Cat LaCohie, aka the Vixen DeVille is a woman of wonder! From fire eating, to walking on glass, to dancing/instructing Burlesque; there is nothing this woman can’t accomplish when she puts her mind to it! A master of storytelling, and in-between touring in Australia and getting ready for her Revealed Tour 2019, she gave me her secrets to building an immersive world for audience and onlookers to get lost in… Whether you are getting ready to perform on stage, or facing off with a camera, her wisdom holds true across all forms of physical art!
1. You probably get asked this a lot, but how did you get into burlesque? What drew you into this world?
Ha ha.. YES this is the number one question and it’s what I address in my solo show “Vixen DeVille Revealed” I could talk about this for hours so to attempt to sum up – I was drawn to this world mainly for the excuse to wear amazing costumes, to embrace the different characters that live within yourself but rarely have the chance to see the light of day, the ability to give yourself permission to behave an entirely different way on stage than you would ever allow yourself to behave in your everyday life.
2. When you first started how did you define yourself? What did you feel made you stand out from everyone else? What about now?
I used to define myself as the “Variety act” and as the “dark mysterious” one. In my troupe everyone could sing and dance and I felt like l was very much lacking in those skills and needed something else to either distract the audience from that fact or to compensate for that fact – I started learning variety skills – fire eating, glass walking, aerial etc. and so my acts were always ” a little bit different”. I was also always wearing dark “evil character” style clothing – I would be wearing the witchy Vampira outfit or the black leather or PVC catsuit. I would never be the cutesy pink and fluffy one.
Nowadays – I don’t rely so much on the dark and mysterious/ goth style vibe. I have definitely continued to add to my variety skills and have made a mark on the hosting circuit but Vixen has now “chilled out a bit”, allowing more humor and comedy into the mix. I would like to think that if you asked someone what they’re going to get in a Vixen DeVille act that they would respond saying they would be getting something different.. creative, unexpected..with amazing costumes 🙂
3. Being able to tell a story through one’s art is so important! Whether it is a subtle, or not so subtle theme throughout a dance or a photoshoot. Where do you begin when creating a new routine/story?
I always tell my students to start from one of three places. Either you have a costume you desperately want to wear…you have a piece of music you desperately want to perform to….or you have a concept you desperately want to express. The story is important but so is the music and costume, you need to love the piece of music you’re performing to and you need to love what you’re wearing but you also need to be connected to an idea, concept or story that you’re trying to convey. Start with one of these for your inspiration but make sure all three are present in your act!
4. Who, or what are some of your biggest inspirations? Why?
I’m not a huge burlesque buff in terms of idolizing the legends because I was never heavily schooled on their work when first entering the burlesque world – therefore most of my inspirations are from my peers or those I watched when I first started performing. The following may not be hugely famous, or even currently working but they have definitely impacted and inspired my performance and my drive to improve and deserve a shout out… and at least a brief Google-stalk from anyone listening or reading this interview:
Delores Deluxe – She ran the first burlesque troupe I worked with and hers was the first burlesque show I ever saw. I witnessed her confidently behaving as Delores Deluxe, and wearing her own style of clothes both on and off stage. She confidently allowed her burlesque persona to filter into her everyday life, which made me very aware of how I could give myself permission to be more like Vixen DeVille off-stage. I didn’t have to approach it as an actor playing the role, keeping the two personas separate. I am not putting on a mask of Vixen DeVille – she is not a facade she is a persona living within me, always there, she peeks out during my everyday life, but on stage she is fully let loose.
Lola la minx- This woman is AMAZING – I first saw her performing in LA about 3 years ago and she just fulfilled everything I want in a burlesque performance. She does not hold back. – her performances are inspired, outside the box, ambitious and 100% entertaining. This woman takes concepts to places you never thought possible and makes you wish you had the balls to express and create in the way that she does.
Dee Dee Perks – This woman is inspired and courageous and reminded me that even if your concept is routed in reality, your costume needs to look a million dollars and, my god, do you need to invest in bedazzling!!!!
Christian Lee – a magician, not a burlesque performer – he was the host in my troupe back in London (with Delores Deluxe). He not only inspired me as a performer, with endless advice on theatrical magic techniques that I could add to my routines, but his approach as a host/compare has certainly inspired my current comedic, ‘who gives a shit’, goofy attitude when hosting, allowing myself to relinquish the need to be perfect and in control at all times.
Roxy Velvet – was the first performer I ever saw doing aerial Lyra/hoop – she was everything! Fluid, beautiful, and oh so sparkly and just 100% enviable. I saw her on an aerial hoop and wanted to be her! She is the reason I do aerial today.
Tempest Rose – She joined the troupe I was in with Delores Deluxe a few years after the troupe was created back in 2006 and today is a power house in UK burlesque. The way she combines the art form of burlesque with female empowerment, political commentary while maintaining the all important aspect of entertainment is commendable.
5. What are some of the biggest changes you have made in your everyday life to propel you forward with burlesque?
This question seemed to be answerable in many ways – I’m taking it to mean “what have you changed in your life in order to enhance your burlesque life”? I guess I have started to allow myself to invest more in the ‘extravagances’ or what I would have considered ‘extravagances’ in my everyday life – the things I wouldn’t wear or use on a regular basis are now things I have the excuse to splash out on, (or rather INVEST in) because they are part of my ‘work life’. I also no longer commit myself to bullshit underpaid jobs during the day because I have now committed myself to being paid to do what I love, and if what I love means I’m working till 2am on a weekday then I can’t be getting up in the morning at 8am for a day job that I hate.
6. How do you define success? What are lessons that you’ve learned along the way to become successful artist?
I define success as being able to 100% financially rely on doing work that make me happy and fulfilled, not just in the doing of the work, but in the feedback that comes either from audience members or students saying I have impacted their lives in someway through my work.
Lessons I have learnt:
1) Continue to ask the question.. if money were no issue would you still do the gig? ( this applies to both low paying and high paying jobs)
2) Create from the heart and not to please an audience member or a booker. My worst acts were ones I created to spec, they weren’t art, they were paint-by-numbers ‘McActs’ that were soulless, boring and made me (and, I suspect, also the audience members) miserable.
3) If someone can afford a caterer they shouldn’t be asking for free entertainment.
4) Don’t be a DIVA, be nice to the other humans with which we share this planet.
7. As a former ballroom dancer, my coach used to always tell me to ignite energy into all my movements. And after watching one of your interviews you speak to something similar; why do you feel this is so important?
I’m not sure exactly which interview this is but I would say ignite PRESENCE into what you do and ignite INTENT into what you do. This is important because you don’t ever want to be just ‘going though the motions’! You are not a chorus dancer doing someone else’s choreography for the umpteenth time because that’s your job to do so and you need to pay the rent.
You are doing YOUR solo act because you WANT TO. Because you are COMPELLED TO!!! See above comment about doing a ‘McAct’!!! If you are not having fun doing your act then STOP!!! …because the audience are not having fun watching you!!! Ask yourself why you are doing this act? Are you doing this because you thought the audience would like it…because you thought a booker would book it…because it was “in this season”.. ????
NO!! Create and perform an act because it fired you up and you love performing it!! Because it’s something you want to express and share with the world. If you don’t love performing it – we as an audience can smell that a mile off and we become as bored watching you as YOU do performing it.
8. What has been the most difficult obstacle you have had to over come as a burlesque dancer? How did you overcome it?
As a professional actor I used to hide that I was a burlesque performer because unfortunately it becomes synonymous with the word “stripper” which is NOT what I am. The short answer to how I have overcome this is that I have started to identify as a burlesque ‘performer’ rather than a burlesque ‘dancer’. This subtle difference in vocabulary seems to steer people’s imagination away from the world of sex workers, and if any adverse behavior continues to arise from my mentioning the word “Burlesque” I simply alert that particular dumbass to their overwhelming dumb-assery.
9. How have you gotten comfortable in your own skin?
Repeatedly performing on stage in different styles of costume and different states of undress means it basically becomes normal in any other part of of your life. I started off wanting to keep my ass covered and not wanting to go down to pasties but the more you perform the more you explore, the more you break down your inhibitions.
10. I looked at your site and saw your about page. There was a lot of thought that went into creating your alter ego. How did you come up with your alter ego? What is most important in creating your alter ego? Why is having an alter ego important?
I had already come up with the basis of the character for part of my training at university – the main thing was that I wanted to feel in control of the audience, that I wasn’t performing FOR them at their mercy like a court jester; rather that the audience were in MY space at MY mercy – I guess kind of like when you enter a haunted house..? This character from university training was then developed into Vixen DeVille.
At the time, I wanted to feel powerful and in control because I was lacking a sense of that in my pedestrian life. I think this is probably the main thing in creating your alter ego – use it a a vehicle to express yourself and behave the way you don’t get to on a day-to-day basis, or as an opportunity to be an enhanced technicolor version or your everyday self.
I think alter egos are important because it allows us to fully express our true selves. Many of us are so stunted, inhibited or censored because we have to be in order to survive as humans in modern day society. Having the opportunity to allow an alter ego to express these censored emotions, opinions or desires gives some relief so that we can continue to be censored when life requires us to be so. Some people use other forms of sport or entertainment or art to relieve themselves, some choose to quash their emotions, opinions and desires altogether, all the time – which is not at all useful for our mental health.
11. I love that your class is called Permission to Play, especially since my blog is called Permission to Pose; do you feel that it is important for women to give themselves “permission” to feel empowered, and sexy, or whatever it is they want to feel? Especially since it is still considered socially unacceptable for a woman to declare who or what she wants to be?
YES!!!! for all the reasons I say above that it is important to have some kind of release of your quashed energy, whether you do that in the form of an alter ego or not. Lets move away from the specificity of feeling “sexy” and look at just the permission to feel how you feel! You cannot deny how you feel and if society tells you it’s unacceptable … well, then what? You can’t just stop! Allowing yourself a safe and appropriate space to express whats inside is the best way to prevent yourself from going crazy and from living a guilt-ridden miserable life.
12. Do you think dancing and photography play into one another? How can dance help someone who models?
When I work with people on their first photoshoot they are so focused on the stillness, the idea of a POSE, the one moment. It creates stiffness, tension, lifeless images. Photography is about capturing a moment, so if a model focuses more on movement, even incredibly slow movement, then the photographer is able to do their job in capturing the moment of that ‘model in time’, rather than the model trying to hold the moment in time FOR the photographer. Urgh – does that even make sense???
13. A little bit of a pop culture question, what did you think about the movie Burlesque?
Did it help or hinder the burlesque world? Ugh!! I haven’t seen that movie in a LONG time I really should re-watch it since this is the MOST asked question other than “how did you get into burlesque?” Short answer – it’s not Burlesque 🙂 … and it does not portray the reality of burlesque in any way. It DID help the burlesque world in that it brought the word “Burlesque” into modern day vernacular and made people inquisitive into what it is and start googling the word… seeing shows …and taking classes. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. If you want a real insight into the world of Burlesque then watch the documentary “Burlesque: the heart of the glitter tribe” –https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5143770/
Have you fallen in love with the art of Burlesque ? Want to see her perform?Check out Vixen DeVille’s Solo Tour January 11th-13th 2019, in Tucson AZ. And she will be back in LA for one night ONLY on January 25th, 2019! Links below to purchase tickets!!
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