Cabaret vs Burlesque – The Difference Between The Both!

burlesque show

If you like variety shows featuring comedy and dancing, you likely know about both cabaret and burlesque. But what you may not have realized is that these two terms refer to very different forms of performance art.

Cabaret vs Burlesque beyond this confusion, there’s a whole lot of misinformation about the history and true purpose of both types of entertainment. Many people make the mistake of considering them scandalous or even pornographic.

So, what can you expect from a cabaret or burlesque show? And what are the differences between them? Keep reading to find out!

What is Cabaret?

Cabaret’s roots date back to 16th century France. At the time, upscale bars began offering a mix of entertainment alongside the usual dining and drinking. Early cabaret shows featured political satire, raunchy songs, and dancing. This trend took off, with many cabaret bars turning into hotspots of underground culture in France and around Europe.

Today’s cabaret shows are more like a modern-day vaudeville. So, while dancing and singing are still common, you can also expect drag shows, stand-up comedy, mime, and more.

What should I expect from a cabaret show?

Apart from the show, you can expect cabaret in various forms. It showcases the acts of historical periods associated with decadence and excess. You can expect one or more performers singing a humorous song and interacting with the audience. Not to mention, calling the audience on stage to poke fun and laughter.

The difference between burlesque and cabaret is that, in cabaret the performers will get intimate with the audience. They interact with the public closely, walking in the middle of the audience, looking and teasing them verbally or otherwise. If you are a first – timer, then you must expect a bit of touching involved.

What is Burlesque?

Burlesque as a literary and artistic concept became famous in Europe in the 1600s. But, it wasn’t until the 19th century that burlesque performances really took off. Unlike early cabaret shows, burlesque shows were held in theaters and music halls. These venues offered family-friendly entertainment centered around music, skits, parodies, dancing, and slapstick humor.

Although burlesque soon went out of style in Europe, it re-emerged in the US in the 1930s. Stateside shows were naughtier and more suggestive, though, with raunchier dancing and striptease. So, why might you consider, “what is a burlesque show without a little nudity?”, this wasn’t always the case.

In the 1990s the burlesque show format came back, this time with live music, extravagant costumes, and even more glamour as well as comedy, drama, and exotic dancing.

What to expect from a Burlesque show?

Now you know what a burlesque show is, it’s time to know how one should behave and what will happen at the show.

The audience at this show is usually a mix of couples and women. There might be comedy, singing, acrobatics, gymnastics and tap dancing. The performers might perform individually or in groups depending on what they have planned for the show.

The difference between burlesque vs cabaret is that, in Burlesque performers use a wide range of costume and reproduction, which means they design themselves. The show will be a mix of parody and satire performances, so never take it seriously. Just like a cabaret, the dancers often interact with the audience and they might bring them to the stage. But don’t expect a striptease!

What are the Differences Between a Cabaret Show and a Burlesque Show?

While both offer varied theater-based entertainment that has changed over the years, the main difference between cabaret and burlesque nowadays is that burlesque often involves more erotic, adult elements.

Cabaret still retains some of its vintage appeal, where shows can even include juggling and magic. This means that cabaret tends to be more family-friendly than modern burlesque shows. That said, burlesque shows are classier and more exotic than the kind of shows you’d find at a strip club. Rather than titillation for the male gaze, burlesque venues present striptease as an art 

form performed by trained professionals.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. What is burlesque style?

Ans. Burlesque is all about teasing without actually involving nudity or full stripping. Afterall, the show is a derived form of comedy, so it is a full filled show and it’s portrayed in dazzling costumes worn by the performers.

Q2. Is Burlesque a type of cabaret?

Ans. The difference between cabaret and burlesque is that burlesque is a theatre on stage while cabaret is a nightclub.

Q3. Why is it called cabaret?

Ans. The term cabaret originated from the old French word cambret, which means its small room.

Q4. What type of dance is cabaret?

Ans. It is a mix of male and female performers, characterized by telling a story or dancing to a theme using theater arts showcasing various types of dances. It includes ballet, jazz, lyrical and contemporary.

Q5. What are the rules of burlesque?

Ans. You need to follow some basic etiquette that audience members must obey, you need to understand tipping and never have a bad attitude. 


Now you know what’s the difference between burlesque and cabaret, does burlesque or cabaret appeal to you more?

While both are entertaining, you might prefer to head to a cabaret show if you want to share a few laughs with friends or enjoy a good time with your family. In contrast, if you’re looking for something a bit edgier with more adult themes, a burlesque show will definitely not disappoint.