One part inspiration and one part titillation. Or is that one part nude, one part not nude? Yeoh Siew Hoon covers the story of Crazy Horse – coming to a cabaret near you in Singapore.
If you do a search for ‘crazy horse' under Google, you will find that the first three entries are about Lakota Indian warrior and leader, Crazy Horse (1849-1877).
Here was a man determined to protect the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life from the encroachment of the ‘white man'.
The fourth entry advertises the Pixie Twin Midgets, the world's shortest strippers.
In sixth place comes Crazy Horse Paris, "Art du Nu" – that is, Art of the Nude.
It is about the latter that I am writing about, much as the story of Crazy Horse and his bravery inspire me and the Pixie Twin Midgets titillate me.
Crazy Horse Paris, after all, is supposed to be as much about inspiration as titillation – although at the media conference in Singapore held to announce the arrival of the French cabaret show, journalists were more obsessed with the nudity than the art.
Who can blame them, really? A show like Crazy Horse Paris may not stir up any dust in places like Paris or Las Vegas (its first international location) but in strait-laced Singapore, it was bound to stir up a storm in a G-string.
Didier Bernadin, son of the founder Alain, was keen to share the show's proud history. His father, he said, was an artistic man deeply involved in the Parisian modern art scene in the 1950s. "He wanted to create a show that would capture the artistic spirit of the times. His vision was to create a show that would celebrate l'art du nu – a fusion of dance, music, art and performance."
The concept, he said, was to paint women's bodies with beautiful lighting and spectacular costumes and express a modern spirit through dance and music.
Forget about all that.
What one reporter (female) wanted to know was whether they had got the necessary licence to run the show "because they will close you down before it opens", she declared.
Goh Min Yen, managing director of Eng Wah, the Singaporean partner which is investing S$5 million into the joint venture, said that was up to the authorities to comment, immediately fuelling speculation that hey, maybe it hadn't been all approved yet.
She later clarified that they had received approval from the authorities.
Another journalist wanted, no, demanded to know – he asked the question three times – whether the girls were nude or not.
Bernadin explained that the girls wore G-strings, some bits of lingerie and body make-up.
Whereupon the reporter (male) declared that perhaps the show should not be called a nude show as that was misleading since the girls were wearing strips of clothing.
A good part of the media conference was spent debating the state of dress or undress of the girls and whether the show would be too shocking for Singapore authorities to stomach.
Sounding a bit like Crazy Horse of Lakota, Bernadin said, "We have briefed authorities on our plans. I'd be the first to defend our dancers. This is not a nude show – it is a false and real nude show, a mix of art and feminism, like yin and yang. Everything is not black and white.
"The show is not shocking. I am not worried at all. Having visited many bars here, this is less nude than in any existing place."
The fact of the matter is, Crazy Horse Paris coming to Singapore is a big deal. It makes a statement about the "new" Singapore, a place that is daring to change its image because it has to. It is the first city in Asia, and the second city outside Paris, to host the cabaret. It was chosen over cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Macau.
Will the show work in Singapore and can it be sustained? That is the 60 million dollar question in a city where novelty fades as quickly as you can say it.
In Paris, the show attracts 120,000 customers a year, 55 percent of whom are foreign visitors while the rest are domestic French tourists. In Las Vegas, it is predominantly American visitors – 110,000 a year. Bernadin is expecting the Singapore show to attract 150,000 people a year.
Go past Crazy Horse Paris and you are bound to see coachloads of tourists – these days, it's the Chinese tourists that are making a beeline to catch the cabaret much like the Japanese did in the early 90s. But is watching Crazy Horse Paris in Singapore the same as watching Crazy Horse Paris in Paris?
As for whether more men or women catch the show, apparently in Paris, it is more men than women while in Las Vegas, it is the reverse.
I first saw Crazy Horse in Paris 15 years ago. I don't remember much about it, really, I just remember a blur of T, A & L. Didn't do anything for me but then I was much younger and probably didn't appreciate art the way I should.
Next week, I will be in Paris and I will make sure I revisit Crazy Horse Paris. Then, I can tell you for sure whether it's nude or not nude.
I shall watch it with the words of Crazy Horse, the Lakota leader, ringing in my ears, "A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky."The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection". She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'. Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.