Vicky Butterfly

“When the rain falls.. the Night Flowers bloom”

Whether it’s clouds of butterflies that fly out from her clothes as she hovers en Pointe, a Kinetic glittering crescent moon or a Lynchian slant on Weimar era erotic dance, Vicky Butterfly’s beautifully choreographed routines take in everything from the ethereal and the breath-taking to the macabre and the erotic: with inspirations including Anita Berber, Loie Fuller, the Marchesa Luisa Casati and Maya Deren, her poetic and retro-futuristic performances evoke influences from the Pre-Raphaelites and French literature to Surrealism and more…

The daughter of an Irish showgirl and an eccentric Viennese aristocrat, her work reflects her bohemian upbringing: notable as a real innovator, she uses contemporary technology alongside a richly decadent aesthetic and lavish showmanship, incorporating her background in theatrical design alongside training in disciplines including ballet, lyrical dance, opera and circus as well as an insatiable desire for literature and history.

Always in demand internationally from Paris to Bali, she has an enviable roster of clients (including Beefeater Gin, Roberto Cavalli, the Sugababes, Kensington Palace, The Royal Academy of Art, the Moulin Rouge, the Casino di Venezia, Maserati and the Paris Ritz), a clutch of sparkling reviews and appearances on the covers and in the pages of exclusive magazines around the world. She was the first burlesque performer to be booked to appear in a Bollywood film and can also be spotted in music videos and stadium projections by top bands (including Fleetwood Mac, The Verve, Kings of Leon, The Fratellis, Queens of the Stone Age and Paul Weller) and even The Paul O’Grady Show, as well as speaking on programmes such as BBC4’s “What a Performance! Pioneers of Popular Entertainment” with Frank Skinner and Suzy Klein.

She is also a cast member of circus variety trailblazers La Clique and won the trophy for “Most Dazzling Dancer” at The Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2016.

1 How did the idea for the act come to you

I’m actually not 100% sure! I tend to create work very organically: one idea isn’t really enough for me to make an act as my brain seems to generate them non-stop. I’ve always worked with technology, so I like to keep abreast with advances I can use and in this case I spotted a way that some recently more Accessible and affordable tech could bring a couple of ideas and a very personal experience to life.

2 What issues did you have making the act.

The creation of the act itself flowed very naturally, but I knew I needed to be prepared for every form of potential malfunction and also aware that if it was an act that I was prepared to invest in, I also needed to be able to maintain it. I’ve had almost every form of problem, but I’m able to troubleshoot them very fast now and have adapted it so that I can always get it functional away from home and for more complex problems I know when to delegate. I’m currently working on collaboration number four!

3 What happened when you first started performing the act.

I still perform the act almost exactly as I conceived it, but I had a lot to learn! The first time I used it wasn’t with my current type of power source and I didn’t know how fast regular batteries drained… The show ran late and by show time I only had the two dimmest colours that drew the least power functioning! It’s always a very steep learning curve! But the second show I ever did, the owner of The Famous Spiegeltent was in the audience and booked me for a full season of La Clique: about 38 shows in 31 days I think… A real baptism of fire! But it gave me a unique opportunity to hone and shape it as I went.

4 How has the act changed over time.

I suppose that I continue to refine it, but at over 700 performances the structure and design really hasn’t changed. I have replaced a lot of elements and am always working on the tech to get it as close to my vision over time.

5 What came first? The costume, the music, the choreography etc.

The concept and the costume came together, then the music edit and the movement Just flowed from that!

6 If the act has some personal meaning, does that same emotion still drive you? Did you use the act to help cope or overcome a problem? Did it help?

The act has a lot of personal significance: I wrote about it in full on my website. Both the creation and initial performances were quite an important part of my grieving process. I don’t think it necessarily helped in any way apart from the creation: they were initially so intrinsically linked that after a fairly smooth launch, when I started encountering technical problems that I couldn’t yet diagnose, it really affected me badly on an emotional level. I’ve tried for more separation in the years since and I now probably concentrate on entertainment rather than catharsis because it just isn’t sustainable at that level with that frequency. I judge the show and audience though, so I haven’t completely jettisoned the original motivations.

7 Have you ever been asked to change part of it?

Yes, frequently. I’m often asked to either cover up more for corporate events or use less aggressive music. I go with my instincts, and often turn things down but sometimes I just treat it as a different act. For instance, I was recently booked to perform on my moon for the revival of Studio 54 for Niles Rogers’ Meltdown with Gersch and Rox Presents. The brief was pretty open, but I just had a feeling that it was a great opportunity to rework “When The Hard Rain Falls… The Night Flowers Bloom” in a way that was both true to the original intention and in a more fun way that also honoured their legacy, without having to choose between concept and the idea of pure entertainment.

8 Is there anything missing from the act you’d like to be in it but can’t due to logistics, prop dreams,money etc?

I don’t think there’s anything missing, though there are a couple of technical elements I’ve never had the time to work in. I’ll always update it as certain technologies become more accessible and reliable though I’m sure!

9 Where did you first perform the act?

The first show was at a club called Werewolf: previously it was The Pigalle, but it was briefly reworked in tribute to it’s featuring in “An American Werewolf in London” while it was a cinema. In that incarnation it only booked acts working with light and video-mapping. If I remember correctly, I performed at the launch and even despite the power issues, the effect was much diminished by a news crew filming with a bright light on the camera!

10 And what has been your favourite time performing the act.

Honestly, there are too many to pick one! Studio 54 was pretty iconic…

11 If you were creating this act again now, would you do anything different?

I would probably hesitate… I had no idea of the trouble it would be! But I wouldn’t change a thing: it’s taken me very interesting places with fascinating people and I’ve gone around the world with it. The only continent I have left to do is Antarctica…

12 Do you ever ask particular people to critique your acts, or do you listen to random ones that suggested changing music, a pose or adding a prop? If you did get critique did you change it? Why/why not? Did it help?

It depends. I don’t seek critique because when you’re trying to realise a particular vision you tend to be your own harshest critic and other people, however well respected, aren’t psychic. But artists always discuss their work and when you’re chatting with people you respect, it’s only natural that some aspects of the conversation give you food for thought. I don’t think it’s ever been anything as tangible as described above: when it comes to practical changes, with this act it’s almost ALWAYS technical amendments… Much love to Declan Pattison, Rachel Freire and Joe Lucey for those!Original image by By Ayesha H