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Crazy Horse isn't about all that nudity
FEMINISTS might frown on Crazy Horse but that hasn't stopped the cabaret from being a Parisian institution and global phenomenon.
Its celebrity fan base over the last 65 years include president John F Kennedy, Judy Garland, Beyoncé, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, and Kylie Minogue just to name a few.
The likes of shoe designer Christian Louboutin and burlesque dancer Dita von Teese have also worked on Crazy Horse Paris shows.
In fact, the cabaret counts women as the biggest fans of its cheeky revue, where dancers prance around in nothing more than a strategically shone spotlight.
"They represent over 50 per cent of our audience members and I think this is partly because they feel good about how women are portrayed in the show," says Andree Deissenberg, chief creative officer of Crazy Horse Paris.
She adds the shows "celebrate femininity at large and the spiritual, emotional and physical beauty of women", and what is infectious and inspiring about it is the sight and spirit of "strong women having fun" on stage.
"The last thing one remembers after seeing a Crazy Horse Paris show is the relative nudity - what one remembers is the colours, the emotions, the lighting, the creativity, the talent," explains Deissenberg, who adds the performance uniquely "engages the mind as much as the eye".
The 47-year-old was speaking ahead of Forever Crazy, a touring production that was conceived as a tribute to Crazy Horse Paris' founder Alain Bernardin. It is currently playing at Marina Bay Sands and compiles classic acts from the Parisian repertoire.
Bernardin's vision for Crazy Horse Paris was to show the different facets of femininity - funny, cheeky, loving, rebellious, sophisticated - and highlight those with great showmanship through music, lights, projections, and costumes.
When he first established it in 1951, it was a saloon with singers, musicians, before burlesque artists were gradually introduced. It was only in the early sixties that Crazy Horse was reinvented into a cabaret with a show format that continues till this day.
Inspired by the line-ups at the Rockettes and Sigfried Follies, the performers are all classically-trained, stand between 1.68m to 1.73m tall, and have all-natural bodies.
Deissenberg shares that over 500 applications are received annually but only two to three get selected: "The criteria is very strict and we recruit only the cream of the crop."
After they are picked, the girls go through a process where they have to forget their previous training and master the very specific Crazy Horse Paris choreographic language.
Costumes are fitted, hair cuts and colours are decided and only when a new dancer is ready, she is given a stage name based on her characteristics and starts new as a Crazy Girl, shares Deissenberg.
Audience member at Forever Crazy can expect the same Parisian cabaret experience even though they are watching the show in Singapore because it is also presented in the exact same type of stage - measuring just 6m across, 2m high and 3m deep, to perfectly "frame" the dancers - used in the original venue.
But because the halls on tour are usually larger than the 250-seater in Paris, the show will also be projected on two big LED screens.
In addition, all performers have trained and performed at Crazy Horse Paris.
Deissenberg believes the show has stayed relevant for several reasons despite nudity being more prevalent than ever in the internet age.
"Crazy Horse Paris offers a live, collective experience - people long to share moments together but the internet doesn't offer that - and we also put on stunning shows that evoke emotions and trigger the imagination," she explains.
"We have kept this artistic heritage and built on it (and) my main challenge and role is to both respect the formidable heritage that Alain Bernardin left behind while keeping it fresh and up to date," says Deissenberg adding, "Femininity and the role of women in society has evolved and so have our shows."
- Forever Crazy is playing at Grand Theatre, Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. Tickets from S$55 to S$450 (for two) available at Sistic and the venue's box office.