Performer, choreographer and promoter Roxie Le Rouge sits down with Van Roy to discuss her career and the art, intrigue and resurgence of burlesque.
318CENTRAL: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today. We’ve worked together and I’m a big fan of your work, so I’m excited for our readers to get to know you as well. Ready for a few questions?
ROXIE LE ROUGE: Ready!!
318CENTRAL: When and where was Roxie Le Rouge born?
RLR: Roxie Le Rouge was conceived in New Orleans 13 years ago this December. Wow, she’s a teenager now!
318CENTRAL: Is Roxie Le Rouge your alter ego or muse?
RLR: I’d like to say that Roxie Le Rouge is more of an alter ego. It’s as if I’ve turned the volume up on the parts of myself that I enjoy. The strength and confidence I wish I could constantly have in my daily life, she only knows that on stage.
318CENTRAL: I’m naturally curious about your background. How did you get started in Burlesque? Any inspirations you’d like to share?
RLR: When I began doing burlesque, I was fresh out of college after having earned my BFA in dance. I was simply just looking for a paid job in dance, as I was really unfamiliar with burlesque at the time. This was right after Katrina and there wasn’t much of anything in New Orleans, much less burlesque. I had never seen a show before and called a number for an audition on a whim. About two weeks later I was on stage performing with a live band for the first time. It really happened so fast! I don’t regret that at all though because there was a purity to it that was not influenced by what was out there. It really kind of felt good to contribute to the resurgence of burlesque and help build something in New Orleans.
318CENTRAL: To what do you attribute the fascination and rise in popularity of Burlesque?
RLR: I think it’s a bit twofold. On one hand, I believe people are drawn to the aesthetics of it all, be it the glamour or theatrics. On the other hand, I think a lot of people are drawn to it because they want to be part of the celebration of the human form. Burlesque is also joyous, which is another reason people are attracted to it. On the performance side, there are so many resources now for beginning performers and I think that has definitely helped its popularity.
318CENTRAL: You’re one of the busiest artists on the circuit, performing for audiences from your home of New Orleans to New York City. Was this your plan or did it happen organically?
RLR: I traveled a bit doing modern dance in my high school and college days. And I always saw myself performing all over the country. When I started my show, Big Deal Burlesque, my goal was to take the show to cities that had never seen burlesque before. We’ve been traveling the Gulf Coast for nine years now.
318CENTRAL: Was there that “a-ha” moment where you felt you were on to something?
RLR: I believe there’s been several a-ha moments over the years. Perhaps the first one was being part of a documentary called “Save My Soul” with Slow Burn Burlesque, a troupe I was a part of. We were bringing in really large audiences, sometimes as many as 200 people. This documentary featured us working together building the burlesque scene in New Orleans. It won an award at the Madrid Film Festival and I was proud to be a part of it.
Another aha moment for me would be when my touring show, Big Deal Burlesque, was repeating cities. People were coming out and supporting us and we were asked back time and time again. We’re still going to some of the cities such as Lafayette, Mobile, Shreveport, Pensacola regularly and have just added Panama City, Atlanta and Little Rock to our tour. So, in answer to your question, as we return to these cities and our fans, I think to myself, “ha, maybe I am onto something!”
318CENTRAL: What are the challenges of merging art, performance and sensuality?
RLR: Whenever you are featuring the female form, especially in a way that does not contain shame, you’re going to be faced with opposition. I have dealt with a lot of negative comments, and just plain nastiness from people over the years. As a matter of fact, we did about 12 shows in one particular city, where the ATC board threatened to fine me. The venue was doing well with the shows, but it was a very conservative city and all it takes is one person to shut it down. Unfortunately, that one person is often the one with the loudest voice. Those hundreds of people that came out and had a great time no longer can see the show. It really is a shame. But for every one person that disagrees with what we do, there’s at least 100 other people that get it. They understand that we are celebrating being ourselves in a world where we’re told what we’re supposed to look like. I really have made it my mission to include performers of every size, skin color, artistic style and sexual orientation. Everyone in the audience should be able to relate to someone in the show. We want to be inclusive. And we want our audience members to feel good when they leave the show.
318CENTRAL: Do you see yourself as a provocateur? And, if so, any thoughts you’d like to share.
RLR: I get in the back of my mind that what I am doing is sensual. But I always think of the nudity as a detail. I’m very preoccupied with my musicality, relating to the audience, entertaining people and spending lots of time designing and creating my costumes. The nudity is just a small piece of the presentation. Also, I’m just trying to have fun!
318CENTRAL: You’re a working artist, juggling a hectic schedule. What’s a typical work week like for you?
RLR: Truthfully, my schedule is often very hectic. A typical work week includes rehearsals, lots of emailing and returning messages, too much time on social media promoting shows, making sure I have flyers, communicating with venues, creating costumes and, sometimes, choreography, packing suitcases, sometimes driving up to 15 hours in a weekend, maybe flying somewhere and shuffling from one gig to the next. Ha-ha, and don’t forget, looking for parking in the French Quarter! I’ve always been committed to giving burlesque my all. It has required an enormous amount of my time and energy. But I always say that you have to enjoy the process. Our moments on stage are very short, so it is imperative that you enjoy all aspects of the creative process and planning. You have to find the happiness in all those little things you do behind the scenes.
318CENTRAL: What are the top cities in the world for burlesque and do you count your city as one of them?
RLR: New Orleans is definitely on the map for being one of the top cities for burlesque in the country! It still amazes me how far we’ve come. People from all over the world fly into New Orleans to perform. Last week I had two guests from Italy and this week I have two guests from the UK in my show. It’s really exciting to see performance styles from across the world. Of course, I love performing in New York and Chicago, as well. They have vibrant burlesque scenes. I’ve been so busy touring Big Deal Burlesque that, sometimes, I forget that I have goals that I’d like to accomplish on my own. I am definitely eager to perform in Canada and Europe and would love to make that happen within the next year.
318CENTRAL: What do you feel is next for the scene?
RLR: I’m not really sure what’s next for the burlesque scene, honestly, but I’m going to enjoy the ride.
318CENTRAL: I’ve had the pleasure of working with you a handful of times. I can honestly say you’re one of the kindest and most professional artists I’ve worked with. What’s on your horizon? Anything you’d like to share?
RLR: Thank you for being so sweet. It’s been a pleasure working with you, as well. In the near future, I’ll be part of a filming project, so stay tuned for that. It’s still too early to divulge any details. And, of course, if any of your readers are in the New Orleans area, please find out where we’re performing and come out to one of the shows.
FOLLOW @roxielerouge and @bigdealburlesque on Instagram
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Photo Credit by Craig Fremin
Photo Credit by Scott Simon
by Van Roy