According to Robbie Swan, administrator at the Eros Association, the climate scientists so shocked by a burlesque performance are getting all het up about nothing.

Swan points out that burlesque is not a sexual performance, does not usually involve nudity, and in this case was not designed to be sexually suggestive. Swan disputes the many references to “strippers” made in reference to the incident, and says burlesque doesn’t even have a place within the adult entertainment industry.

“The scientists totally missed the point,” he told Crikey this morning. “It’s like saying Barry Humphries is a tawdry cross-dresser, which he is, but that’s the joke. This particular performance is a satire and has more in common with live theatre than anything you will see in a strip club.”

“Burlesque is generally a hands-off show designed to be sexually-titillating, but to appeal to the head rather than the groin. Burlesque can go into the old Parliament House because it’s not a strip show. It’s an art form, almost akin to Bollywood dancing, with quite exaggerated make up and costumes, and that’s why it’s acceptable to put it into places like the old Parliament House.”

While Swan acknowledges there are better places for a burlesque performance, he also worries that the “prudishness and wowserism” on display this week may signal a deeper malaise within the nation’s scientific community. “These are people are supposed to be leading the community on matters of national significance, and I worry that the deep conservatism expressed here might affect their judgments on matters involving their work.”

Even though conference organisers may choose a different form of entertainment next year, it appears they may not have to go without their funding after all. Rebecca Gale, the leader of the offending dance troupe, will put the outfit, complete with popped balloons, up for sale online and donate the money to the conference. And in a bid to bridge the gulf between climate scientists and burlesque dancers, Gale has also offered free burlesque classes to the lady scientist she offended: “She could perhaps come and experience first-hand what we’re about, and see that we’re not as degrading and as backward leading for women as she seemed to think it was,” Gale said.

Peter Fray

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