An interview with Virginie Georges

We caught up with this French burlesque dancer to discuss entertainment, life and equality.

Read the short conversation below.

An interview with Virginie Georges
“Makeup is a precious moment for me. I like this time in front of the mirror when I get to know the character Viviane every night, when I see my expressions in detail. Before I go on stage there is warming up, physical preparation and then it’s ‘bonjour public!’ I create my performances as one builds a short film script. There is a goal, an obstacle and the sequences are structured in several phases: exposition, development, climax and resolution. There are surprises and twists. In burlesque, we raise the tension of the game. We call it the ‘tease.’ The spectator becomes an actor in the show, and we push them to the limit. To do this, we offer them strong emotions: suspense, desire, joy, anger, fear and surprise. Yes, the burlesque is a nude number, but it is also a carefully choreographed dance performance with elaborate costumes. My routines can take a year to put together. Before the show I practice the technical implementation and my techniques. Then, on stage, it’s always a challenge to capture the audience fully as you have such a short amount of time. That’s what makes it so exciting. My 96-year-old grandmother is always my first spectator, and I’m very proud of her. It is a pleasure to have her in the front row, with a smile up to her ears.”

Virginie, aka Mamzelle Viviane, is an actress, performer and choreographer who came late to the erotic arts. She was born in a Paris suburb and lived with her mother and two brothers, often traveling into the Mouffetard neighborhood of the city to visit her maternal grandparents. The “quartier,” or “neighborhood,” is centred around the bohemian Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest and liveliest streets in Central Paris. When Virginie was a teenager, her mother suffered a serious car accident which left her disabled. Overnight, her extravagant and artistic life was forever changed. So was the family dynamic. It was a difficult time for Virginie, as she struggled to find her identity against the backdrop of a strained home life. Virginie’s grandparents became a lifeline, and she would spend weekends with them until, at the age of 20, she moved to their neighborhood to study marketing and business. Soon after, she took up theater classes, and from age 24 to 31 she worked as an actress before switching to dance. Since becoming a burlesque performer, Virginie has choreographed shows for leading Parisian cabarets, worked as a presenter at the Strasbourg Festival and travelled to Italy, Washington and New York for her art.

“My teenage years were complicated. I had anorexia when I was 16, which was terrible. I was looking for myself in my femininity. I needed to tell my mother to give me more space, and I needed to tell the world that I existed. I did a lot of dancing in my teens, but it was hard to project myself because my body was at the heart of the disease. At the age of 31, when I had just finished working in theatre, I met an old dance teacher who asked me to audition for a cabaret called ‘Extravagance.’ That was when I became interested in burlesque. It was inside me, from my roots in the colorful Mouffetard neighborhood. I had an inkling of the old Paris that I wanted to express through cabaret. And then a little cabaret in Normandy asked me to do a striptease act, which we call ‘effeuillage.’ I brought humor, interaction, dancing and sensitivity. And I drew on everything I’d loved since I was a little girl – old musicals with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, vintage Hollywood and French movies – and combined them with the Victorian Music Hall roots of burlesque. These are the inspirations that I carry in my art and soul.

“I am aware that society locks us in physical and aesthetic straits. Racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic discrimination is on the rise. I’m 46 years old, I’m a heterosexual woman, open-minded and an artist. But I am already too old, or too small, or not thin enough, or not big enough, or not strange enough… It makes me angry for women to be cataloged, reduced to a date of expiry! A woman is judged as soon as we see her breasts, whether on stage or at the beach, on Facebook or Instagram. This is why burlesque has an essential role to play in reclaiming female expression. Burlesque opens the mind and puts a little joy and tolerance into this sclerotic society. The naked woman is not a dangerous object, she is a work of art! Vive le burlesque!”

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