A Burlesque Diva
DUO Magazine had the extreme pleasure of interviewing Miss Dakota Ferreiro, an icon on the burlesque scene, an innovator who, after twenty years as a professional dancer, now uses this old art form to not only entertain but to inspire, empower, and physically transform her audience.
DM: Burlesque? What prompted you to start your journey into the world of burlesque, an entertainment phenomenon that kept American audiences laughing with music and comedy from 1840 through 1960?
DF: Twelve years ago I simply needed to work. I took some time away from LA and I upon my return I walked in to the opening of one of LA’s hottest venues, Forty Deuce, featuring a live band and professional dancers performing burlesque. I walked in and knew I had to do this. I met the owner that night, auditioned the next day and quickly fell into the headliner spot. Working among LA’s prestigious dancers and choreographers a year later I went to Las Vegas to open their newest venue at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Through this process I became consumed by burlesque, diving into its history, reading, researching watching footage from legends and acquainting myself to other shows and artists in the scene.
DM: Some of America’s greatest comedians honed their craft working in burlesque shows including Jackie Gleason, Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, Red Skelton and Bob Hope. Is there a comedic side to your shows as well as the sexy component?
DF: Absolutely. Burlesque is playing with sensuality, dance, and musicality. Being that I am a professional dancer, I do not rely on too many gimmicks but I have a few. Also, feeding off of the audience helps to make it intimate and personal.
Without comedy it’s not burlesque. Even as sexy or serious as it is, it’s still a character, it’s still a step out of normality. It’s playful. To this day many productions still use comedians during a production. It’s a great balance.
I perform with live musicians most of the time and we have built an energy on stage where either the drummer, sax or bass player will create the comedic touch.
DM: Burlesque forever changed the role of the woman on the American stage and on the big screen. Do you feel that this form of entertainment affords you the same respectability or is there still a misconception about what to expect from a “burlesque” show?
DF: I think burlesque will always be misconceived because there is a large umberella of how burlesque can be executed. As a professional dancer I perform a specific style that is greatly dance based usually with a live band. And have always held a certain standard for myself, my apprentices, my students. I always wear fishnets and never go down to pasties. You also have artists that play more with costume esthetics and character. The main stream commercial audience have seen examples like the movie Burlesque and the Pussy Cat Dolls, which are still considered burlesque takes on a different perception than the classic vaudevillian style.
I personally feel that my audience has a great respect for my performances and women have always been very complimentary and empowered. That is one of the major reasons I began teaching.
DM: You have delighted audiences across the country with your personal performances for many years. You are now able to bring a fabulous exercise component to the art. Please tell us about that.
DF: I have been a professional dancer for over 20 years. Burlesque allowed me to become a better artist, performer, and woman. About six months into performing weekly in 2004, I was humbled by a comment an audience member shared with me. She stated that my performance “made her want to be a better woman”, WOW! I took that to heart and realized that I was just not entertaining, but inspiring, which really opened my eyes. I was touching people, empowering them. As the years passed there were two things women constantly asked me, “How can I learn burlesque? What did you do to get that body?”
Well, that triggered something in me to teach. I took all the elements from the classic Art of the Tease, such as struts, shakes and shimmies, bumps and grinds and created an easy to follow format for ladies to release their inhibitions and work out. Not to mention, leave my class walking a little taller with a smile on their faces, owning their individuality and a boost of self confidence.
DM: For our readers who would like to become fit and fab by doing burlesque, what is your best advice to get started?
DF: Well, definitely visit my website, www.dollhouseent.com. I will be launching online classes.
DM: Please tell us about any charity events that you have participated in.
DF: I have had the privilege of performing at many charity events. One that I really was humbled by was the National Coalition for Cancer Awareness. They do a yearly production called Les Girls that integrates celebrities, musicians and hold true to the style of burlesque.
My company, “Dollhouse Entertainment”, is currently looking to team up with organizations to offer women free classes to build their self confidence and empower them.
DM:By 1937 Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia had closed all of the remaining New York burlesque houses calling them “purveyors of filth”. Today there seems to be a tremendous resurgence of the art. With the advent of social media and a decline in censorship what changes have you seen and how has it affected your industry?
DF: Artists will always seek to express themselves and/or create opportunities to perform. Like any art, I strongly feel there is a cycle. Just like life in general, it is filled with ebbs and flows.
Burlesque has not gone anywhere since it entered the U.S. in the 1800’s. There are times when it has more exposure and times when it may exist more underground. Interesting enough I feel burlesque has stayed true to form in the current day. And I would think that people feeding into the decline of censorship could learn something from the Art of the Tease. Subtleties can speak volumes! - DUO