“You can call it ‘fear-driven creativity,’” says Fleur de Tease host Chris Lane. “It’s a work ethic thing. We have to keep pushing ourselves because audiences are paying good money to come and see us month after month.” Working hard to hone one’s art is essential in Fleur de Tease not only to keep audiences coming back, but also to gain one in the first place in New Orleans’ ever-expanding burlesque scene. “There’s a standard formula to these shows where you can plug in acts like a math problem,” says dancer Bella Blue. “But with the huge influx of troupes and performers, that doesn’t cut it anymore.”
This approach has led to Fleur de Tease becoming one of the biggest burlesque troupes in the city, featuring dancers Trixie Minx, Madame Mystere, Natasha Fiore, Bella Blue and Roxie le Rouge; aerialists Oops the Clown, Sarah the Bobcat and Niki Frisky; host/emcee Chris Lane and magician Magic Mike. This drive requires the performers to rely on each other to organize a show, from conception to distributing show programs at a show. “Because it’s art, there is a lot of conceptualizing and brainstorming among us in the beginning,” says Fleur de Tease founder and director Trixie Minx. This collaborative spirit is most evident on the day of a show. “There are 25 of us crammed in the back of One Eyed Jacks,” says Minx.
“It’s like a bunch of ants scurrying around,” adds Magic Mike, “but everybody helps each other.”
The hard work begins long before the day of a show. “To pull off a regular show, we begin a month in advance,” says Minx. Much of this time is spent gathering ideas for a show’s theme. While working within confines of a theme can be difficult, often the restrictions give way to innovation. “The themes provide limitations that force us to be more creative and push boundaries,” she says.
“We want to be good artists and produce something worthwhile,” says Lane. “We don’t want to do something rote, because then we might as well just work in an office.”
While much of the work put into a show is collaborative, the onus of preparing each solo act falls on the individual performers. “A lot of the solo stuff is done on our own time,” says Natasha Fiore. “We come up with our own dances, make our own costumes, and find our own music.”
Their extensive experience and formal dance training helps. “The dancers have a larger body of knowledge to draw upon,” says Lane. “They can take elements of ballet and web them to salsa or whatever. They have options.”
“Training has also given us all a basis for how to approach rehearsal, which not all dancers have,” adds Minx.
“Dance training gives us structure and discipline,” adds le Rouge.
Collaborating with other artists has helped them keep the show fresh. “Our biggest success was the Prince show that we did with the rock band White Bitch,” Minx says. “We are trying to work with people who are not in the same genre as us so that, together, we can create something new.”
Ultimately, the members of Fleur de Tease are hoping to build a lasting foundation for the future of burlesque in New Orleans. “I want it to be a pillar of New Orleans culture,” says Minx, “I’d like to see burlesque be as much a part of New Orleans as jazz or the Saints. I want Fleur de Tease to be like Preservation Hall in that it is a show that is based in New Orleans, but also has a touring cast so we can showcase what we do all over the world.” This future would allow the performers to remain active in the burlesque community for years to come. “As we get older, there is a time to gracefully transition out of performing onstage,” says Minx, “but I want us all to remain active.”
Not all the members of Fleur de Tease envision that sort of transition, though. “Retirement? Whatever,” says Fiore. “I’m going to be 65 and still swinging my stuff.”
Fleur de Tease play Sunday, October 30 at 12:30 p.m. on the Bingo! Parlor Stage.