By Divertida Devotchka
You’ve been a dancer since the age of three. What was your first experience with dance and in which styles of dance do you have experience?
My first memories of dance are of being in class. I had wonderful teachers growing up; they made me fall in love with it. We had a big recital every summer and it was something I really looked forward to, more than anything else all year. The stage, the lights, the costumes, the dancing, the applause! The bulk of my dance training is in ballet, tap, and jazz, with abbreviated training in modern, lyrical, clogging, hip-hop, musical theater, Irish step dancing, and belly dancing. I love it all.
You moved to New Orleans from the Midwest in 2002, and by 2003 you had started your burlesque career. How exactly did you get started?
My fiancé and I were living uptown and our neighborhood bar was also a laundromat! So we would go there to do our laundry and hang out and we became friends with the staff there. One day the manager said she was going to start a burlesque troupe and wanted me to be in it, and I was like, “what’s that?” Well, she went on to explain a bit and I thought “oh no, I can’t do that. I can’t take my clothes off in front of people, but I’ll still come to the shows.” So my fiancé was their stage manager and I helped with whatever I could and cheered them on every week. After a while it became harder and harder for me to just sit and watch and NOT be onstage. So I joined the troupe the “Steamin’ Mimis”. My very first act was a tango inspired dance, and I only stripped down to a full corset, ruffle panties, and fishnets.
Unlike most performers who tend to stick to one style (be it classic, neo, etc.) you seem to dabble in all styles. What are your thoughts on folks who insist that classic performers should stick to classic burlesque (and that neo-burlesquers should only do neo?)
I think I HAVE touched on every style at one point or another. If someone insisted that I should only do one style, I might think they were being a bit selfish at first, but maybe they’re complimenting me on performing a specific style particularly well. I guess it could go either way, but I feel that it should always be up to the performer. If you love neo, keep doin’ it! If you’re comfy in classic, keep doin’ it! Do it your way and have fun! But since we’re all creative people, sometimes “sticking to” a certain style can lead to feeling “stuck in” that style. My advice is to try each one on and see what fits, maybe all of them will.
In one Fleur de Tease dance you choreographed, you and 2 other performers do a spot on ode to Bollywood-style dancing. In another, you do a mash up of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Beastie Boys “Intergalactic,” complete with an alien dance-off. You’ve stated that your Darth Vader striptease is one of your favorite routines to perform, and you also have more classic boa/glove/gown strips to music like Ray Charles. From where or whom do you draw your influences? Do you find it difficult to come up with fresh and exciting material or are you the type that always has a million new ideas stewing on the back burner?
I’m definitely influenced by all types of dance and all types of music. For me, most of the time a skit idea will come from a song. Sometimes it comes from a specific costume piece, or a show theme, or a random idea that gets bounced off someone else, which is exactly how the Intergalactic dance-off came about! Natasha Fiore (my alien cohort in that number) and I used to work together at a day job and we would throw around wacky ideas all day, and some of them stuck, like the space dance. And I get inspired by watching my fellow performers; we have some really talented burly girls here in New Orleans! Sometimes it does get difficult to come up with new material, I get dancer’s block, or I can’t figure out just what to do for that theme show. But oh yes, I’ve got ideas that have been on the back burner for a while, mostly due to lack of funds. But it’s okay, I’m hopeful that I can pull them out of limbo in the near future.
I’m really happy to be included in the fest again this year. Last year I missed out on the daytime activities, so I’m looking forward to attending some of the classes and panel discussions. And of course I’m excited to perform and to meet the other performers and watch them do their thing.
What other events or upcoming projects do you have in the works?
Well, I’m really excited to be heading to Dallas to perform at the Lakewood Theater on October 1st as a special guest for Viva Dallas Burlesque! And I’ll probably be hitting the road with Tony Clifton/Comic Relief for a few dates in October as well. With Fleur de Tease, we’re preparing for a big “Wizard of Oz” show, September 11th & 12th. We’re gearing it towards New Orleans (instead of Kansas) so it should be fun, and we’ll be performing at the Voodoo Music Experience again this year on Halloween Day. With the Storyville Starlettes, we’re having a show at the Shadowbox Theatre on October 24th. It will most likely be a Halloween theme that could veer towards serial killers and/or scary movies. And we’re planning a Facebook themed show soon, so look out!
Please share 3 little known facts about yourself.
–I once chased down a purse snatcher to retrieve my friend’s purse, even after being threatened with stabbing.
–I have love affairs with absinthe, Twizzlers, and bacon, but not at the same time.
–I can get any song out of my head by singing “Red Red Wine” to myself. It works!