Beyond the Skin
Showgirls—a type of entertainment once distinctive to the city which is now a faint whisper of its past. These long-legged beauties in their feathery costumes and towering headdresses were as iconic to Las Vegas as casinos and neon marquees. “Their gorgeous figures and sparkling costumes and alluring personalities created a world-renowned atmosphere of irresistible glamour and excitement,” says Mistinguett, a well-known choreographer, costume designer and show producer. “I wanted to capture that vintage style and talent and bring them back to the stage…”
That’s exactly what Mistinguett did with performances of “Showgirl Follies…Sassy,” and I set out to photograph them. Mistinguett gave me complete access to the dressing room, backstage, rehearsals, and performances. As thrilling as it was to pursue this opportunity, I also felt nervous. I knew I’d have just a short time to connect with the dancers. This project’s success depended on the willingness of the dancers to let me into their inner circle. After I’d started shooting, I was pleasantly surprised at the professionalism of this group. They welcomed me and supported me. They wanted to share with others their private world—particularly their love for dance and their passion to be a showgirl—through my photographs.
These performers have been trained in multiple forms of dance, including ballet. Though they take their work seriously, they’re not one-dimensional—living just off their ability to kick up their legs. This small cadre of dancers is made up of strong, determined feminists. Many are married; some with children; some have college degrees; some are ballet teachers, choreographers, casino dealers, accountants, … and all of them are women. They all work hard and love to dance.
In the dressing room, I expected to see drama. I saw none of that—only respect, support, and laughter. They changed costumes multiple times during the show. They waited nervously backstage for their turns to perform. They came together as a group. They concentrated, supported one another, and walked on stage with smiles on their faces. They stood tall and did what they love to do: dance.