Ilsa the Wolf is one of my favorite performers to work with. She is talented, professional, whip-smart, goddamned gorgeous, and often silly… which I adore. A frequent guest with the Kansas City Society of Burlesque, she is a founding member of Eye Candy Burlesque in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had the opportunity to ask Ilsa a few questions when she was in town last weekend for the KCSOB’s Love Hangover show.
How did your stage name come about?
A friend of mine who knows I’m of German descent suggested it to me as sort of a joke because of the ridiculous 1974 exploitation movie “Ilsa the She Wolf of the SS.” I protested telling him I would be mortified if I were to offend anyone if they were to associate my name with anything anti-semitic or pornographic, but he countered that I drop the “SS” from the name, and then it becomes about me being a man-eating, attention-commanding, bossy, buxom beauty with brains.
Fabulous! What initially attracted you to burlesque?
I first became interested in burlesque when I was researching a role I was cast to play in a theatrical production of Mae West’s “Sex.” I played Margy LaMont, the role that West played on Broadway in 1926, I believe. Learning about her place in Vaudeville led me to learning more about burlesque.
How long have you been a performer?
I’ve been performing burlesque since April 2008.
How would you describe your performance style?
I’m not really sure how I would describe my performance style. I’m very dance-oriented. And I like for my costumes and routines to tell a story or flesh out the story being told in the song, no pun intended there.
What inspires you as a performer?
My initial inspiration, that spark, always seems to come from the music itself. Everything else – the props, the costumes, the moves – comes after that.
Describe your “signature” act…
My signature act is a chair dance to the song “Mein Herr” from Cabaret. I like to think that it embodies the stage persona I’ve tried to cultivate: powerful and seductive with a sense of humor.
You are very successful at conveying that energy. Do you have a favorite memorable burlesque moment or story you’d like to share?
I think my most favorite memorable burlesque moment happened at our (Eye Candy Burlesque) third anniversary show this past October when Savonne the Minx and I were performing our tango-esque duet to Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” The song and the routine themselves were so emotionally charged and there was all this palpable energy going on between Savonne and myself and between us and the audience. And people were on their feet, applauding before the routine was even over. It was an amazing moment.
I wish I could’ve seen that! Who are your favorite burlesque performers, both vintage and contemporary?
My favorite performers aren’t what I think would be considered burlesque performers at all. I am drawn to and greatly admire dancers like Cyd Charisse and Juliet Prowse.
That influence definitely comes through in your performances. What’s an interesting fact about yourself that you don’t think your fans would guess?
Probably that I own and operate a propane company.
You’re right, I know I wouldn’t have guessed! Do you have any advice for burlesque performers just starting out?
Always keep learning. And creating. You can have a great act, one that just kills, but even the best acts can become stale.
Very true. Thank you, Ilsa! And I know we’ll be seeing a lot more of you…