In the photos she took for the cover of the 2013 “Fantasy” Calendar, Tracey Gittins’ toned, beautiful body glistens. But if we were to visit her at home, we might find her covered in baking flour.
Tracey takes off almost all her clothes on stage, but the seductive solo she dances only shows off half her beauty.
Offstage, she’s kind of a geek. She describes herself as a “homebody” and “Game of Thrones” as “horrifically fantastic.”
Plus, she makes a killer red velvet cake.
“I’m a Libra,” Tracey says, “and I like balance.” She loves that at work she’s sexy, empowered, womanly and “very much in control.”
“And when I go home, I’m like Martha Stewart,” she says. “I look to cook. I like to bake. I like to have a nice clean house. I just started a vegetable garden.”
Tracey feels lucky that she gets to feel completely liberated every time she performs. She dances in cowboy boots, high heels and bare feet. She shows off almost every inch of her body to a new, adoring crowd each night.
She guesses that a lot of women wish they could do what she does.
“Maybe that’s when they dress up in the bedroom,” she says. “[They] put stockings on and sexy lingerie, and they go to town. But I get to do that on stage every night.”
Far from conflicting with her “other” life as a domestic goddess, her role as a topless dancer rounds out her personality. She even thinks that it makes it possible for her to live her quiet life during the day.
“I actually worry about what I’m going to be like when I stop dancing,” Tracey says. “Am I going to start wearing stockings and lingerie to the grocery store just to get my kicks?”
When she got her first professional dance contract at 19, Tracey would never have imagined performing in a topless revue.
She remembers the first time a producer pitched her the idea.
“He said to me, ‘If you go topless, you’ll get more money and you’ll get the best dance roles,’” she says. “And when he said, ‘the best dance roles,’ that was it. I was like, ‘I’ll do it!’”
She explains that a dancer would never take a job for the money alone (“It’s always for the art,” she says) but that she found she would do almost anything to dance and perform on stage.
And after her first topless show, she found that she loved it.
“I felt so beautiful and sexy and empowered,” she said. “I was like, ‘Waaaaaaaa!’”
Topless shows have a wealthy heritage in Las Vegas. The first, called “French Extravaganzas,” arrived in the 1950s and carried an element shock owing to their display of nearly nude dancers as sexual outlaws.
The tradition has evolved significantly since then, with most topless performers bringing extensive classical dance experience to their roles and audiences gradually coming to understand the art form as a glorification of the female form.
Dancing in “Fantasy” takes excellent training and very, very hard work. That’s part of what makes Tracey so proud of what she does.
“I can’t wait to tell my grandkids,” she says.
I ask her how “Fantasy” cast members balance their professional responsibilities with their family lives — especially where bearing children is concerned.
She explains that the dancers can take unpaid maternity leave and that during her tenure with the show, two new mothers have returned to the stage looking as great as ever.
She says that the women she dances with enjoy complete support from their significant others — but not everyone is so understanding.
“There have been a couple of boyfriends that have … not even allowed the girl to audition for ‘Fantasy’ because he doesn’t want her to go topless,” Tracey says. “That [shows] a lack of respect for what we do, because if you saw how hard we’ve trained and how hard we work, [you would realize] it’s not about the boobs at all.”
This issue touches a chord with Tracey. She identifies misconceptions about what she and her colleagues do as the most significant challenge she faces as a woman performer in an adult show.
“We’re classy, respectable women, ” she says. “We’re trained dancers, and we just happen to not have a bra on on stage.”:
Tracey says that audiences at “Fantasy” are usually respectful — much more, she points out, than the average audience at an adult revue that features male dancers. Men in the audience usually clap politely for the performers during the show and, when they have a chance to meet the women afterward, report being surprised at the level of dance skill they demonstrate.
“I think the challenge for me is in my head,” Tracey says. “It’s not like people are saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to see your tits.’ It doesn’t represent itself as an immediate challenge … but especially in Vegas, these are not real thespian theater-goers. They’re just your average Joe.”
She feels that though her audiences don’t say so to her face, they expect her to be someone different than who she is. And knowing that is a challenge, even though she is proud of herself as a dancer.
Still, how the women look is a large part of the job.
“My boss can tell in three seconds if she likes you and if you’re going to be a good dancer,” Tracey says. “She’s very adamant that you have to have a nice attitude. And you have to have nice hair. And she’ll change your hair color if she doesn’t like it. You’ve got to have a certain look.”
But “Fantasy” dancers don’t face the kind of hurdles that women performers in traditional shows like “Jubilee!” do.
“I never considered Vegas because back in the day [because there was only] ‘Jubilee!,’ and you had to be six feet tall and skinny as a rake,” she said. “And I’m 5’6″ and I have an ass and hips.”
At “Fantasy,” there are littler women and bigger women, blondes, and brunettes, and performers of many ethnicities. There are twenty-somethings and dancers approaching 40 years old.
Tracey describes herself as “an open book.” She answers my questions about everything from cosmetic surgery (Sometimes “Fantasy” dancers get breast implants, but it’s always for themselves — never for a contract.) to aging (“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be 37 and still on stage. In Las Vegas. With my boobs out,” she says. “How are my joints still even working?”)
I find out that she loves the show’s bed scene (where three girls dance and romp around together with pillows and blankets) and that she can’t salsa to save her life. (“I am so white, and I suck at it so badly,” she says. “And the solo happens to come after that, so thank God I don’t have to do salsa.”)
I learn most of all that there is no one recipe for a “Fantasy” dancer. But Tracey does have few good ones for cakes! Try this. She says that no matter what you do, it always comes out great.
Tracey’s Perfect Red Velvet Cake
- Unsalted butter at room temperature (for pans)
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (plus more for dusting)
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 whole bottle (1 fluid ounce) red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon good quality pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup warm low-fat milk with half a lemon squeezed into it (Tracey microwaves it for 30 seconds to a minute until warm to the touch.)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two nine-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Butter lining. Dust with cocoa, tapping out excess. Set aside.
- Whisk together flour, salt and cocoa in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Mix sugar and oil with an electric whisk on medium speed until combined. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix in food coloring and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
- Stir together baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl. Add baking soda mixture to batter. Mix on medium speed 10 seconds. Don’t over-mix!
- Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until toothpicks inserted into centers come out clean (30 – 35 minutes). Let cool completely in pans on wire racks.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 eight-ounce blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
- 3-6 cups of powdered confectioner’s sugar (Use more or less depending on what consistency you like.)
- 1 teaspoon good quality pure vanilla extract
- Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Sift powdered sugar in small batches into creamed mixture until you get your desired consistency. (Tracey writes: “Sometimes I’ll add a bit of milk to thin it out. I totally eyeball it [and of course stick my CLEAN finger in to taste]! If you skip the sifting it may be more work to get the lumps out!”)
- Use a spatula or knife to spread it all over the cake (top and sides). Decorate with whatever you desire — chopped walnuts, sprinkles or chocolate flakes.
- Eat and enjoy!