The National Winter Garden, a famous New York City burlesque, was one of the many burlesque’s run by the four Minsky brothers. National Winter Garden was located “at Houston Street and Second Avenue [a] teeming Jewish district” (Time). “Burlesque tapered off in the 1920s, only to have a resurgence during the Great Depression, even moving to Broadway playhouses under the purview of the famous Minsky brothers” (Ohio State University Library).
Line 1: “buttocks in pink beads”- burlesque dancers dressed only in beads.
Line 2: “clinch” – to fix securely.
Line 3: “bandy” – curved or bowed (usually pertaining to one’s legs).
“mufflings” – material used to muffle or wrap something. Crane is calling attention to the dancer’s nakedness.
Line 4: “cinch” – a girth for a saddle usually made of strands of horse hair; used in Mexico; in this usage it refers to a G-string.
Line 11: “tom-tom scrimmage” – A native East Indian drum (OED) quarrels with the sounds from a violin.
Line 13: “whiter” – questioning the dancer’s purity.
Line 16: “her sandstone grey between” – Crane is clearly referring to the area between the dancer’s legs. One critic, MisterMartin in his Wiki “Annotations to Hart Crane’s The Bride” believes the line refers to the dancer’s pubic area. He argues this could also be a reference to a cloth covering that area or a shadow as she dances.
Line 17: “swivellings”- Derivative of swivel, n. A simple fastening or coupling device made so that the object fastened to it can turn freely upon it, or so that each half of the swivel itself can turn independently; e.g. a ring or staple turning on a pin or the like (OED).
Line 19: “silly snake rings”- evoke images of the serpent that tempted the Biblical Eve (Unterecker 92) while simultaneously evoking images of Pocahontas (Trachtenberg 118).
“surmount”- To rise above, go beyond, surpass (OED).
Line 24: “spasm”- Usually, a world like spasm would suggest sexual fulfillment, but in this instance the dancer only excites her audience: “She tantalizes not only the lust of man for but the faith of man in womenhood so that she can ultimately make a ‘burlesque’ of both” (Hazo 107).
“fleshless door”- More language that separates rather than unifies the dancer and her audience (Hazo 107).
Video Clip of Nora “The Quivering Torso”, a burlesque dancer, circa 1950s.
Video Clip of renowned burlesque dancer Sally Rand preforming her famous feather fan dance.