Back in 1920s America, the Hans
Kasemann Midgets were the
biggest little thing in Vaudeville.
Travelling from theatre to music
hall, the group of little
performers put on dance routines
and comedy skits to delighted
audiences across the U.S.
While they stopped short of
doing the full monty, like
modern burlesque dancer Dita
Von Teese, they were at least
more likely to fit in an actual
martini glass (rather than the
over-sized receptacle that Von
The Hans Kasemann troupe
featured the pint-sized Pick
sisters, Olga and Auguste, as well
as stunted celebrities Anna
Kasemann, himself a
normal-sized if not tall
man, formed the troupe in
his native Germany but
moved the show to the
U.S. in the early 1920s.
While he tickled the
ivories of a full-sized
piano, the tiny stars sang
and danced around him.
At other times they took
over the stage entirely,
performing vignettes and
plays satirising the news of
And, while the Kasemann
Midgets might have been
described as a novelty act,
they were by no means
unique. There were the
Rose's Royal Midgets and
Vaudeville was a form of variety
entertainment popular in the US until the
early 1930s. Each show was a collection of
unrelated acts grouped together on one
stage. Musicians, comedians, dancers,
magicians, animals, acrobats, and actors
all got their 15 minutes of fame on the
Back in the days of Hans Kasemann's and Klinkhart’s Midgets, 'burlesque'
had a different meaning to the striptease style or performance we know
Burlesque was a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to be a
humorous caricature of serious literature, drama or music. The art form
died out in England at the end of the 19th century, but was popular in the
U.S. up until the death of Vaudeville.
It's longevity in the U.S. was due to the gradual inclusion of exotic
dancers and strippers. The change was gradual but nonetheless inevitable,
and the word came to by synonymous with nudity.
Famous burlesque dancers of the day included Gipsy Rose Lee and
Margie Hart, and many famous comedians - including Mae West, Abbott
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