Shay Stafford is the quintessential Showgirl having travelled the world dancing in heels and feathers!
I had the opportunity to read her book ‘Memoirs of a Showgirl’ recently – sometimes through bleary eyes in the wee hours of the morning! Her tale was so hard to put down and I loved being transported from her early Brisbane upbringing to her ultimate Showgirl world in the arms of Parisian life and the famous Moulin Rouge and Lido. Shay has beautifully written her entertaining account of her life as a struggling dancer who finally reaches her ultimate goal.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Shay for a quick interview:
What motivated you to write your fabulous book ‘Memoirs of a Showgirl’?
I REALLY WANTED TO PULL BACK THE CURTAIN ON THE FAMOUS CABARETS AND SHOW READERS HOW MUCH HARD WORK IS INVOLVED ON AND OFF STAGE. I HOPED TO MAKE MY BOOK A TRIBUTE TO ALL OF THE DANCERS AND BEHIND THE SCENES WORKERS TOO WHO HAVE PUT THEIR HEARTS INTO CREATING AND PERFORMING THESE SHOWS 365 DAYS A YEAR FOR OVER 120YEARS! ALSO, I WROTE IT FOR SELFISH REASONS. I KNEW THAT MY TIME IN PARIS WAS COMING TO AN END AND THAT IT WOULD BE HARD FOR ME TO LEAVE THE CITY I LOVED SO MUCH, AND MY LIFE ON STAGE, AFTER 12 YEARS. PUTTING IT ALL DOWN ON PAPER REALLY HELPED ME TO MOVE ON TO THE NEXT STAGE OF MY LIFE.
You describe in detail your early life as a struggling dancer … how did you keep your ‘eye on the prize’ and keep going through that early hardship?
I ALWAYS KEPT A SENSE OF HUMOUR, AND DEVELOPED A THICK SKIN.
When you finally hit Paris, was it everything you had expected?
PARIS WAS SUCH HARD WORK WHEN I ARRIVED. IT WAS COLD, SO FAR FROM MY FAMILY AND CHALLENGING EVERYDAY. BUT I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE CITY BEFORE SHE BEAT ME. I WAS MOTIVATED TO MAKE IT WORK. IT WAS MY DREAM SO I HAD TO.
What were your first impressions?
I WAS OVERWHELMED BY THE PACE OF THE CITY. IT WAS VERY DIFFERENT TO MY HOMETOWN BRISBANE. I LOVED THAT I COULD GO OUT WITH FRIENDS AT 3AM AND GET STEAK AND WINE. AND I FOUND LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE SO EXCITING.
Would you describe dancing at the Moulin Rouge like a dream come true?
DANCING AT THE MOULIN ROUGE WAS INDEED A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ME. I HAD A WONDERFUL TIME THERE AND WAS VERY LUCKY TO BE GIVEN GREAT OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN AND PROGRESS. THE SHOW SUITED ME AND THE LIFESTYLE AND CULTURE DID TOO, SO I THRIVED. OBVIOUSLY IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE( THE GRIND DOING THE SAME SHOW 12 TIMES PER WEEK IS MENTALLY TAXING) BUT I LOVED IT.
… And the Lido?
THE LIDO WAS A HIGH POINT FOR ME. I NEVER THOUGHT THAT A KID FROM THE BRISSIE SUBURBS LIKE ME COULD LEARN TO BE AS GRACEFUL AND ELEGANT AS THE LIDO’S BLUEBELLS. BUT I DID, AND EVEN GOT TO DO IT IN THE SPOTLIGHT. HAVING MY MUM SEE ME DANCE THE LEAD ROLE AT THE LIDO DE PARIS MADE ALL OF MY YEARS OF COMPETITIONS,EXAMS AND SHOPPING CENTER PANTOS WORTH IT. FOR HER AND I.
What advice do you have to aspiring young Australian dancers who would like to follow in your footsteps?
GET AS MUCH EXPERIENCE IN AS MANY STYLES AS YOU CAN. ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR CLASSES AND THE AUDITIONS TOO. REMEMBER DANCE IS ENTERTAINMENT SO IT’S MEAN TO BE FUN.
Will we ever see Shay the Showgirl set foot onstage again? What are your future plans?
YES, ONLY IN FEATHERS ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS! MY TIME IN PARIS WAS SO SPECIAL THAT I CAN NEVER RECREATE IT. AND RECENTLY I HAVE BEEN TEACHING AND IT IS WONDERFUL TO SHARE THE THE LOVE I HAVE FOR THIS STYLE OF DANCE.
I AM DOING MY SHOW AT SLIDE ON FRIDAY 25TH MAY!!