Thursday 15 August 2013

Interview with Burlesque Performing Artiste Vicky Butterfly

Photo by Michel Dierickx 
I have had the opportunity to interview the spectacular performing artiste Vicky Butterfly before she appears in the show Strictly Burlesque at the Bournemouth International Centre, first performance is tonight running through until Saturday. Vicky really is a unique, one of a kind performer, and this interview really is not to be missed!
Whether it’s clouds of butterflies that fly out from her clothes as she hovers en Pointe, a Kinetic glittering crescent moon or a Lynchian slant on Weimar era erotic dance, Vicky Butterfly’s beautifully choreographed routines take in everything from the ethereal and the breath-taking to the macabre and the erotic: with influences including Anita Berber, Loie Fuller, the Marchesa Luisa Casati, Maya Deren and Rita Hayworth. her performances evoke influences from the Pre-Raphaelites and French literature to Surrealism and more
The daughter of an Irish showgirl and an eccentric Viennese aristocrat, her work reflects her bohemian background: fusing classic glamour with dreams, innovation and an up-to-date sense of fun and showmanship. Her performances incorporate her background in theatrical design, ballet and lyrical dance as well as elements of the aerial arts, acting and opera as well as an insatiable desire for literature, history and travel.

Photo by Izaskun Gonzalez
Always in demand internationally from Paris to Bali, she has an enviable roster of clients (including Beefeater Gin, Roberto Cavalli, the Sugababes, Kensington Palace, the Casino di Venezia and the Paris Ritz), sparkling reviews can be frequently seen on covers and I the pages of exclusive magazines around the world, in music videos and stadium projections by top bands (including The Verve, Kings of Leon and Paul Weller) and adding her unique style to film-sets as far away as Bollywood.

Not only is Vicky a classic beauty with a true vintage look and an all-natural 34-22-34 figure (and show stopping 17” corseted waist), but her skills as a trained theatre designer (honed at the celebrated Central Saint Martins) ensure a range of spectacular and unique costumes, corsetry and eye-catching, unique props (She can even perform floating on the surface of water) such as her swinging mirror-ball moon, scale Victorian theatre, giant Faberge egg mirrored music box, fire platform or snow globe.  
Vicky was a founder member and curator of The Boom Boom Club, which ran from 2006 - 2012 with successful runs at The Bathhouse, The Old Vic Tunnels and The London Wonderground as well as many other public and corporate engagements.

She now helps create, design and is a performer in residence at The Black Cat Cabaret: an immersive cabaret experience running every Friday at the Cafe de Paris.

Photo by Izaskun Gonzalez 
How did you get into the burlesque industry?

When I started performing the burlesque "industry" simply didn't exist. I started performing at friends' clubs with a mixture of performed readings and dance/mime - performance art I guess. It seemed only a little step from the performed art of clubbing evident in the flamboyant way all my friends were dressing: it was the time of New Romo and the New Club Kids so it could be pretty wild and subversive. Someone opening a new club called Kinki saw me and a friend dancing onstage at The Scala and invited us down to the opening of a new club and on the opening night asked if I wanted to be in an installation. She introduced me to a wonderful lady called Zoe Lloyd (Miss Hussy) and I ended up being her costume assistant. She did the graphics and many of the costumes for what was then Europe's only burlesque club, The Whoopee Club, and one day they asked me to do one of my performances there. That would have been around 2003.

How did the name Vicky Butterfly come about?
I never chose my name: I remember being surprised and flattered in 2002 that someone wanted to print MY name on a flyer and spent ages trying to think of a name that had the perfect combination of drama and fatale allure. Rather too long as it turned out: by the time I'd thought of something the flyers had already gone to print and the promoter had put "Vicky Butterfly" on it: I used to have very long hair that I filled with flowers and small feather butterflies so I suppose it was an easy way of identifying me. So full credit for can go to J, proprietress of "Ma Mignonette" lingerie, for that! But it has just seemed to fit me more over the years...
You have performed in a huge amount of places. Do you still get nervous about going on stage?
Of course, though probably not in the way that I would have when I was a child: it's not the action of appearing before an audience or the performance itself, but if I didn't get nervous I would worry, as it would mean I didn't care about the show or the audience any more. 

Photo by Tigz Rice Studios
Who is your favourite burlesque performer to watch?
There are so many, but I think I would have to say Catherine D'Lish... it's something about how her movements just *flow*. And her musicality and sensuality: it's almost like she can move in slow motion!
What did you do to earn a living before you started burlesque?
I'd done a few things before and after I started performing, but I started so young that I don't really have a career from before: I did the usual things to get myself through art school and I did a few things before, when I was young, but by the time I graduated I was pretty much full time. Jobs I have done include making and restoring stained glass windows, the childrens' chorus of the English National Opera, acting and doing adverts, restoring antique clothing and working at all of London's major costume hire companies.
You are well known for your larger than life costumes and unique props. What inspires you to put such creations together?
I'm very concept based: I read a lot of history, biography and cultural material and visit a lot of art galleries and museums. I often know when the distilled elements of an idea are coming together (it usually takes about ten different sources at least) but I always have to wait for that single thread to help me unwind the narrative that I need to actually create a fully formed show, and a moment of inspiration to find that moment of transformation that I need to make it feel right. A lot of them are very complicated, but a simple example is my "Nightingale and the Rose", which was inspired by Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Cleo de Merode , Idols of Perversity and chinese silk ribbon dancing. Maybe I'm too bookish! I think that's why I often incorporate archetypal imagery as well as use ideas not usually associated with burlesque... I want to create an aesthetic that connects with the audience. I come from a design and performance art background so maybe old habits die hard - I need process. I often forget that one of the reasons I started performing was to act as a showcase for my design work: when I was a child I really wanted to make costume/fashion as a fine art.
What do you like to do with your time off from being Vicky Butterfly?
There's no real time off from being Vicky Butterfly: I guess I've always valued authenticity as a part of sensuality as much as I have glamour, so we've always been one and the same and that's why my work has developed. I suppose my shows are short distillations of things I find interesting and beautiful and that's how I've always tried to live my life as well. So I like to read, travel, learn, look at beautiful things, make beautiful things, spend time with friends... all life experience I guess.
You are on stage and being photographed a lot of the time. Looking after yourself must play a big part in your life. What are your favourite beauty products and why?

Moisturiser I guess: lots of it and cheap. I look at my parents, at 75 and 90, and they have very few wrinkles. They've both always moisturised and I guess they've shown me it works by example. I also try and live a healthy life: I have some long-term health problems and the show life-style with its late nights, travel, stress and unhealthy food and drink isn't exactly ideal. So my other favourite beauty products are more life-style choices: LOTS of water, plenty of sleep, exercise, healthy food and spending some time by myself once in a while. I don't think all the creams in the world can make up for that. Looking after myself does play a part in my life (though not enough to stop me living it), but I think it's less because I have to be photographed than because you only get one life and I want to be able to enjoy it as much as I can. 
Photo by John Bichard 

Do you have a set beauty routine?

Just Palmer's cocoa butter for my body and something like Astral on my face. I take my make-up off before sleeping and don't really wear make-up when I'm not performing. I like to keep my skin clear.

 Who is your beauty idol?

Luisa Casati I suppose. Of all the people I admire, she had the least natural beauty, but had a wonderful ability to create it in herself.

On that note how to you keep yourself in shape for your performances?

I walk a lot. I love to dance. I go to the gym. I still go to dance, yoga, pilates... whatever I have time for really. I still like to figure skate or ride. I like to keep active - I think it's less for shows and more for how it makes me feel. Being active makes me feel happy and gives me some rare time to myself!

What is your diet like? 

I'll admit, it can be patchy. I used to be vegetarian/borderline vegan, but it can be hard on the go. I love to eat well and I often prefer to eat simply with fresh ingredients and herbs and spices. There's so much processed food that it can be easy to forget how tasty plain foods can be. So cooking for friends is fun. But it's easy to be indulgent, especially in this job: when there are few rules you can do things like eat ice-cream whenever you like!

What are your must have pieces of make up? 

Moisturiser, Vaseline, a simple lipstick and mascara I guess. Day-to-day I like to look fresh and healthy and give my skin a break but I'm very fair so I do need a bit of colour, especially as my lashes are blonde.

Do you style your own hair yourself? 

I wouldn't really call it a style! For stage I often use wigs, which I cut myself, but I have a lot of long, thick and naturally curly hair so that's a statement in itself. So it mostly just needs washing, brushing and futile attempts to control it...

Do you have any hair tips to share to get your glamorous look? 

If I did, I'd use them myself! I tend to think product weighs my hair down so I make sure I rinse it properly, brush it carefully to minimise split ends and dress it up with lots of pretty clasps when it's not down so I don't play with it (curls are fun to fiddle with).

Photo by Wendy Bevan
Everyone no matter what shape or size wants to feel confident and happy about themselves. What advice would you have to feel glamorous and boost your own confidence?  

Take time to indulge yourself, by yourself. Whether it's a bath with a good book, a glass of chilled wine in the garden or a walk by the river, I always feel best when I've escaped from the constant bombardment of the world for a while.

What is your favourite perfume? 

I change every season to keep it fresh as I stop noticing it after about six months - at the moment it's Amen by Thierry Mugler, before that it was Prada (Infusion D'Iris) and before that just cocoa butter with a spray of vanilla.

What is your approach to fashion?

Eclectic I suppose - some might say eccentric! I dress for myself and favour the 1970s, 1920s, 1900s and antique theatrical costume but I also favour some haute couture and fetish style with unusual or surreal accessories. I like combining textures and sheers with metal and leather, embroidery... things with layers, insects. Things like that.

You have an incredible figure with an all-natural 34-22-34 measurements and show-stopping 17” corseted waist. Have you always worn corsets?

I actually rarely wear corsets off-stage now. When I was about 14 I trained my waist to 16", so I don't really try to maintain it that much anymore, as it's pretty easy to lace down and I often prefer to see some abdominal muscle definition instead. It's a lot to maintain as a life-style and really dictates what you can wear my nature of having such a strong silhouette that you don't notice much else!

Where are you favourite places to shop, both for burlesque goodies and for yourself?

I love making my own fabric, so anywhere where fabrics are unusual and cheap! Online is great for specific buys (I usually know exactly what I want so eBay is a dream). But nothing beats the pleasures of browsing in a flea market or antique shop: wherever I am in the world I try to make time to search somewhere out. Alfie's Antiques in London is great, if expensive, and Clignacourt in Paris is always fun.
Photo by Anna Swiczeniuck

What are your biggest inspirations and why?

As well as art, history, literature, haute couture and pychogeography I think my greatest inspirations are probably women who lived amazing lives on their own terms, which has often gone un-recorded. For me, this includes Charlotte Charke, Cora Pearl, Cleo de Merode, Mae West, Luisa Casati, Louise Brooks, Coco Chanel, Maya Deren, Sarah Bernhardt, LOIE FULLER, Anita Berber, ISADORA DUNCAN, BALLET RUSSSES, Victoria Chaplin, Charlotte Charke, Cora Pearl, Cleo de Merode, Mae West, Luisa Casati, Billie Madley, Marisa Carnesky, and of course the late, great, Dixie Evans.

What advice would you give to a girl (or guy) reading this interested in getting into this industry?
Be yourself. And feel free to do what you want to do without feeling like you need to fit in to other people's pre-conceived ideas.
You are appearing in Strictly Burlesque at the Bournemouth International Centre running from Thursday 15th- Saturday 17th August starring alongside Immodesty Blaize and Harry Derbidge. How did this show come about for you?
I'm really looking forward to this show! in addition to an amazing cast, also including Valerie Murzak and Fallon Dee who I've worked with before, the production values are sure to be sky-high!
What else is coming up for you?
The Black Cat Cabaret is still running at Cafe de Paris every Friday: it's a very special project to me as I also designed it. It's a more theatrical experience than most cabarets in London as not only does it have a specific concept, set, plot and exclusive performances and costumes, but all the acts get involved in all parts of the show: no-one just does their bit and leaves. It's properly directed and lit by Dusty Limits - it's a real pleasure to be involved in from start to finish.

Photo by Scott Chalmers 
Photo by Anna Swiczeniuk

would like to thank Vicky Butterfly for her time with this fabulous interview. I am looking forward to seeing her perform live at Strictly Burlesque tonight  – if you are interested in seeing the show you can find out more here.


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