Like a lot of the women I know, I am a fan of burlesque shows. It’s interesting. Ask most women if they would like to go see burlesque and, most likely, they will jump at the chance. Ask if they want to go and watch another type of ‘exotic’ dancer, and the reaction is rarely as enthusiastic.
As I walked towards the Marigny Perk to meet Ms. Trixie Minx, artistic director of New Orleans Burlesque troupe, Fleur de Tease, I never for one second thought that I would fail to recognize her. But instead of meeting with a ‘sexy, ditzy, blonde’, I found myself sitting down to chat about the art of burlesque and its place in the history of New Orleans with a delicate looking brunette.
Trixie was dressed in a perfectly fitted 50’s-style green, sleeveless dress, and with her dark hair braided into two cute little pigtails, she looked like the platinum bombshell’s equally pretty but slightly more subdued sister. The family resemblance was there, but you had to look a little closer than you might expect to see it.
“A lot of times people will miss me,” she said, and for a second her alter ego’s brilliant, coquettish smile lit up her face.
“I was handing out flyers for a Fleur De Tease show and I was just out of a Pilates class or something. So I had yoga pants on, and a tank top and a hat, and I was handing out this flyer to someone who said ‘ Oh, I don’t need one of these, I know Trixie’ and I am looking at them right in the eye. And so I said okay… but I had no idea who this person was. It was really funny.”
A classically trained dancer, Trixie waved goodbye to ballet after injuring her foot. She then auditioned for Bustout Burlesque, got the job as a ‘tassel twirler’ and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I was hesitant about wearing a thong on stage,” she remembered. “ Let alone maneuvering my chest to make tassels twirl. I locked myself in the bathroom of my house, and started moving around, trying to get a feel for what was happening. And I learned that if I bounced them, they would just go naturally, and I was like ‘Thank God’. Then the hurricane happened, and I didn’t leave until two days after the storm. I was only able to take two backpacks worth of stuff, so I was thinking what do I need? I thought all my hard photographs, and my computer, my box of rocks that I picked up in the different countries I have been in, and the tassels…to this day I think that that says a lot about my character.”
We were joined at the coffee shop by two other members of the Fleur de Tease cast, Natasha Fiore, fresh faced in a long sleeved striped top, and an elegant be-jeaned Madame Mystere. The girls chatted about the business of burlesque, and the different roads that had led them to the New Orleans stage, and exactly what it was like to be on that stage.
“I still get nervous at every show,” admitted Natasha. “If I wasn’t nervous about the show, it would make me nervous. I did not have a dance background - I really never really had any formal dance training until burlesque - but there are all these pictures of me as a little girl and I am all dressed in boas, and these crepé hats, so I think I was born to be a burlesque dancer.”
“The first time I did it I had little frilly pants on and a full bustier, and I was still blushing on stage,” said Madame Mystere, who is a classically trained dancer. “But I had this friend and he was at the back, and he was yelling ‘way to go Jason’ and Jason is my boyfriend. So I thought it was the funniest thing.”
“I think that we should also mention that burlesque dancers are born with pasties,” interjected Ms Minx. “You know that you are meant to be a burlesque dancer when you look down and your boobs are all sparkly.”
New Orleans has long been famous for its welcoming attitude to art forms that might raise eyebrows in other less adventurous cities, and while that has not changed, the character of some its famous streets has. Today, Bourbon Street is still synonymous with good times, but there is no denying that it has undergone a radical shift since the 1940’s and 1950’s when it was also synonymous with glamour and vaudeville shows. According to Trixie, burlesque and vaudeville ‘sort of grew up together’ with vaudeville being the ‘Broadway’ to which burlesque dancers aspired. Following the Great Depression and WWII, the sheer size and expense of vaudeville productions were hard to maintain, and the shows started to disappear. But burlesque shows, due to their smaller budgets and transportability, survived.
“Burlesque, the word itself, when you break it down to where it comes from means ‘to joke,’ so the idea behind burlesque is more about that than the stripping,” said Trixie. “The stripping is what it evolved into, but its roots are really about being tongue-in-cheek, about being silly, and making the audience laugh with you. That is where the biggest division is between burlesque and modern-day stripping. Burlesque really is, in a sense, empowering the woman to perform and entertain in a way that shows off her true self, in every aspect, her face, her body, her soul. In a strip club, it really is about the flesh. There is a big difference there.”
To see just how well burlesque has survived, one only has to look at the number of Burlesque Troupes that are running right now here in New Orleans, not to mention the weekly ‘Burlesque 101’ classes run by Fleur de Tease dancer, Bella Blue. As well as starring in Fleur de Tease, Trixie and a rotating cast of other burlesque performers are also intent on recapturing the heyday of burlesque on Bourbon Street with weekly late night shows every Friday at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
“At one time Bourbon had a more Frenchmen vibe,” Trixie explained. “It was music and locals - and the purpose of this project is to bring that back to Bourbon, and to reclaim some of that glamour and grace. It is really set more like a Speakeasy. It is a little bit more like 1950’s classic burlesque shows in that there aren’t really skits, it is more about getting the audience to participate with the performers…kinda like that scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when Jessica Rabbit went into the crowd. It is really breaking the barriers between performer and audience, and everyone can just enjoy a moment together…without being creepy.”
Further information regarding upcoming Fleur de Tease shows can be found at: