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Burlesque dancer Demi Noire: ‘I’d love to see someone who looks like me doing cabaret’

Demi Noire Demi Noire

A chance encounter with a burlesque dancer changed Alix Ross’ life. Now performing under the name of Demi Noire, the fire-dancing cabaret performer tells Simon Fearn about her upcoming performance in Duckie Family’s Legacy event in east London, a celebration of LGBTQ+ people of colour…

What made you want to become a burlesque dancer?

I was 23 and auditioning as a backing dancer for this little show. I was getting changed and out popped this incredible and beautiful human in a gorgeous costume full of rhinestones and everything. It almost made me feel a bit inadequate. We both got the job and it turns out this person was actually a burlesque performer. The only thing I knew about cabaret was the musical. She began to tell me more and more about the job and it was like a seed was planted.

Is there a performer who has particularly inspired you?

My signature number is a tribute to [1920s cabaret dancer and civil rights activist] Josephine Baker. Another cabaret performer sold me the banana skirt [Baker’s signature costume] and suggested I do an act. I was really nervous about it. Today if you look at the routine it can be quite offensive: it’s a person of colour in a banana skirt pulling faces and dancing around. What I think is genius is that Baker was mocking the audience’s excitement and their fetishisation of black bodies. I debuted the act at the Gin House Burlesque Review [in London] and it was like having a number one single overnight.

What can we expect from your performance at Duckie Family’s Legacy?

The act that I have confirmed and that I’m really excited about is called Fire Goddess. I’ve been doing fire for seven years, longer than I’ve been doing burlesque. With this particular act it adds a sense of intrigue. One thing that I really enjoy is when I take all of the lights out on stage and only have the fire lighting me. It’s using fire to highlight areas of my body that I want you to see rather than me being exposed to everyone.

Why is it important for events like the Duckie Family show to celebrate diversity?

If I was a person going to see a cabaret show I would love to see someone who looked like me on stage. Not just in terms of colour, but in terms of weight, size, whatever. As a female, to go and see someone on stage who looks like you and lets you know that you’re beautiful is a wonderful feeling. I feel like there needs to be more of that. This will be the first time I work with Duckie Family and I’m so excited about it. This is a safe space.

Why did you choose the name?

I hated my original stage name, which was Miss Noire, It sounded generic. I always like meeting burlesque performers whose stage name is either funny or has something to do with them. Demi Noire literally means ‘half black’. I was talking about [my ethnicity] with a friend and she giggled and that was it. Considering I’m so proud of being mixed race, to be introduced as mixed is wonderful.

CV: Demi Noire

Training: The Brit School in Croydon (2001-2003); Urdang Academy in London (2003-2006)
First professional role: Dancer in Daddy Cool, Berlin tour and at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London (2006-2007)
Agent: None

Demi Noire is performing at Duckie Family’s Legacy at Richmix in London on February 17. To find out more, visit richmix.org.uk and duckie.co.uk

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