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Le Crazy Horse de Paris: Nudes, art, and glitter

by Solve Sundsbo | Totally Crazy | Le Crazy Horse de Paris: Sex, art and glitter
Totally Crazy, by Solve Sundsbo

Everyone knows that Le Crazy Horse de Paris, the world-famous Parisian cabaret commonly referred to as Crazy Horse Paris, is the destination to see amazingly beautiful, mostly nude ladies perform titillating variety acts. But, some people may be very surprised to learn that its artistic direction is currently under the creative control of ― a woman. The talented and spirited Andrée Deissenberg has been the revered venue’s General Manager of Creation and Development since 2006.

“Set on using [the founder's] vision as a precept,” her work, dedication, and penchant for collaboration transformed the legendary venue into a bonafide international cultural phenomenon. That’s because her goal is, and has been, to further elevate its international esteem while “celebrating women and the female form through unusual and surprising creations in line with [its] artistic heritage.” And what a heritage it is.

Alain Bernardin founded Crazy Horse Paris in 1951. He personally directed and operated the cabaret from the moment it opened to the very minute the 78-year old died from a gunshot wound in 1994, when he allegedly committed suicide in its office. The venue, a former Right Bank (meaning Bordeaux) wine cellar, is located on 12 Avenue George V, which is considered to be the most prestigious street in all of Paris. Its red velvet interior is an homage to its storied origin.

A former painter, Bernardin regarded striptease as a serious art form. His shows were comprised of elaborately choreographed routines and lavish but minimalist costumes consisting of glitter, feathers, and strategically placed accessories. He also relied on light projections to create dramatic effects. “This artistic signature was rapidly appraised among artists, attracted by the cabaret’s reputation and peerless prowess at exalting the female form, as well as the general public.”

 Totally Crazy by Solve Sundsbo
Totally Crazy by Solve Sundsbo

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, “Bernardin's dancers had to meet rigorous ‘aesthetic criteria,’ which includes their height being between 1.68m and 1.72m, their leg length in proportion to their chest (two-thirds legs), the distance between their nipples being 27cm and the distance from their navel to their pubis 13cm.” It’s unclear, however, if the women chose to be indistinguishable from one another on purpose.

The venue was under the control of Bernadin’s family from 1994 until 2005, when Belgian businessman Philippe Lhomme acquired it. Andrée Deissenberg was appointed shortly thereafter. Determined to preserve the legacy of the cabaret’s visionary founder, Deissenberg relies on his signature numbers along with new and innovative acts to keep the public enticed. “Burlesque is the subtle art of frustration — nudity has to be the last reason why people come.”

Consistent reinvention is the cabaret’s identifying characteristic; it regularly changes up its themes, choreography, costumes, and performers. For example, every Crazy Horse performer gets “approximately six pairs of made-to-order shoes. All the costumes are also custom-made for each dancer by the dexterous little hands working for the Crazy Horse Paris costume department: it takes about one whole week for a couturier to make a single costume.”

But one of Deissenberg’s most significant contributions to the repertoire of Crazy Horse Paris is her addition and expansion of artistic collaborations with world-famous (mostly-female) guest stars. The first woman to lend her talent was none other than Dita Von Teese in 2006. “The star paid tribute to Miss Candida, one of the first Crazy Horse dancers, in her unforgettably sensual and already legendary number ‘Le Bain.’”

by Ornella Piacentile | You Turn Me On  | Le Crazy Horse de Paris: Sex, art and glitter
You Turn Me On by Ornella Piacentile

Needless to say Andrée Deissenberg has her work carved out for her. In a written exchange, ARTpublika Magazine asked the multi-talented and multi-lingual creative director about her famous collaborations.

Since 2006, you’ve worked with incredibly popular guest stars, such as Dita Von Teese, Arielle Dombasle, Pamela Anderson, Clotilde Courau, Noemie Lenoir, Conchita Wurst and others. How do you decide on which guests to feature and what does the collaborative process tend to be like?

I am inspired by women [and men] with personality, by people who have something to say. They don’t necessarily have to be beautiful, but they do have to be interesting and own a real and recognizable artistic universe. What I look for is someone who can bring artistic vision and ideas to the table, and with whom we will be able to exchange and create new, unique, and original content. All collaborations start with an exchange of ideas, of acts or images we would like to present and surprise the public with. From there we go into preproduction, followed by production and rehearsals after that. All of our artistic collaborations have been amazing experiences — each with its own set of challenges — that are rewarding in their own way; both parties always came out having learned something new.

You collaborate with world famous designers like Christian Louboutin (who was the first guest creator), Chantal Thomass, Roberto Cavalli, and Azzedine Alaïa. You also work with artists such as Pierre and Gilles and Riccardo Tinelli, as well as choreographers like Philippe Decouflé. What do you look for in your partners and how much creative control are they given?

When looking for designers and other creators to work with, similar to how I look for guest stars, I seek out people with creative personalities and artistic know-how. The collaborations usually start with a discussion about the project and what I am looking to achieve, which is followed by a series of brainstorming sessions. Once the general parameters are established, the creators are given creative freedom.

What is your favorite aspect pertaining to the management of the world famous cabaret?

Crazy Horse Paris inspires many “ordinary” people, as well as artists, designers [and creatives] from around the world. One of my favorite parts of the job is sharing the passion of the people who work at, and collaborate with Crazy Horse Paris both internally and [domestically]. It is tremendously rewarding.

Note* Photo Credits (1.2.) Solve Sundsbo | (3.) Ornella Piacentile | Totally Crazy | Used with permission.

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