Burlesque: Heart Of The Glitter Tribe feels like the introduction to a book that expects you to already be familiar with the material present in the following pages. This documentary feels as if it is meant to act as a first look into the world of burlesque dancing and the lives of its performers, and while it does function as that, it also feels lacking in pacing and structure to make something compelling out of those lives and performances. This is the kind of documentary that is made by enthusiasts for beginners, yet doesn’t quite have a grasp on how to teach.
For those unfamiliar with the art form of burlesque, it is a type of erotic dancing that encourages individuality and creativity for its performers, and though often featuring overt sexuality and flamboyance, rarely is full nudity involved. Rather than just giving you that brief summary, the film attempts to explain burlesque dancing and culture in two modes: talking head interviews with burlesque performers where we discover their origins and artistic motivations, and footage of actual live performances, often spliced together with soundbites from the interviews. The subjects of the interviews are interesting people of various genders and with various performative styles—whether they’re comedic, sensual, gothic, or ultra-sexualized. And while the origins of these folks are interesting, the meat of the film is in the burlesque performances, which demonstrate a wide range of styles that are as titillating as they are unique.
The biggest failing of Burlesque is that it doesn’t really have any sort of story that it’s trying to tell. While the individual interviews are engaging, there’s nothing more than a loose thematic grouping to tie any of them together, meaning that there’s no narrative flow to what is being presented. The film also jumps between topics with flittering inattention, landing on one idea for just long enough to get invested before jumping off into another aspect of burlesque that is only barely tangentially related. The work of recording and observing the documentary’s subjects is all there, but it’s assembled in such a haphazard way that it hampers the engagement of its audience.
And really, there just isn’t a whole lot more to say about Burlesque: Heart Of The Glitter Tribe. Running at a scant 76 minutes, it’s only worth the investment if you have no exposure to the world of burlesque whatsoever, and this isn’t even a great introduction at that. The main reason to watch this documentary is to see the particular performances on display, and the costuming, comedy, sexuality, and personality are never disappointing in that regard. If you’re looking for an opportunity to see some burlesque performances in a controlled environment before venturing down to your local club, I suppose you could do worse than Burlesque, but you could probably achieve the same effect by looking up videos on YouTube.