Top roles at Lido

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Two Australian performers are about to make their debut at the Lido in Paris, writes Hillary Sukhonos.

Leah Dominiak; photo by Kris Ashpole.
Leah Dominiak; photo by Kris Ashpole.

After 18 months of theatre closures in France, the two Australian showgirls received their promotion to the principal position called "Sublime", the most esteemed title in the company of the Lido de Paris in France.

On Thursday night (September 16), they will debut as soloists.

“Aussies are taking over!” Leah Dominiak said with a laugh when asked what she thinks about the recent promotion.

From Orange, NSW, Leah has been in high demand ever since she left home at age 18 to take her first international contract. Six years later, she heard about the new revue at the Lido de Paris and jumped at the chance to try out. Auditions were held in Amsterdam, London, Berlin and Paris with hundreds of hopefuls attending each one. Leah was one of the select few chosen to be the original cast of Paris Merveilles. They were looking for the best of the best and they found it in her.

“I am proud to represent the Lido as one of their principal dancers,” she says.

The other Australian is Savanna Haenel, who arrived in Paris on her 18th birthday to start her career at the Lido de Paris in 2017.

Savanna is from the Gold Coast and comes from a family of French cabaret stars. Her aunt, Marissa Burgess, was a Moulin Rouge principal for 16 years. Her mother, Corina Burgess, was a principal at Lido de Paris. And her father, Gunnar Haenel, was a specialty act at the Lido where he met Savanna’s mother. One could say it’s in her genes, but it takes more than that to become a Sublime in France’s top cabaret.

Savanna Haenel; photo by Hindmarsh Productions.
Savanna Haenel; photo by Hindmarsh Productions.

Sitting like a jewel on the Champs Elysees, the Lido de Paris attracts movie stars like Johnny Depp, footballers like Neymar, and just about every tourist who visits Paris. Lido dancers perform next to celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival, appear on French award shows and high profile sporting events. The theatre has a long history of hosting and developing France's most beloved stars.

The women's promotion coincides with the announcement that the remains of Josephine Baker, the American-born showgirl and resistance fighter, is to receive the highest honour in France by being inducted into Paris' Panthéon mausoleum, making her the first black woman to receive the honour.

French showgirls are important influencers in society. French cabaret can be seen as the expression of beauty, liberty and female empowerment. Certainly, these two new stars of Lido are happy to return the stage after a year of uncertainty. They want Australian dancers to keep strong, train hard, and reach for their goals.

If you need any inspiration, follow Leah Dominiak at @leah_dancing and Savanna Haenel at @shecreativeindustries where she highlights upcoming Australian performers.

About the Author: Hillary Sukhonos is an American showgirl in France who believes sequins, feathers, and intelligence go together.
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