My love of Paris drew me to take notice of the birth of the Belle Epoque, Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge, showgirls hitting the big time. Where the Can Can, the new erotic dance came alive, as the girls became proud of their talent, their brilliance, their ability to make the erotic elegant. Mostly performed by ex courtesans, the women set out to amuse their audience, they knew how to keep them happy. Artists flourished at a time when science and new discoveries were pushing ahead. There was peace in Paris and brilliance.
For many years I have loved Burlesque girls, I supposed it started off with listening to Gracie Fields.
It is elegant. You try and jump into a glass, swing around and come out of it again, without your flesh hanging in directions, that you would rather not live with other people having seen. Their costumes, their fabulous cheek. I remember Richard Attenborough saying to me that all actors should be able to whirl a cane. Women had ability to sing. In the case of now, Lili La Scala, she has sung with a beautiful soprano voice and she trained at the Guildhall School of Music. To be able to do something well, with a saucy provocative look to it, you have to have talent as well as bravado.
She stopped crowds speaking in their tracks, as have many other performers have done. They awake our fantasy as they step out wearing their sequinned toes. They are show girls, and they love it.
An ex Burlesque
dancer said to me this morning
"You cannot buy groovy. If you have to buy it, you are not. People wanted to build the party around her. She made her costumes that showed off her tiny waist, with this she danced the night away. She could dance and sing.
Having gone to RADA, ALRA and just about every other drama school, I can tell you it takes talent to be able to do this as well and energy.It is not just about the flamboyance of their costumes, their immaculate make up. I have been photographing these girls for years. Some of them famous, some of them hardly known. They captivate us with their act, their eyes, their humour and their voice. The greatest for me is of course Dita Von Teese. She danced at a party I hosted for a book I launched for Chipmunka called Cloak and dagger butterfly. Dita was incredible. She was specific with her requests. Clean towels, champagne, her bedroom room for the evening, a business class ticket, no cameras, no telephone, no filming.
Totally professional and talented, Dita was charming and brilliant, as she swiftly moved from one prop to another. I defy any girl doing this without practise as proved by the comedian Nadia Kamil. To make jokes about other people you have to be as talented as they are? Of course Nadia was witty and funny, but could she have moved, it would have been so much better.
The Geisha's were equally talented with their tea ceremonies, and let's not forget the teasing dance of the seven veils, performed in Salome, for King Herod. The daughter who kissed John the Baptist's head on a plate and then danced wildly.
Personally I am so bored of feminism? Oh for a gallant man to open a door, to pay for dinner, to want to make love well? Oh for a Belle Epoque revival. The mistress? It is for you out there to judge?. Women want everything, equal pay, equality, but if we really think about it, we are way ahead. We can, I hope, even take time to laugh at ourselves? Hairy armpits and socks only look good on the young. I like a colourful life, and believe me I can be virtuous as the biggest feminist.
In the meantime I will continue to use show girls for party entertainment, and even the odd comedienne, let's, as women remember that we hold strings to make things happen, we have always been equal to our male counterparts.