We’re nearly one week out from the debut of “Cristal: The Rise & Fall of a Showgirl” at House of YES! Inspired by the 1995 cult classic film, “Showgirls”, “Cristal” tells the story of two rival dancers from the perspective of veteran Las Vegas showgirl Cristal — the diva star of the show — whose lead status becomes threatened upon the arrival of a scrappy, spotlight-hungry newcomer named Nomi. Their star-crossed meeting unleashes Cristal’s vengeful side: will Cristal’s talent be enough to own the night, or will Nomi claw her way to the top and steal the spotlight? You’ll have to come to the show to find out! But in the meantime, tune in to a behind the scenes conversation hosted by Body & Pole’s Creative Director Tracee Kafer with the show’s choreographers, Kyra Johannesen, Zia Mancuso, and Dominic Di Felice.
Cristal: The Rise & Fall of a Showgirl
Thursday, February 8
House of YES
Get your tickets here
Tracee: Hello, hello, welcome. We’re here to talk about Body and Pole’s next production, which is happening Thursday, February 8th at House of Yes, and it’s called “Cristal: the Rise & Fall of a Showgirl”. So, I’m actually here with the creator and the choreographers. If y’all want to say hi and introduce yourselves, let’s meet the choreographers.
Dominic: Hi, I’m Dominic Di Felice, I’m one of the choreographers and I’m so excited to bring some storytelling to the big audience at the House of Yes.
Zia: Hi, my name is Gia Mancuso, another one of the choreographers and instructors here at Body and Pole. I’m super excited to be doing this show and and production, it’s going to be awesome.
Kyra: Hello, I’m Kyra Johannesen, I’m the owner and CEO of Body & Pole and I’m the artistic director of this and choreographing the first act of the show. I’m very excited to have Zia and Dominic working with us as a team. I think this is going to be incredible. And this is very new, new for Body & Pole to do a show that’s so storytelling.
Tracee: Or been a long time right, because I’m thinking of back in the day when we were doing Aera productions for your aerial dance company. So I’m so excited about this. So the show is actually inspired by the movie “Showgirls”, which I just found out, came out in 1995, which kind of blows my mind. How is this movie 30 years old? So this movie came out 30 years ago and the people coming to enjoy the show, this production at House of Yes, may have never seen this movie. So my question is, what do they need to know, if anything, about Showgirls?
Zia: I’ll go. “Showgirls” is insane, great movie. I actually just watched it for the first time, but I think “Showgirls” is a Las Vegas staple. It totally showcases the aesthetic and the glitz and glam and also the kind of tough life it is to be in showbiz. And I think it’s incredibly entertaining and flashy and fun and beautiful and it’s got such a mix of so many different elements. I think it’s going to be exciting to bring it to a live stage and see how it can live in a live show rather than on film. How the storyline can translate into aerial arts and dance.
Kyra: I absolutely, I agree. I think it’s interesting. I don’t think you have to see “Showgirls”, except I highly recommend seeing “Showgirls” before coming to the show and enjoying it. But you have it, it’s still a story of a perseverance, a hustle, a grit, a glam to want to do outside-of-the-box work, as work in showgirls. Like we do at Body & Pole, working in pole and aerial. And the transformation inside of it that you have to take as a showgirl and how you have to shift. And I think it’s a story that you’re beautiful wherever you are in life. We have a really diverse cast with a really diverse age range, which I think is incredible having Fran Sperling be the lead character playing Cristal and the perspective of Cristal of coming up, being a star for so many years, and that shift and holding that space, and then the fall and the transformation inside of it. I think it’s a story that we see all around us, but we’re putting a lot of rhinestones on it. A lot. And a lot of nudity, which is good.
Tracee: Love that. Dominic, do you want to add anything?
Dominic: Absolutely. Alongside what Zia was saying, how “Showgirls” is a Las Vegas staple, and it really kind of represents that environment, I feel what’s really exciting about our production, the fact that we’re doing it in Brooklyn at House of Yes, I think it’s also a story that, as New Yorkers, as artists, this is also another parallel universe to what Showgirls is. And I think the interpretation, the creative freedoms that I know we’re all going to take to make it a little bit more on the modern side, a little bit more on the gritty New York side, and then again, adding rhinestones and making it flashy. And I think it’s going to be really relatable, especially to a lot of the people in the community who are familiar with sex work, who are familiar with having to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do to get by and to make it to the top. And it is a story that I think a lot of people will enjoy, especially with some of the surprises that are going to happen.
Tracee: Awesome. So speaking of story, this is quite a unique show for Body & Pole in that it has a storyline inspired by Cristal, the character in Showgirls. So how are you preparing differently for a show like this with a story and then taking it to the aerial apparatus? Yeah, let me start with Kyra.
Kyra: Well, I was very lucky to start producing shows in 2010 at Galapagos Art Space. And going from being a dancer, choreographer into the aerial side and doing that with Jen James Martin at the time and having years of that was amazing. And I felt like I was able to take what was on the floor and move it to the air and make it also four dimensional. Cause you can really fly around people. And then I’ve been benched, you know, when COVID happened, you have two kids and then you have to just make sure you’re putting food on the table and the house stays over the head. So I’m so thrilled because I get to work within this, with Zia and Dominic in this task, but I also get to stretch it again and I get to dust off and sharpen that tool. And so I’m a little scared. I’m a little scared it might not actually work that well. I’m a little like, so that’s what’s cool about it. I’m gonna attempt things that I used to do and also attempt things that are new to me. And so translating a show like Showgirls into Cristal’s perspective of an aging dancer, I mean, we’re doing my life, people. Now I’m sleeping with a chicken. I mean, you know, it’s cool, and I think it can be very vulnerable, and anything that goes in the air just makes it that much more of an extravaganza, but also that much more of like a fourth dimension breakthrough with getting really around everybody, not just like, I’m on a stage and you watch me. So I think that’s gonna be fun. And House of Yes really lends itself to that with all that they do, with the way that they have the rig points and make it possible to really stretch yourself as a choreographer, which is awesome.
Tracee: Amazing. So the question to the choreographers, we can start with Zia. What are you most excited about choreographing this show at House of Yes?
Zia: I’m really excited about combining dance and aerial in a live performance. I’ve been in that, like, senior dance background, and to be able to work with all these people that I look up to. We talked about the rise and fall. I feel like I’m very new into the industry, and I’m quite young and I’m very wide-eyed and excited about being in this industry transitioning from the dance world. My first choreography I ever did on stage was when I was like 10 years old and I haven’t choreographed, for the past couple years, choreographed a lot of smaller pieces or acts for myself. It’s been a while since I’ve choreographed on other people and choreographed a longer scale thing with a storyline like this. So I’m excited for that challenge. I’m super thrilled about combining a storyline and working with storyline on dance and aerial and combining those elements. And I think House of Yes is really an exciting space to work with. There’s so many options. There’s so many points to work with. Creative ideas are just running wild, so I feel like I have so many options. And it’s a new challenge. I’ve either ever choreographed a small act for myself, where it’s like, okay, I’m only thinking about doing it on one point on a smaller stage, and it’s only like four minutes. Or I’ve choreographed just dance, which is just dance on a very empty stage without extra props or different elevated surfaces. It’s just a flat surface, so I’m really challenging myself by combining those two things and working with the space that has unique dynamic options. I’m excited about it.
Kyra; Designing for that space is cool.
Zia: Yeah, absolutely. There’s so many more elements to look at visually and to think of how things layer together to sort of have more depth.
Tracee: Sounds like it’s going to be really, really immersive and exciting for people who are coming to see it. Things happening all over the place. I can’t wait. Dominic, what about you? What are you excited about in choreographing for this show?
Dominic: For me, first of all, you know, House of Yes has always been a venue that I have had like glitter in my eyes whenever I go. So to actually be a part of producing something in this incredible space with really like top-notch technicians and riggers and making sure everything is safe. And I feel really excited about putting kind of my choreographer director hat back on. You know, in the past, like my background is more in theater and production and directing. And so to be able to put that hat on, taking music, building a story from the music and really showing an evolution from characters from start to beginning, like I’m really excited to put that back on stage again. It’s been also like what Kyra was saying, you know, it’s been a minute, but it’s time to brush it off. It’s time to do what I love to do. It’s time to really feature the instructors at Body & Pole. We have so many talented artists that are constantly teaching all week. And we get to actually show that off. And I think this is, for me, who knows Body & Pole from a little bit further back in 2017, 18, I feel this is a new generation I think Body & Pole is really creating a really great community and the fact that we get to kind of show some of the things that people may not be aware of that are happening in our walls and just kind of throw it in Their face and so we can really expand our community. I hope it really inspires audiences I hope it inspires audiences to come and work with us as instructors and to be able to make sure every instructor or every element or character in the show gets a chance to just show who they are, which is an awesome, amazing artist, right? I think it’s just gonna be more than what people are expecting. And I’m really excited to just kind of throw it all out, throw it all in the air.
Tracee: Leave it on the dance floor.
Dominic: Yeah, exactly
Tracee: All right, so final, final sentiments from each of you. I’d love to hear maybe one thing that’s speaking to you really loudly in the process or in, you know, what you’re looking forward to.
Kyra: Well, I’m already in it. Like, just presenting this and it being received that people wanted to see it, and Dominic was like, yeah! And the dancers, I have all instructors in my piece, were like, I’m there! And they’re all from different times coming in, you know, far back as 2016. That you’re just like, that’s thrilling, and that’s what I’m excited about. I’m just excited about getting into the room with them, being in the room with them, allow them to be how great they are, and then be able to help shape it within this story so it’s cohesive. And then watch it all come together like a pachow on February 8th. So get your tickets, because they’re cheaper now. Someday we’ll be at the door.
Zia: I feel very grateful for this opportunity and as like a younger aerialist and newer into the industry and as an instructor to be able to work amongst so many talented people that I very highly look up to that have done gigs and performances that are like dreams to learn and to grow through them and also be trusted to create a work of art. I feel very grateful for that and to get hands-on experience in a great venue in New York like House of Yes and just the trust to create and work amongst so many talented people is incredibly exciting. Yeah, and just to showcase our jobs to the community, that would be really awesome.
Dominic: I think what’s sticking out for me is flowing wtih the process and trusting the people around you. I have surrounded myself with a cast that is incredibly professional, incredibly seasoned, people who are not scared to really let it all out and really show who they are. And I think that feature of everybody’s individuality and diversity is really something i am looking forward to presenting to the world. I think it’s just going to be hopefully, like Kyra was saying maybe more of these productions can happen in the future. Maybe this can be the start of a really great era for BP and a really refined production in the space, a refined production in the storyline, in the dancing, in the quality of movement. I think we’re moving into a different shift. I think this new generation is going to take Body & Pole and I think we need to share our talents with the world even more and it’s really exciting to be a part of it.