The Parisian cabaret scene has always been a draw card for travelers making their pilgrimage to the city of light. Along with a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower, climbing the Arc de Triumph and getting lost in the Louvre, an evening spent at either the Moulin Rouge or Folies Bergere is another of those seemingly mandatory experiences to be ticked off the itinerary.
But what of Crazy Horse? This Parisian establishment, having not been immortalised in film by Baz Lurhamn, is perhaps less well known to the traveler seeking a night of revelery in Paris. Founded in 1951 by Alain Bernardin, this cabaret house is famous for its nude dancers and sensual and creative collaborations with the likes of Cristian Louboutin, Kylie Minogue and David Lynch.
The Crazy Horse Girls are revered; the show is a celebration of the female form after all, and a lot goes into shaping and maintaining their bodies. We called the Crazy horse stage and production manager, Svetlana Konstantinova, in Paris to find out just what goes into making a legendary Crazy girl.
The thirty seven strong team of dancers, live, breath and sleep Crazy Horse, all under the watchful eye of Svetlana who auditions, trains and directs the girls. Svetlana has been with the company for ten years now, plenty of time to get to know all of the intricacies of the show inside and out.
When asked what she loves most about her job, Svetlana was quick to answer: everything! But she does elaborate: ‘I love the show, being part of the dance world. I like the movement, the lights, the costumes, all the work around creating a show and the magic of seeing the audience enjoy a work. I love the dancers, to talk with them about the art, the work. Work is an important part of life, we spend half our lives working so you really have to be happy and enjoy it.’
For Svetlana, the days are long, starting at 11.00am when she meets with the production team to discuss the technical aspects of the show. Rehearsals then run from 1pm till about 6pm almost every day. ‘The whole troupe rehearses together once a week, otherwise other days are taken up working on individual acts, training new girls, working on new numbers. Between 6pm and 8pm, before the show starts, is a busy time because this is when the troupe comes in. We are communicating about the show, corrections, we laugh and chat too. And then we finish at 1am after the second show.’
Days are not quite as long for the dancers, although they have a lot of extra work to do to maintain their bodies outside of rehearsals and performance. For being part of a production such as Crazy Horse, where the focus is on celebrating the female form, means each girl has to make sure their ‘form’ is in impeccable condition.
‘Our girls don’t wear anything on stage; their skin is completely naked,’ Svetlana explains. ‘This means it has to be perfect. There cannot be a single imperfection. Their bodies must be toned. The show is an important part of maintaining their bodies, it’s physical, but they also go to the gym, take yoga; some girls have even become yoga teachers and help look after and teach the other girls.’ Reassuringly, the girls eat a lot and not always well. ‘As long as they are in shape, it doesn’t matter,’ Svetlana laughs. ‘One of the girls loves to bake and brings sweet treats in for the girls. They need their energy.’
As you might imagine, the girls use a lot of beauty products to maintain themselves. ‘They moisturize their bodies twice daily, and they work hard to maintain their hair. They are very disciplined with their beauty routine. The quality of their hair in particular is very important because of how it is used in the show. We give the girls a lot of natural products, because they have to use so many and we want to make sure what they use to maintain themselves is safe and nourishing.’
For those of you dreaming of becoming a Crazy Horse Girl, auditions are only held twice per year and even then the team might not even be looking for anyone. ‘Normally the girls at Crazy Horse stay for a long time so we don’t need to audition often,’ Svetlana revealed. ‘It can takes years to cultivate a girl, to work on her stage personality. We invest in them, look after them, and they like to stay.’
I asked Svetlana what makes a Crazy Horse Girl so special. ‘There are many criteria that we still maintain from when the Crazy Horse first opened in 1951. We look at a girl’s physical lines, which allows us to narrow down to a small group quickly. We look for charisma, character, artistic force, artistic talent. A Crazy Girl has a lot of personality; she must be able to hold the gaze and attention of the entire audience. Once we take a girl, she has two to three months to rehearse. We have a distinct posture, a distinct way of moving that sets us apart from the other dance theatres.’