The organisers of burlesque shows are fighting to defend their “art” as some local authorities push clubs to apply for adult entertainment licences.
So is it a performance art, or just glorified stripping?
In recent years, burlesque may have become trendy, with celebrities including Dita Von Teese strutting their stuff with feathers and corsets.
But later this year, a proposed Policing and Crime Bill could see burlesque categorised as sexual entertainment.
The manager of Camden’s Proud Gallery, Alex Proud, has already been asked to apply for a sexual entertainment licence if he wishes his night to continue.
This is something he strongly disagrees with as he considers burlesque a performing art.
He told Sky News: “Some people think it’s empowering, some just think it’s an excuse to get your kit off. That’s great – debate it, most art creates debate, that’s fine – but that doesn’t mean it’s about adult entertainment.”
Back in its early form in 17th century Europe, burlesque was all about comedy and the mocking of the upper classes for the amusement of the working class.
Then in 20th century America, striptease became a focal part of the show.
Burlesque performer and founder of the Burlesque Women’s Institute Ruby Rose defended her shows.
She said: “It is an art form and if you start banning or licensing art forms, you’ve got to go across the board and look at everything.
“I’ve never yet seen anything that offends so I really don’t know why it’s caused such a problem”.
What has caused that problem is that not everyone agrees it is art – some see it as a justification for stripping.
After a year performing in a burlesque troupe, Laurie Penny’s views flipped. What had originally given her confidence and empowerment soon changed into quite the opposite.
She concluded after her experiences that “stripping is stripping wherever you do it”.
While the debate rages, the fire is fuelled by the blurring of the line between burlesque and stripping.
And while Ruby says burlesque is less about “what you take off, but more about what you keep on”, considering there isn’t usually much left on, it seems the question as to whether its purpose is art or titillation remains unanswered.