Originally Published : 2012
Coming to the Cabaret – if you will – sounds like an experience every New Yorker should have at some point. On the other hand, maybe it only becomes a requirement if you’re trying to impress a French girl and inviting her parents helps sway her in your direction. New York City cabaret singer Flo Ankah is currently debating that dilemma and is toying with the idea of renaming her performances in favor of something that doesn’t limit her potential audience.
Considering Nightclub Performance, she hopes this opens her act to more people. "It’s still Cabaret but it’s a secret,” she says on the sly. Either way, possibly with a red dress, the corresponding lipstick is just the appetizer. "It's about the experience of the material,” she says of glowing, channeling and living her performances on stage.
The latter directly applies to her latest production in both name and spirit. Edith Piaf – Alive and Living in New York features Floanne as the 1940's French Icon – only with the benefit of 21st Century hindsight. “I imagine her 50 years older, looking back with wisdom on her life,” says the French born singer. Absent the insights, the real Piaf descended into drug addiction, public controversy and personal chaos. “A lot of people judge her and don’t appreciate some of the choices she made,” says Floanne. But Floanne is full on compassionate in her interpretation and intends to leave her audiences uplifted. “My Edith is so cool,” she says of the homage that is inspired from her own childhood memories of Edith Piaf.
A collection of original and semi-original arrangements, she’d being doing Edith a disservice if there was no journey into the factors that led to the various downfalls. “She was pretty much a method singer – like a method actor,” says Floanne. In other words, Piaf almost became a part of the songs she was singing. “I think she didn’t learn to disassociate herself from her performance,” she says. Floanne sort of does the same in monthly Metropolitan Room offering at 34 West 22nd Street. “Edith doesn’t talk to the audience. Edith talks to Floanne,” she says. “It’s a big discovery.”
In turn, the audience is rewarded with a vibe that amounts to much more than just a knowing nod. She's got it going on and plays like a wink, says Floanne of the endearing interplay. So when the secret referred to earlier plays out, a gentleman has no need of concern with his lady and the future in-laws will be fine to see it some other time. “If you take your date to my show you’re not going to sound like an old dude with old tastes. You’re going to seem both cool and cultural," she asserts.
But she admits that little French girls don’t dream of growing up and doing cabaret. She includes herself among them but gravitated toward cabaret out of her varied talents and later emigration to study at the Merce Cunningham Studio. “I’ve always been onstage because of my dancing so it’s a nice way for me to combine the things I do,” she says.
That includes her work as a filmmaker. As the founder of SIMPLE productions, Floanne is committed to the development of new work that integrates the talent of innovative artists from various cultures. For instance, ONE WAY was awarded Best Experimental Film at the 5th Big Apple Film Festival in New York City, and Waterfront Access? received the 2010 Golden Reel award for Best Dance Film at the 9th Tiburon International Film Festival in California.
Her latest film endeavor, "Boudoir Chit-Chat," is an experimental interview featuring five female artists in which she explores the lives they lead in New York City. “They get pretty intimate and personal,” she says. Her story must certainly have its parallels but being in the big city now for 10 years hasn’t spoiled her and keeping connected to her upbringing is part of her development. “It's important to me to feel down to earth, I don't ever want to lose my roots” she says. On the other hand, the sophistication she’s accrued in New York refers to her honesty as an individual and integrity as an artist. “I try to always speak my mind, to be authentic" she says, and remaining true as an artist means a day job is out.
You can’t come in to an audition stressed out from work or divide your time against your passion, because an artist needs the time to dream, she says. So this month maybe she pays the bills with her acting and next it’s the cabaret or voice over work. Otherwise, she’s also big on DIY but she believes the courage to persevere past all the obstacles comes from the little girl inside who refuses to give up - even if it means failing sometimes. “We should not compromise - at least that's the thing that keeps me going,” she concludes.
See Edith Piaf - Alive and Living on April 19th, May 17th and June 21st at the Metropolitan Room