Dedication, flexibility and confidence are three of the active ingredients needed to become a member of the Dames D’Lish. The
Hammond dance group describes their style as “caburlesque,” an exotic combination of a modernized version of traditional burlesque-style dancing and singing, with the shimmer, enthusiasm and sex appeal of cabaret.
Jennifer “JB” Buck, the creator and director of the Dames D’Lish, is lifelong dancer herself. She was inspired to start a caburleque dance group when she saw popular performers with the same interests and decided to put a twist on the traditional dancing styles.
“I’d always wanted to do something like this, and I had always liked old school burlesque, but I wanted burlesque that was like real dancing. I wanted real people who could dance and sing. Then I found out that the Pussycat Dolls had a cabaret thing in Las Vegas, and I was like, ‘Well I don’t have to go all the way to Vegas to do a show like that, so I’m going to come here and do it,’” she said as she helped her dancers put together last-minute costume pieces for their next show.
When it’s time to look for new dancers to add to the group, Buck and the rest of the Dames spend time recruiting potential new additions and choose who will make the cut based on auditions and live performances, but they also keep in mind how new dancers will interact with those who have been involved the longest.
“We do not take divas. You have to be open-minded, you have to be fun, and you have to be classy too,” said Buck behind the sound of hairspray and clicking high heels. “It’s important to me that they fit in with all of us. We don’t like drama,” she stressed.
Lacy Pitfield, a member of the Dames D’Lish for the past two years, agreed. She said, “I think one of the reasons I’ve stayed in it is because of all the girls. They become your best friends. They’re
not your typical group of girlfriends that come and go.”
Since the Dames don’t make a very large profit from performing in shows, passion is also an exceptionally necessary component that Buck looks for in all of her dancers.
“What they make basically pays for their costumes. If they spend a lot of money, they try to get it back with whatever money they make from a show. For example, they might make $125 or $150 per girl for a show, but they’ve probably spent almost $300 already,” said Buck. “I never take a cut. I’ve never taken a cut of anything, and I spend a lot of money. You have to love dancing and you have to love this, because it’s not for the money. It’s not a job. It’s a performance thing and it’s just like an art,” she added.
The Dames D’Lish and their supporters share news about upcoming events though Facebook, but they rely mostly on word of mouth to spread awareness to dancers about auditions and to promote upcoming performances for fans.
“I wish we had more publicity,” said Mandy Atkins, a Dame of three years. “I got recognized one time in Baton Rouge in a Starbucks at eight in the morning by some random dude who goes to all the shows,” she laughed, as she scrapped through a pile of sequined tops and fishnet stockings.
Seasoned Dame Lacy Pitfield, who goes by the stage name of Lacy Pan’Tease, decided to audition after learning about the group by word of mouth through another dancer.
“One of the other Dames works at the tanning salon I went to. I came to an audition, and I was nervous at first to dance. My stomach was showing, and I had never really danced like that. Then I sang for them for the first time, and I don’t usually sing in public. It kind of got me out of my shell a little bit,” she said.
According to Buck, besides having the confidence to perform with the Dames D’Lish, the most important characteristics that a woman must have to become one of her dancers are self-respect and good taste, and she trusts that the audience will recognize those characteristics in her dancers as well.
“You’ve got to have class. People say we take our clothes off and end up in a bra and underwear, but it’s really no different than what you see in shows in New York, Las Vegas or on TV. We’re not strippers. We’re not trashy girls. It’s just a performance. It’s not like they come off stage and they’re naked all the time. They’re not those kinds of girls,” she said. “You have to be a performer over anything. It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it.”