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The Burlesque Factory.. Makers of professional Burlesque Dancers run by Gerard Simi








The Burlesque Factory. Makers of professional Burlesque Dancers run by Gerard Simi




Gerard Simi


Digger talks to Frenchman Gerard Simi, who knows 'the Burlesque business' inside-out, having been the creative and artistic force at London's famous Raymond Revue Bar and The Windmill among many other roles. He later became the owner of the Raymond Revue Bar for seven years.

Gerard runs The Burlesque Factory, and he is probably the most specialised choreographer and Artistic Director of Burlesque and Cabaret in Europe. Now after more than 25 years training exceptional performers to perform in his Spectacular Revues all over Europe and the World, he offers you the chance to learn, develop and reach your full potential as a ‘Lady of Burlesque’...





Digger: Please tell us about your background and your passion for Burlesque Gerard.

Gerard: Having climbed, for quite few years, the ladder of what's necessary to became a professional ballet dancer from 'Choryphe' at the age of 12 to a soloist, I finally spent 10 years as a professional ballet dancer. I was working with top choreographers and dancing with megastars of the time, like Nureyev. I mention him, as probably everybody has heard of him. I performed for a few years with the Marseille opera and different companies. After 18 months in the army I realised, coming back, that the dancers of the previous generation could only become teachers past the age of 35. I decided that this was not for me, and ignoring a prolongation of contract offered to me for a new season, I left Marseille and my career wanting to see the world, travelling for a year.

Later, back at work, and still wanting a change, I went to the music-hall and to TV variety programmes. I started to choreograph and direct international cabaret acts and then entire shows and revues.

I loved the classical theatre, but my taste for the glamour and the glitter had been gestating for a long time in me, since, as a young boy, I had escaped from my parents in a cinema to enter next door in what was a casino with a floorshow.  There for the first time I saw semi-naked ladies covered with pearls dancing around a giant sea shell, behind a very big orchestra. I was only 7 or 8 and I have never understood why no-one ever asked me to leave until my parents sent someone searching for me. I remember vividly the main girl leading the ceremony. She had a very heavy black fringe and I always thought since that she was probably trying to imitate Maria Montez.

I also remember very well being mesmerised by ladies on the dance floor with strapless bustiers and long silver gloves. In my teenage years, I idolised women who were corseted like Gina Lolobrigida and my fascination for women with red head like Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl was probably a taste of things to come.

All this is absolutely authentic, and I re-emerge to a time at the back of my mind when I try to get the "Oooh... Ahh!" reaction to spectators of my shows.

Digger: Why has there been such a resurgence in vintage, Burlesque and pin-up in recent times?

Gerard: In the 40s and 50s female movies stars where bigger than life They where the incarnation of glamour and unreachable (inaccessible) perfection. They were seen in films, waking up in full make-up and with red lipstick. No-one could care less if it wasn't realistic. It was magic and we were going along with it. The star system wanted them to appear to be the same in real life. They represented beauty, outrageous extravagance, sexual power and every woman could only aspire to be like them.

Now, movie stars rarely sparkle in life and look very often bland and insipid. When, exceptionally, they make an effort on the red carpet, it looks "phony" and it is obvious that they just unconvincingly play another part for a few hours. In the eighties the public, missing the likes of Marylyn , Lana Turner, Jayne Mansfield or Anita Ekberg, turned his attention to top models, making them the sex symbols of the time. Without any artistic talents required , and just having to appear pretty and bored, they invaded our lives and it looked easy. This inspired many women to follow on their trail.

Many of them started to re-invent themselves and were influenced by the golden age of Hollywood. Retro fashion, obvious make-up and a bit of attitude made the rest. GLAMOUR Burlesque was around the corner. This was not enough to make stars of those wanting to perform in Burlesque, but at least it created an atmosphere.

Digger: Please tell us more about The Burlesque Factory. What sorts of options and packages are on offer? Who are your 'typical' clients and what kind of client feedback are you getting?

Gerard: As you can see I am not one who gives short answers. For this reason, when it comes to beating my own drum I prefer to refer to the website I would just summarise by saying there are 2 options:

The 5 or 6 weeks course with a class of 2 to 3 hours every week.

Or the weekend master class of 8 hours over 2 days.

There is no typical client coming to the classes. The range of personalities and ages is vast and varied and they usually do not tell me their motivations. When asked, they generally answer that they need to gain confidence in themselves.

For me there are 4 categories:

  • The professionals, or semi-professionals, coming to perfect their knowledge and often joining the classes to simply learn how to do it properly and with panache

  • The ones coming for specific reason (research for an acting part etc..)

  • Those wanting to be daring by testing themselves and their spirit of adventure

  • Those attending just for the fun of it or through curiosity

Digger: What makes for a great Burlesque performer and a great Burlesque show?

Gerard: All the same qualities which make a good performer in any kind of theatrical discipline. It is essential  that she chooses that speciality because she is certain that this is what she want wants to do, and believes in it. That she believes in it for the right reasons, and that she has the capacity to be very critical of herself. She has to be an unconditional fan of the genre - be inspired, but never tempted to imitate anyone. Be prepared to put considerable investment in costumes, music, props etc. A cheap costume makes it look cheap, and can categorise anyone immediately as Tacky (a big danger in Burlesque.)

Not to be afraid to take classes in Burlesque with a real specialised teacher if she feels limited. To remember that it is better to have one great act than many average ones. A performer can became well-known for a great and very individual act. The act has to be exploited until the public recognises it. If it is recognised, the public will remember it and consequently will remember the dancer.

And most important she must not try to dance too much and must avoid all acrobatics. A Burlesque strip is not a circus act nor Covent Garden. To keep things in perspective is very important and sometimes a furtive look or the caress of a stocking is more effective than doing some frantic pirouettes or eating fire. This doesn't mean that the technique of stripping has to be ignored.

Burlesque is not minimalism, but maximalism and the dancer must remember that there are at least 10 different ways to peal her gloves or 15 different movements to play with a feather boa etc etc... The list is long and this goes for everything, from the presentation to the last bow. And most important she must never try to imitate the catwalk or the "Zombefied" models who parade on it, kicking themselves on the heels.

Burlesque is sharp and fluid at the same time. Proud but not arrogant, the hips are swinging, the shoulders are flexible and if they can point their feet, stretch their knees and mostly can arch their back, they are already spinning the wheel of winners.

Digger: Who were and who are your Burlesque heroines?

Gerard: Most definitely the numerous and very talented dancers of my different shows at the Revuebar, at the Windmill and abroad.

For over 30 years I have formed hundreds, if not thousands of dancers of this speciality. If most of them were very good some of them were absolutely fantastic and none of the luminaries of the scene of today could even compare to them. As far as the legends of the past  I was too young to have seen them, but having a lot of archives and photographs about them, I am certain that they at least looked the part.

Digger: How much does your teaching draw on the traditions and evolved language of Burlesque and is modern Burlesque very different from that of the 1940s and 50s?

Gerard: All depends on which kind of Burlesque we are talking. The antique Burlesque of the Romans and Greeks was basically outrageous comic and farce .The 'Burla' was a kind of stick used on stage by a character beating others with it for comic effect. A bit like we see today in Punch and Judy shows. To create that kind of Burlesque today would need enormous research and investment and probably we can only get close to it in some shows of the Cirque Du Soleil where grotesque can be found. In the Renaissance, things evolved and Burlesque was sometimes associated with baroque. In the fifties and sixties, Burlesque was mostly associated with outrageous drag artists. Today, Burlesque is an umbrella under witch any speciality act with no proper identity likes to find refuge. However, during all the years following the forties, Burlesque was the qualification given to Vaudeville theatres where showgirls were appearing, first as a supporting acts, and later as main attractions.

Today  I deplore that  Burlesque  strip tease has lost its nobility, with too many amateurish exhibitions. Badly dressed, badly groomed, badly  everything ...basically. Burlesque should conjure up the image of ladies undressed and not with grotesque.






Digger: Where do you think Burlesque is heading in the future?

Gerard: I do not see a sense of direction. The styles are non-existent and trying too many things at the same time only creates a chaotic mixture. There is a lot of goodwill, but it all feels like too many people are throwing their enthusiasm into something for which they know very little of the rules, codes and disciplines. And have the tendency to reduce it all  to tassels and pasties twirling.

Also the disconnected general idea that Burlesque has to be fun often transforms the presentations into involuntary comic and unattractive vulgarities.

People who want to be a clown should get a red nose and work in a circus, but this is really not the way to ensure the longevity of Burlesque. Luckily there are a few  performers, professionals and semi-professionals who are doing an admirable job and are honouring the profession. I salute them and wish good luck to everyone.

My motto has always been "To maintain is to obtain."










The Burlesque Factory offers a new perspective to established performers.

For a workout with a difference or just for the FUN of it! For the assistance of actors preparing for dazzling 'entertainers' roles.

The Burlesque Factory, created in 2004 by Gerard Simi of the Famous Raymond Revuebar offers EVERYONE the possibility to learn the A-Z of Burlesque techniques.

Many people of different ages, and varied backgrounds want to experience and be part of this time-honoured art form as it allows them the opportunity to release a previously unexpressed side of their personality.

Burlesque can be approached as another form of workout. However, lovers of 40's & 50's nostalgia with a penchant for retro abandonment can learn how to ooze glamour and make it a way of life - developing a personality, an allure and style that turns heads ..

This is about having fun and exploring the hidden you. You don't have to be 'Amazonian' or 'Statuesque'. This is for EVERYONE!

We'll advise you on make-up, costume, hair etc. so that you will have all the tools you need to go out there and be the best.....or, if you prefer, just to stun your partner with a very private show.

For further information please contact us at:

www: The Burlesque Factory









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