Elle Dorado, winner of the 2014 New Orleans Burlesque Festival ‘Queen of Burlesque’ competition, wowed the crowd with something unexpected but ultimately victorious!  Elle spoke to 21st Century Burlesque Magazine about her experience and the creation of her ice skating burlesque routine…

I’ve been a longtime admirer of burlesque.  Actually, a burlesque dancer, the venerable Coco Lectric, married my husband and I.  She has been a longtime idol for me and eventually became something of a mentor to me.

The first burlesque show I ever saw was on vacation with my beau in New Orleans. We happened upon the House of Blues and there was a burlesque show on that night, Bustout Burlesque.  That was my very first introduction to burlesque, and what an introduction! Coco Lectric, Perle Noire, Ruby Joule, Athena and Foxy Flambeaux rounded out the lineup.  We were both completely blown away! Coming from a competitive figure skating background, movement is my preoccupation.  I am fascinated by how people express themselves (not a message or an idea, but them – who they are) through movement. I love seeing a whole person in a gesture. After seeing them on the stage I was hooked.  When Perle Noire performs it looks like she might burst into pure energy if she didn’t have such a dynamic command of her own body, which is absolutely electrifying to see.  Coco Lectric is someone who completely owns every movement and expression of her body.  She’s able to be light, quick, slow, sexy, demure, or aggressive with the flick of a wrist or a step or two.  That’s how my love affair with burlesque began!

Years later, I mustered up the courage to do my first burlesque show.  The production level was akin to The Little Rascals, but I did it and it was a big accomplishment for me!  A talented photographer friend of mine, Stephen Lamarche, shot a video of the show and my husband edited the footage together and put a video on youtube.  The video was really just for my own purposes and to show off to my friends, but a few days later Rick Delaup of Bustout Burlesque posted about me on Facebook!  I was elated, over the moon!  My second performance was with Bustout Burlesque, something that I thought would eventually, maybe, someday, be huge milestone in my burlesque career.

Elle Dorado performig her winning routine at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival 2014.  ©NOLAPUS.com
Elle Dorado performig her winning routine at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival 2014. ©NOLAPUS.com

I’ve had the good fortune of my favourite performer, Coco Lectric, being my mentor. She has been a wonderful confidante and advisor.  For instance, for my first performance in Bustout Burlesque, Rick wanted me to use the song Pink Pussycat and Coco informed me about the background of the song: how it was made for Kitten De Ville by The Del Reys and that in the world of burlesque, proper etiquette was to always contact a performer who was known for a particular song and ask them if it was appropriate to use their music; that the polite and courteous thing to do was to always be mindful and respectful of those in your field.  I contacted Kitten and she gave me her blessing! I couldn’t believe that a little over a year later I was in the running for ‘Queen of Burlesque’ of a festival I so admired!  It was a huge and very daunting honour!

The act that won ‘Queen of Burlesque’ at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival was the evolution of that very first act that started the whole ride.  I knew that music was especially dynamic and the Bustout Burlesque band really loved playing it.  It has a great driving beat and is really playful. It affords a multitude of moods!  I wanted to incorporate my previous career, competitive figure skating (here’s a clip), with my new passion.  I also love boa work, so I felt that a progression of an act that was especially meaningful for me, as it was my entrée into the burlesque world, was the perfect thing to use as the culmination of all of my hard work and aspirations!

Elle Dorado performig her winning routine at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival 2014.  ©NOLAPUS.com
Elle Dorado performig her winning routine at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival 2014. ©NOLAPUS.com

In last year’s New Orleans Burlesque Festival I debuted the very first ice skating burlesque act in the Mondo Burlesque show, but for the competition the act had to be very special. The logistics of ice skating and burlesque do not necessarily go hand in hand, however.  I would need to use a synthetic (plastic) ice surface because actual ICE would be impossible with all of the venue limitations.  Rick and I invested in a surface together which was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.  Plastic ice is not quite like actual ice.  It has anywhere from 40-70 percent of the glide of traditional ice depending on the manufacturer, thus limiting the amount of maneuvering one can do on the ice.  I also wanted to make sure that I was in fact doing a striptease, not just a skating routine.  I had very large-scale plans for this act for the festival.  I was coming up with very grandiose plans that in reality were near impossible.  My husband gently reminded me why I was initially successful in burlesque and encouraged me to not lose sight of that first act. With the help of Rick, Jonathan Bertollucci of Studio 3 (who let me set up my large prop in his warehouse to rehearse), the inspiration of Coco, and the helpful suggestions of my hubby, the fully formed act came together.

That night at the festival, I was nervous, enthralled, giddy and completely thrilled.  I was competing with the adorably sweet, hip-shaking Havana Hurricane, the impossibly gorgeous Lydia DeCarllo (who looks like a Russ Meyer star), the buxom and beautiful Iris LeMour, as well as my incredible Bustout Burlesque castmates, Charlotte Treuse and Athena, the classically lovely Tessa von Twinkle and the blonde bombshell Donna Hood!  The girls were hilarious, helpful and fun backstage.  After all of that build-up and the initial jitters, it really didn’t feel like a competition at all.  The girls just made it so fun. It just felt like another show… with a hell of a cast!

Elle Dorado (left of centre) with previous New Orleans Burlesque Festival winners Ginger Valentine (left), Angi B. Lovely (right of centre) and Medianoche (right).  ©NOLAPUS.com
Elle Dorado (left of centre) with previous New Orleans Burlesque Festival winners Ginger Valentine (left), Angi B. Lovely (right of centre) and Medianoche (right). ©NOLAPUS.com

The moment when they announced my name as Queen was a bit surreal.  It didn’t really hit me that it was my name called until the smoulderingly sexy Medianoche was pulling bobby pins out of her bosom to attach the crown to my head! Ginger Valentine and Angie B. Lovely lavished me with flowers and a sash and offered me congratulations and encouraging words!  It was magnificent.  I couldn’t have been more elated!  And as I walked the length of the stage, with a big goofy grin on my face, trying not to trip on my unhemmed princess dress that my hubby bought me as a good luck present that day, I felt like every three year old girl’s dream of what they want to be when they grow up (or at least MY three year old self’s dream).

It has been such an amazing experience, and it has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people.  I’m just about the luckiest duck out there!

Elle Dorado