In French the phrase L'ART DU NU - the art of the nude - is synonymous with an elegant Arrondissement of Paris. It is the world famous Crazy Horse, which has been unsurpassed for nearly half a century as a radical innovation that exalts the female form as both artistic expression and entertainment. More than five million people have watched the Crazy Horse show in its beautifully appointed theater on the Avenue George V, right next door to the House of Balenciaga and across the street from Yves St. Laurnet. Since its founding by Alain Bernardin, it has evolved through three distinct phases.
THE EARLY DAYS (1951 - 1960)
The Crazy Horse was founded in 1951 by Alain Bernardin, an amateur artist and full-time antiques dealer who had long been fascinated by two seemingly disparate notions - the American Western movie genre with its mythological saloons and historic legends, and the beauty of the female form. His first show was on May 19, 1951, in the basement of a smart building on the Avenue George V, near the Place de l'Alma. It represented his attempt to break away from the post war fashion strictures of the Left Bank and the St. Germain des Prés. Although intrigued by the«Taboo» nude shows being staged by Boris Vian, Bernardin wanted to create something more striking than the traditional American striptease and yet acceptable to a wide audience. He played with light and color projected on a single girl without choreography. He experimented with strobe-like effects and other innovations. Some of his dancers became legends in their own right, and even today there are fond memories of Doda d'Hambourg and Rita Renoir.
THE BIRTH OF THE SIGNATURE
«CRAZY HORSE STYLE» (1960 - 1989)
In the 1960's, a cultural and artistic revolution began in France ad America, and the Crazy Horse show changed with the times in ways that increased its fame - and artistic reputation. Its was the time of the New Wave Cinema, of Neo-Realism in European art, of Pop Art and the Nouveau Roman, Avant-Garde fashion and resurging interest in the performing arts. Bernardin began to move away from the individual towards the collective.
His figures became what he called «living pictures» using one or more dancers. Each number became an individual show with its own choreography, set and lighting. There was a constant flow of new ideas and original musical accompaniment. Bernardin achieved his goal - the sublimation of art into the female form. Art was woman, and woman was art.
PERFECTING THE EXPERIENCE
(1989 - PRESENT).
The Crazy Horse is to a strip show what a chamber ensemble is to a punk rock band. Bernardin developed a style built on an intimate complicity between the dancer and spectator. The only thing holding him back from realizing his larger dreams was the small size of his theater. That was solved in 1989 when he expanded the theater, solved a variety of technical problems and improved on his original formula. In the final seven years of his life, he raised the Crazy Horse to the level of L'ART DU NU - where all the dancers are perfectly integrated into the full choreography of the piece, creating the most portent possible visual effect through their movement and bodies. Original music is now accompanied by more subtle lighting effects. Each number contains a steam of subliminal messages that fed the spectator's subconscious. The images are almost dreamlike. In the same way that lighting has played such an important role in the art of the film thriller, Bernardin played with our expectations like a magician using light to weave his spell on the living picture. With L'ART DU NU, he has left an exceptional testament to creativity and art. His unique genius was his ability to invent and reinvent the female form as modern art.
Bernardin's daughter and two sons are the inheritors of his marvelous tradition, and through them his dreams live on as they both preserve and advance the elegance and excellence of the Crazy Horse.