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My Career: Burlesque dancer Dee Keaveney


By Dee Keaveney
30th Oct 2022

Mantas Bru

My Career: Burlesque dancer Dee Keaveney

Dee Keaveney – a.k.a. Daria Décolleté – is a professional burlesque dancer from Galway, who has performed all around the world. Recently awarded the prestigious title of Entertainer of the Year at Mx Burlesque Ireland, here she shares more about her art form and how she spends a typical day in the life.

Did you always want to be a burlesque dancer?
Not strictly burlesque but yes, dancing has been my dream job since before I can remember. As a child, I wanted to be a ballerina, as a teenager I fantasized about being in musical theatre and now I get to incorporate all my passions into burlesque.

In college, I studied… dance! I attended the College of Dance in Dublin for two years and Broadway Dance Center in New York for a year, training in ballet, jazz, contemporary and street styles.

Photo by Sean McCormack

My most formative work experience was… I went to India in 2018 to dance for the Indian Premier League cheerleading squads. It was one of the best but most challenging jobs I ever took. I found a lot of inner strength and learned to really trust my instincts and pay attention to my own needs and wants.

My first real job was… working as a waitress at weddings in my local hotel. All credit and respect to waitstaff, they’re doing God’s work!

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… perseverance! Show business is not easy. You will hear the word ‘No’ a hundred times before you hear the word ‘Yes’. I learned to pick myself up after a bad audition and just keep going going, it’s never personal.

A common misconception about what I do is… Burlesque is commonly perceived to be all about the glitz and glamour, people think all that’s involved is strutting around in fancy costumes. While that certainly is an element of burlesque, the modern industry is much more diverse and there are many niches within burlesque itself. It can be gritty and real, it tells stories that are relatable and true. It can be really, really funny too! Comedy is a huge part of burlesque, the origins of burlesque come from mocking the upper classes and that still continues today. The range is unbelievable, draglesque, gorelesque, queerlesque, boylesque, all have their place under the one umbrella.

My main responsibility in work is to… entertain of course! People pay good money for tickets to a show and the world is a tough place these days. My job is to make people forget that for a while, to make them laugh and smile and remind them that good things happen!

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
There is an incredibly talented and supportive burlesque scene in Ireland. I’m lucky to be friends with many people I would call mentors. I am continuously inspired by the creativity and talent of Ireland’s burlesque performers – there are honestly too many to mention!

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… moving home from London. I hustled hard there as a dancer for years but my mental health was deteriorating. I decided to move home to Ireland knowing I might be retiring from the stage. Thankfully the opposite happened. I found burlesque, which feels like my true calling, and now I work and perform, both here and in the UK, more than ever.

I wake at…  whatever time allows me to snooze the alarm three times.

The first thing I do every morning is… drink as much tea as possible.

My morning routine is… on a show day, I wake up early and do some yoga. I travel a lot for shows so a good stretch helps my body cope with sitting on a bus or train. I make a list of all the costume pieces I need and tick them off as I pack. Then I do my hair if needed (I wear wigs on stage normally), double-check where the venue is and what my journey time will be and hit the road.

Photo by Wild Dairy Photography

I can’t go to work without… boob tape! Have you wondered how nipple tassels stay on? Double-sided tape is a burlesque dancer’s best friend.

I travel to work by… train or bus usually.

On an average workday I… wear a tonne of makeup; there’s nothing subtle about my stage face. I have been mistaken for a drag queen before and it’s always a weird look when accompanied by leggings and a hoody.

I start my working day at… usually two or three hours before the show starts as that’s when I arrive at the venue.

The first thing I do at work is… have a quick tech rehearsal with sound and light, get my hair and makeup done and do a full warm-up to get my body ready for the stage.

I usually spend the first portion of the day… backstage, chatting with the other performers, getting ready and going over the act in my head.

I break for lunch at… whenever I can spare 20 minutes. I’ll eat whatever the venue is serving!

The most useful business tool I use every day is… social media. I get the majority of my booking enquires through my Instagram page (@dariadecollete) and it’s an essential tool for promoting, not only the shows you’re in, but yourself as an exciting, entertaining and professional performer.

I save time by… if I have to, I do my make-up en route to the venue. I much prefer taking my time in front of a mirror with good lighting, but needs must sometimes.

I rarely get through my working day without… coffee!

The best part of my day is… stepping onto that stage and performing an act that has been completely created by me. My vision, my choreography, my costuming – nobody else’s influence. It’s tremendously satisfying. That and taking off my eyelashes at the end of it all!

Photo by Peter O Hanlon

The most challenging part of my day is… the travel. I love getting to perform all over the country and Europe but the travel is certainly hard on my body, much more so than dancing.

I know it’s been a good day if… there’s a happy, smiling cheering audience at the end.

I usually end my day at… anytime between 10pm and 2am.

I switch off from work by… having a scalding hot shower, eating whatever I can get my hands on and watching The US Office.

Before I go to bed, I’ll… deep cleanse my face and pop on a night mask. My skin can really take a pounding.

I often prepare for tomorrow by… unpacking that night’s costumes and packing whatever I need for the next show, if that’s different.

After a long work week, I destress by… long walks outside.

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… being awarded the title of Entertainer of the Year at Mx Burlesque Ireland.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… take burlesque classes, go to see your local shows, get to know the people and performers who are running events. Also, read up on burlesque history, it’s so important to know about how it all started and the legends responsible for this art form. It will really help in creating your own work.

I’ve just finished working on… getting ready to teach Burlesque 101 and old-school pole classes at the Irish Pole Dance Academy for the next 6 weeks!