Tuesday, June 26, 2018 | 2 a.m.
There was a time not so long ago when the queen of modern burlesque was considering retirement. She was actually beyond considering it—she was grooming a protégé and seemed ready to move away from the stage.
“I was sort of at a point in my life where I was thinking maybe it was getting to be time if I wanted to have a baby, but I was also buying into ageism a little, the feeling that as a woman I was not going to be fulfilled if I did not have a child,” says Dita Von Teese, now 45. “I felt like I had to make a decision. For a brief time I took on a protégé and had a disaster of an experience with that person, and that helped me [realize] I should not pass on my hard work to someone else just yet. I thought I would find someone, when it’s time, that has more respect for the time that’s been put into it, not someone who could just adapt and take it.”
That experience, paired with a successful and well-reviewed return to the iconic Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris, reinvigorated Von Teese’s affection for her art form, and made her feel like there was still some work to do.
“I would go do these signings for my book [“Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour”] and hundreds of women would show up saying, ‘I’m finally 18 and I can see your show,” and I thought, oh my God, this is a whole new group of people discovering burlesque for the first time,” she says. “I thought I should practice what I preach about ageism and the stereotypes of what a burlesque dancer should look like, body shape and race and ethnicity, because I’ve always fought for my shows to be multifaceted. I should be willing to go out there and show the confidence we should have as we move through the different phases of life.”
So that’s what she’s doing. The latest incarnation is Dita Von Teese and the Copper Coupe, an all-new burlesque tour that kicked off in the spring and lands at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay this week.
It features Von Teese and many other performers doing different acts, including a new version of her famous martini glass act with what she believes is her most extravagant costume yet. There’s also a fetish-themed act featuring some of the music Von Teese recorded with French singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sébastien Tellier, and a big opening ensemble number.
“I love seeing acts I’ve been doing all this time being interpreted differently,” she says. “When I’m selecting performers, it’s really important that people walk away from the show feeling inspired about what a burlesque dancer should look like and be like. They have to be an absolutely show-stopping performer, the next one has to be as good as the last, and that’s not easy to cast.”
Von Teese has added other new music to the show, though it’s familiar to her audience and new only to the show. There are three acts created to go with songs by Amy Winehouse, Prince and George Michael, artists Von Teese idolized. She called Michael her “favorite artist of all time” and met him when she was performing at an AIDS awareness benefit in Texas years ago.
Von Teese is definitely not done with burlesque and while she has other projects in the works, including a burgeoning lingerie line available in stores like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, she’s all about the tour for the time being.
“There are a lot of opportunities on the table I don’t have time for now,” she says, hinting that she’s working on a follow-up book to that 2015 beauty bible. “Right now I really just want to ride the wave of this resurgence and the show I’m touring with is the biggest burlesque show in history and it needs to continue to move around the world.”
Absolut Elyx presents Dita Von Teese and the Copper Coupe Burlesque at 7:30 p.m. June 28 at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-632-7600) and more information can be found at houseofblues.com.