The term "Burlesque" refers to a theatrical tradition of humor and parody. Originally, the term described a musical production that was in an "upside down style", poking fun at the more serious genres of opera and drama with wit and comedy. More often, this style was called Vaudeville.
In the 1890's, the Moulin Rouge in Paris introduced "striptease", which quickly became a part of Burlesque shows all over Europe. Early in the 20th century American Vaudeville re-emerged as a populist blend of satire, performance art, and adult entertainment featuring strip tease and broad comedy acts that derived their name from the low comedy aspects of the literary genre known as burlesque. Here the term "burlesque" was used loosely to describe these adult revue shows in which striptease acts would perform—often with themes, characters or gimmicks. Only in the United States, did striptease become synonymous with Burlesque.
In burlesque, performers, usually female, often create elaborate sets with lush, colorful costumes, mood-appropriate music, and dramatic lighting, and may even include novelty acts, such as fire breathing or contortionists, to enhance the impact of their performance. The popular burlesque show of this period eventually evolved into the striptease which became the dominant ingredient of burlesque by the 1930s.
The downfall of Burlesque/Vaudeville was the introduction of cinema into American culture. Since early movies were frequently shown in vaudeville venues, most show bills began to include cinematic elements. Eventually the popularity of movies, combined with the social crackdown on the striptease elements of Burlesque, and the onset of the depression, which required theater owners to make serious cuts in expense, sounded the deathknell for Vaudeville/Burlesque on the American scene.