Burlesque Factory. Makers of professional Burlesque Dancers
run by 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
www.Burlesquefactory.com 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
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,
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
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
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,
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
where showgirls were appearing, first as a
supporting acts, and later as main attractions.
Today I deplore that
strip tease has lost its nobility, with too many amateurish
exhibitions. Badly dressed, badly groomed, badly everything ...basically.
should conjure up the image of ladies undressed and not with grotesque.
Digger: Where do you think
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
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
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'
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
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: