Legendary Parisian cabaret Crazy Horse comes to Singapore

Legendary Parisian cabaret Crazy Horse comes to Singapore to stage the Forever Crazy show, which focuses on flirtation and not just nudity

In Singapore's Orchard Towers, and in Bangkok and Melbourne, there is a Crazy Horse. Like many other establishments bearing the same name, it is likely to be a pub where wives and girlfriends are rarely seen.

Like "velcro" or "Kleenex", Crazy Horse is a brand name gone generic, but for the wrong reasons.

The original Crazy Horse, of course, is a legendary Parisian cabaret founded in 1951 famous for its burlesque dances performed by scantily clad women.

The proliferation of fake Crazy Horses infuriates Ms Andree Deissenberg, 47, chief creative officer of Crazy Horse Paris.

"It's a thorn in our foot. It's a big problem, but it's complicated to take legal action," she said.

What pretenders lack, for sure, is the original cabaret's long heritage and high aesthetic standards, and Crazy Horse is set to showcase its strengths in the Forever Crazy show, a revue billed to "celebrate 65 show-stopping years of naked couture".


Crazy Horse Paris dancers, such as (from far left) Kika Revolver, Lava Stratosphere and Enny Gmatic, must meet the height requirement and the length of their legs must comprise two-thirds of the distance from shoulder to sole. PHOTOS: MARK DAVIES

The touring show is a greatest hits compilation drawn from the cabaret's catalogue, performed by a touring troupe of 11 dancers.

  • BOOK IT / FOREVER CRAZY - CRAZY HORSE PARIS (RESTRICTED 18 - NUDITY)

    WHERE: Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands, 4 Bayfront Avenue

    WHEN: Oct 11 to 29, various times

    ADMISSION: $55 to $450 (for a two-seat table at the Forever Lounge). For schedules and bookings, go to www.sistic.com.sg or www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing

In Singapore, the production is presented by events company Base Entertainment Asia and will run at the Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands from Oct 11 to 29. It is rated Restricted 18 for nudity.

During an interview at the Paris home of the show last month, Ms Deissenberg said the nudity in Crazy Horse productions is not just for titillation.

"People go, 'ooh, there's going to be nudity'," she said, but added that since Crazy Horse's founding by the late Alain Bernardin, the company has celebrated the female form through music, movement, costumes and lighting.

When audiences leave the theatre, the lack of covering is the last thing they would remember, she claimed. Instead, they would recall "a certain trick, a story, the laughter and the surprises".

The highlight during my press trip was watching a roughly 90-minute show in Paris that contained much of the content of the version that will come to Singapore.

Under historic buildings along Avenue George V, within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, the iconic theatre is housed in a cave-like club carved out of joined-up wine cellars.

The stage is relatively tiny, being 6m wide, 3m deep and 2m high.

Its small size has resulted in the tradition of selecting dancers only between 1.68m and 1.73m in height. The performers have to be small enough to fit and tall enough to be seen.

Throughout the various numbers, the choreography emphasises the grace and glamour of the dancers' bodies.

In terms of nudity, the physical exposure is at times bold, as in the famous opening number, the saucy satire on British military marching called God Save Our Bareskin.

At other moments, only silhouettes are seen. Intricate designs are projected across torsos and limbs, simulating clothing slipping on and falling away.


Crazy Horse Paris dancers, such as Kika Revolver, Lava Stratosphere and Enny Gmatic, must meet the height requirement and the length of their legs (above) must comprise two-thirds of the distance from shoulder to sole. PHOTOS: MARK DAVIES

Even in the overtly erotic segments - and there were several - the focus is on flirtation.

That indirect approach is why, in recent years, women have come to form half the audience, Ms Deissenberg said.

On some nights, the crowd is largely female. "Women have to have more fantasy, more play, more colour," she said.

In one recently developed act, titled Crisis? What Crisis!, a woman stockbroker indulges in therapeutic clothes-shedding to ease the shock and pain of the 2009 subprime crisis. That act is an example of how the cabaret evolves to keep up with the culture at large.

And because Crisis is the most directly erotic dance, it is the one with the most male appeal.

"We have acts that please everybody," Ms Deissenberg said.

FIRST FORAY INTO SINGAPORE BOMBED

More than 10 years ago, Crazy Horse's official Paris show did come to Singapore, but local audiences did not bite.

Brought in late 2005 by Eng Wah Organisation, the show folded 14 months later, much sooner than expected.


Members of the Crazy Horse Paris troupe rehearsing in their workout clothes last month. In some of the choreographed numbers, only silhouettes are seen. PHOTOS: MARK DAVIES

A spokesman for Base Entertainment Asia says the performance in the 2005 club is "different in all aspects" from the coming show.

"The show that appeared in Singapore so many years ago now does not exist," she says.

The new show, now playing in Australia, involves a new creative team and a new set of dancers.

Ms Deissenberg is part of that new team, as is choreographer Patricia Folly, who started at the venue 17 years ago as a dancer.

As is the custom, she was given a stage name and danced as Psykko Tico.

Every year, hundreds apply to be Crazy dancers, without success.

When auditioning potential dancers, Folly searches for "big smiles, beautiful hair" and what she calls "the look".

"The eyes must express emotions. I really enjoy it when they can act."

Of course, their physical measurements have to be correct.

Besides meeting the requirements of height and inter-nipple distance of 21cm, leg length has to be precisely two-thirds of the distance from shoulder to sole and so on.

It is this uncanny uniformity, like seeing soldiers on parade, that makes for a compelling visual experience.

Slight differences in leg length can be evened out with individuallyadjusted heel heights on shoes.

Deviations elsewhere can be fixed with tailored lingerie that raise or lower bits as needed, according to members of crew in the costumes department.

If the dancer gets selected, Folly makes the recruits unlearn training in ballet or contemporary dance to pick up the Crazy style: Backs always arched to emphasise the curve of the bottom, legs crossed to hide the obvious. And never, ever any pelvic thrusts.


"The eyes must express emotions. I really enjoy it when they can act." - CHOREOGRAPHER PATRICIA FOLLY (above), on what it takes to be a dancer at Crazy Horse. PHOTOS: MARK DAVIES

When choreographing new works, her first priority is to project a dancer's personality.

"She must know what kind of woman she is on stage," she says. "She can be firm or sensual or a femme fatale. Then we work on the choreography."

Given her long experience dancing on stage, she realised that the intimate space of the cabaret rewards underplaying rather than overacting.

"A dancer gets attention without big gestures," she says.

"It's easier to express how you feel."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'Crazy tease'. Print Edition | Subscribe