlesque, presents the reader with a short history of the artform, followed by describing the burlesque and neo-burlesque scene in Finland. This chapter also contains a portrayal of the motives behind wanting to perform burlesque. The second part of the theoretical framework focuses on burlesque as an experience by examining the anatomy of a burlesque event, as well as the experiencescape and psychology of an optimal experience. This is followed by distinguishing experiences from transformation, depicting transformation triggers and guiders of transformations. The research method used is qualitative, the data was gathered using thematic interviews and observation. Focusing on the quality and diversity of data gathered, seven knowledgeable performers were selected with different amount of performing experience, representing the “audience member turned performer”. Interviews varying in length from 26 to 92 minutes were conducted between 27.04-13.05, transcribed for analysis and processed using thematizing. Observation was used to analyse the complexity of 3 consecutive burlesque events, focusing on how these experiences were designed and constructed. A burlesque show at its best represents an exquisitely designed, unique and meaningful experience that engages the audience on many levels and creates a world one can escape to and feel accepted in. Seeing burlesque live for the first time does make a big impact on its viewer by encompassing aspects that resonate personally with audience members and can be perceived as a trigger for transformation for those who are ready to begin their journey. The progress of transformation is made up of experiences, most turning points common between the performers having gone through this process. Regardless of the motives behind wanting to perform, stepping on the burlesque stage itself requires having gone through a transformation. As an outcome, performers will not only have obtained new knowledge and skills, but also traits.