Lilly LaFleur and Her Burlesque Fan Dance
We recently caught a Black Widow Burlesque show here in Austin where troupe member Lilly LaFleur performed a wonderful fan dance. I loved it so much that I asked her to share her approach to this iconic burlesque dance, and maybe give us a few tips on how to get started. Most of this post is quoted straight from the dreamy french flower herself. Here are the main things to focus on:
Fans are specialty items and range from cheap to super expensive. These are the focus of the performance, so the more you can spend on them, the better. Lilly says, “I did some research as to how one makes feather fans. I scoured sites like Etsy to see if I could buy a kit (found one for around $150 or less), or even a fully assembled set, but man they are expensive; about $300 a set. Lucky for me my fellow troupe member, Ginger Snaps, let me borrow her fans. They were perfect, and exactly the color I wanted: pink!”
Take plenty of time to pick just the right music. Do some research and watch as many fan dance videos as you can. This dance really comes alive when the movement of the fans and the mood of the music combine perfectly.
“For me, I’m usually first inspired by music...that is just how I operate. I credit that to my twenty years of dancing; the music is so important for me. I look for something that I can envision a routine to... it has to have the right mood.”
- Lilly LaFleur
For her latest piece, she took inspiration and the music from Mon Truc En Plumes as performed by the French legend Zizi Jeanmaire:
The burlesque costume choice is second only in importance to fan selection. The most important thing to remember when selecting the right costume is that you will only have one hand to use to remove it! Lilly adds, “When workshopping a new number, I prefer to have as many costume pieces decided on as I can; it helps me think about how much time I have to take things off, what accents in the music I want to use, and how I can incorporate parts of my costume into the routine. I knew I needed a simple, easy to remove costume that could come off effortlessly with one hand since I’d be holding my fans in the other.”
Choreography / Technique
Lilly admits that when she was just starting out with the burlesque fan dance, she “had no clue what to do with those fans. I just started messing around with them to see how they felt, and at first my hands and arms would get so tired, but you get used to it.” Bonus: your arms will get nicely toned! She adds, “I had kind of a showgirl idea in my head, so I wanted to use the fans in a way that was glamorous. Thank God for YouTube! I looked up so many feather fan performances, both burlesque and showgirl, and it helped a lot to see how those girls were using their fans, and the different ways they could be manipulated. It gave me a lot of ideas. I worked a lot with the music and the fans. I would improvise and figure out sections that worked with the music, and just start to piece it together. If you have use of a studio, that’s ideal so you can actually see what the fans look like [in the mirror], and it gives you the opportunity to play around and see what you like and what you don’t.”
We can attest that the burlesque fan dance is a real show stopper! It’s truly an iconic number that can be in every burlesque show. It takes a lot of thought and hard work to pull this one off, but it’s so worth it. Don’t forget Lilly’s basic advice: Research and study the pros; find the music that speaks to you; pick the right style of burlesque costume; and work, work, work on that choreography! You’re sure to be a hit.
Many thanks to Lilly LaFleur from Black Widow Burlesque for sharing her fan dance tips!