Interview with Burlesque Star Paris Original
Our News Editor sat down with Paris Original who performs in three of Lily Verlaine & Jasper McCann’s “Spectacles of Ecdysiastic Pageantry.” In Through the Looking Glass: The Burlesque Alice in Wonderland, Paris performs as the Doormouse, Flamingo, and Mushroom.
So, I am sitting here with the wonderful Paris Original, boylesque star extraordinaire. I wanted to start off with a little bit of background stuff with you as a performer. When did you first start performing?
I first started performing when I was twelve, with theatre. Which quickly became musical theatre. Then I started dancing when I was eighteen and started doing burlesque in 2009.
What drew you to the arts in general?
A family friend went to see a play at a community theater. It was The King and I, and there’s that little blonde British boy. And she could just picture me on stage, so she was like, “For Christmas, I’m buying you theatre classes.” And that was how it all started.
When did you decide that you wanted to do it professionally?
Well, I was going through theatre, and it became more and more important to me and more fun. It started out as just something to do and I was terrified when I first started, so after that first class I didn’t know that I was going to go back. But I grew to like it more and more. That theater eventually closed down, and I didn’t know what to do from there. My brother, Trojan Original, decided that he wanted to dance professionally, so I just kind of tagged along on that dream and adopted it as my own.
What was your first experience with burlesque?
Well, I didn’t know anything about burlesque until I met The Luminous Pariah and my first experience was going to a show that he was in.
Did watching that style of performance draw you into that world?
A little bit. I liked that it gives you the freedom to express whatever you want. As a solo artist, you can do whatever makes you happy on stage. You can talk about whatever you want to talk about. As a dancer, for the most part, you’re under the guidance of an artistic director or a choreographer. You say what they want you to say. I got tired of how heteronormative that is.
Talking about heteronormativity, you’re very big in boylesque. How is that different from regular burlesque?
The difference for me is really about gender. I mean, I consider myself more of a burlesque performer than an boylesque performer. I don’t really consider them that different. I think “burlesque” is the umbrella, and “boylesque” and all the other subcategories fall under that umbrella.
Gotcha. So you went and saw the show with The Luminous Pariah. When did you start doing burlesque?
Well, I didn’t really consider this burlesque, but a friend of mine was getting married the summer that I first started getting exposed to burlesque and so for her bachelorette party, my brother and I decided to do a spoof of Swan Lake, and be her strippers all in one. [laughs] Swan Lake was her ballet; she’s played the lead twice in her career, so we were like, “Let’s do this one!” That ended up being our first striptease. Later that summer, The Luminous Pariah got me an audition with Paula [The Swedish Housewife] and Waxie [Moon] for House of Thee Unholy, and I got in, so that was my first public burlesque performance. It’s kind of great, being at the Triple Door for your first thing, and being next to Indigo Blue and Lily Verlaine and all these amazing people.
So is that how you first met Lily?
Is that how you first started to get involved with Lily and Jasper and their productions?
Not exactly. Not yet. I didn’t get involved right away. She told me when we were working on House of Thee Unholy that she produced her Nightcap show at the Triple Door every now and then and she was always looking for new talent and different kinds of talent. She found out that I danced on pointe and she was pretty excited about that. Then I think it was January of 2010 that she booked The Luminous Pariah, Trojan Original and myself for a trio that we had. So that was my first time being in one of her shows. Then when she did Nightcap: the French Edition, she asked the three of us to be in it again. That was my first time really working with her. From there, I was asked to be in [Through the Looking Glass: The] Alice in Wonderland Burlesque. That was my first Lily/Jasper involvement.
Which led to being in Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker and Burlesco Divino: Wine in Rome.
You’re one of the rare performers who is in all three of Lily and Jasper’s shows. What makes their shows different from other burlesque shows?
They are the rare exception where you are a burlesque performer performing someone else’s vision. So they get to craft the whole story, start to finish. They always have such a clear idea of what they want. I never get the sense that they don’t know what they’re doing in rehearsal. There’s always some sort of plan. It’s very different to have a show that’s so carefully put together from start to finish. There’s no loose ends, there’s no “x factors” where you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s much more rehearsed and coherent overall.
Do you have a favorite of the three shows?
I really like Burlesco Divino. Just because I do a lot: I dance on pointe, then I do more contemporary movement, I get to do some social dancing in the last half. There’s a lot that I don’t normally get to do in a burlesque show, so it’s nice to bring those talents to it. Contemporary dance doesn’t often get done in a burlesque show, so it’s nice to do that. So I think overall, that one’s my favorite. They’re all really fun.
As you continue, what are your plans for the future as a performer?
I just want to keep making work. And I love touring so I like the possibility of that growing more. I’ve been to London, Alaska, New York; I’m going back to New York for the 2nd Annual Boylesque Festival, so that’s exciting. I like performing here and there and everywhere, so I hope that will grow. Especially in Europe. I’d like to see some more of Europe. More about Paris Original at his website