The pop. The fizz. That lightheaded sensation. If you were to bottle the feeling of Blanc de Blanc, you’d end up with crystal glass of vintage champagne; a taste of glamour with a titillating edge.
Blanc de Blanc is a high end spectacle fusing cabaret, music and world-class acrobatic talent. With more than just a sip of sass in its design, the strictly adults-only show presents audacious aerial stunts, bawdy burlesque and charismatic choreography.
This year’s Bleach* Festival gives a nod to the 2018 Commonwealth Games by exploring the interface between sport and art, making the intensely physical and deliciously salacious Blanc de Blanc a fitting addition to the 2017 program. You’ve read it right: after wowing worldwide audiences for years, the Gold Coast is now getting its very own performances of Blanc de Blanc – Spiegeltent and all – courtesy of Bleach* Festival 2017.
Russian ballet dancer Milena Straczynski’s love of dance drew her to the United States where she met her husband, aerialist Hampus Jansson. Milena and Hampus now perform as an aerial duo in the show, dazzling audiences with their breathtaking performances.
Milena tells us a bit about her professional progression.
“Although ballet is a beautiful art form and also my first love as a performer, I felt it limited me from being able to fully express myself.
“There are a lot of rules in ballet, technique and lines, and it is beautiful all the time. I discovered a lot of beauty in freedom of movement which I was able to find more in the contemporary style. I progressed into burlesque because I feel in a lot of ways that I was born in the wrong era.
“Aerial used to just be a fantasy, but then became a necessity as it would be the only way that my husband and I could stay and work together. Now it’s my main discipline and I just love it!”
Blanc de Blanc delights its audience members within a Spiegeltent, a near-critical environment for the show. A traditional Belgian design, Spiegeltents are constructed using wood and canvas and feature an abundance of mirrors and stained glass. The venue is a spectacle in and of itself, and lends a particularly apposite backdrop to the hedonistic world of Blanc de Blanc.
“I have always loved performing in a Spiegeltent,” Milena says.
“Although I do love a traditional theatre, I feel I belong in the world of cabaret.”
We have to agree. With her shock of bright red hair and a sultry look that channels femme fatales of a bygone era, the stunning Milena epitomises the seductive playfulness which characterises Blanc de Blanc.
“In a lot of ways I feel I could really be myself in this show,” she declares.
“And more importantly I get to share the stage with the love of my life as well as a pretty cool bundle of performers all unique in their own different way.”
Speaking of the love of her life, I am curious how the experience of performing with her husband is different to that of working with other performers.
When working with another performer it is usually in a form of dance or singing,” says Milena.
“It is experimental and playful and there is sometimes room to improvise and explore.
“When performing with my husband, it is a game of complete trust in one another, especially when in the air. Everything has to be as precise as possible. And although I do get a little nervous prior to our aerial act, I feel [a sense of] tranquillity as soon as we take our first flight.”
Far from the decadent façade of her stage persona, Milena likes to keep things simple on her limited downtime.
“I like to eat a piece of chocolate between the shows on double show days,” she reveals.
“In the daytime, before the shows, I like to explore the city on my kick scooter, and I absolutely must have bubble tea.”
Blanc de Blanc has won many Australian fans over the years in acclaimed runs during the Brisbane Festival and most recently the Sydney Opera House, and its performers are no strangers to our sunny shores. Milena and Hampus in particular have a special connection to Queensland.
“My favourite memory from my last trip to Australia was the day of our wedding ceremony in Brisbane,” Milena shares with us.
“We all had a double show the night before, the ceremony was an hour drive and early in the morning and spontaneously planned.
“We were happy that the cast as well as the director Scott were part of that special day. That evening, we had one of the funnest (sic) shows!”
From the tender age of six, Milena has idolised dancers.
“My first hero as a child was Ana Pavlova, she was the reason why I became a dancer,” she states.
“Pina Bausch and Vaslav Nijinsky are my biggest heroes. They both pushed the boundaries of ‘traditional’ dance.”
It would seem that even from a young age Milena was searching for something beyond perfect technique, an edge, a way to challenge well-worn creative paths. And that in itself is what lies at the heart of Bleach* Festival, where every year artists make leaps across the boundaries that separate good performances from ground-breaking ones; reflective art from radical.
Blanc de Blanc invites you to pop the cork, and drink straight from the bottle. There’s no room for manners here. You may just find yourself intoxicated by the heady top notes followed by rich textures, a smooth body, and an utterly unexpected finish.
Blanc de Blanc runs from 29 March to 16 April at the Spiegeltent in Victoria Park. Book tickets at tickets.blancshow.com. Blank readers get 10% off any General Admission tickets purchased before 1 February with the promo code BLANK.