Crazy Horse dancer Martha Von Krupp
During a recent Paris Fashion Week, I made a stop at what is arguably the world's most famous cabaret show: Crazy Horse Paris. The venue itself is intimate, a dimly-lit basement-level stage surrounded by red velvet couches and cozy love seats (the space was formerly a wine cellar). The show, which is equal parts sensual, joyful, uplifting and purposefully funny, has drawn numerous celebrity attendees (Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber, Katy Perry) but perhaps most notably, Beyoncé, who was so inspired by the Crazy Horse routines she incorporated them into her tours and music videos. You can see her perform classic Crazy Horse choreography in Partition, which was filmed at the venue—you get a glimpse of the space when it cuts to Jay Z is sitting in the audience.
Prior to the show, I did the "Crazy Experience" which took me backstage into the entirely pink dressing room to meet with British dancer Martha Von Krupp (not her real name), who has been a dancer with Crazy Horse Paris and the Crazy Horse touring group for several years. We talked about the beauty look for the show, the very specific posture required of the dancers and what it's like to perform onstage.
On the beauty look:
When you first start the show and you learn the [choreography], you also have a lesson in how to do the show makeup. Everybody does it differently. I have that real vintage-y look. I have dark hair so I do quite dark [eyeshadow], whereas other girls can play around with pinks and beautiful oranges. They look amazing with it; I’d look like a clown. I tend to wear nudes and dark, dark browns. Because of my blue eyes, dark browns are best. We all have to have the same red lip colour: Crazy Horse Red. It’s by Ben Nye. I go through about four or five [tubes] every six to eight weeks. I put my foundation over my lips as a primer, and sometimes I talc it if I know I’m going to have a really sweaty show. We don't use any glitter and keep things kind of matte. It’s all about making the eyes pop on stage. We want the audience to say, 'Oh, look at her expression,' and not 'Oh, look at her amazing makeup.' On our body, we use what is basically a body foundation. We pop it on like a moisturizer so it looks like liquid tights. I can do all of this in 45 minutes, including washing my hair. People think when we come offstage we just chill—no. We keep blow-drying our fringe and keep touching up our lipstick, which we get everywhere.
On the Crazy Girl posture:
You have to train to become a Crazy Girl. The way that we stand is very, very specific. We have to stand with a really arched back because it creates this feminine curve. It’s very flattering. It's completely the opposite [of ballet posture]. You have your stomach pulled in, and then tilt your pelvis back—you've got to think the only place in your back that is allowed to bend are the two bottom vertebrae. It's why it takes so long [to learn], because you have to completely forget all you’ve been taught [as a dancer] and arch like crazy. But the thing is, if you do not hold your abdominals in, you’ll get injured. You have to be quite flexible but also strong as well.
On performing in the show:
It’s so difficult to explain [what the show is]. It has its own complete genre. People ask if it's a strip show—and it's like no, it's a lovely burlesque Parisian cabaret show. When I first watched it, I was absolutely blown over. I was like, 'Oh my god, I have to do that!' I was always going to do the showgirl thing. For my very first professional job, I had to go topless. I found that absolutely fine, but this is the first show where I’ve actually been completely naked. And the first time I went on stage, I remember just feeling like it was really breezy. [Laughs] That’s about it. I didn’t ever feel uncomfortable. We had three months of training to learn the show, so I felt really comfortable with my choreography and with being onstage.