Originally published in Redbrick (redbrickpaper.co.uk)
An interview with Rebecca Musgrove, burlesque artist and recent graduate (no nepotism involved…almost).
What inspired you to go for such an unusual job?
I think it was a love of performing combined with a love of the art of Burlesque. I studied Musical Theatre for three years, and didn’t want to go and work in a supermarket once I had finished. I finally felt confident enough to try something I’d always loved from a distance. I wanted to combine everything I could do on stage: singing, acting, making people laugh and creating my own acts – it just seemed very appealing after three years of a strict uni regime.
How did you go about pursuing this career?
Up until recently the idea of a Burlesque career was a bit of a fantasy; the kind of thing I was never actually brave enough to think of doing. But after university was finished I was eager to try something new. After looking into and being turned down for a lot of very straight-edged performance jobs I thought ‘Why the hell can’t I do Burlesque?’ I love it, and I’m not a very ‘mainstream’ kind of person anyway – so I went from dreaming about my dream job to actually going for it. It was the perfect opportunity to use everything I had learned in my degree and channel it into something I truly love doing.
Was it hard finding employment after graduating in this economic climate?
After finishing university I worked in a diner for a couple of months. I knew it would be hard to find another job, and it has been. Trawling though websites and papers every day really gets you down and often I wanted to give up, but I knew that wasn’t an option. I was lucky enough to have a lot of help from family to get to my audition, and I was willing to move 400 miles from home to do what I love. Obviously you need to be able to pay the bills, but in performance you can’t be scared to just go for it. I’ve always worked without a Plan B – without a safety net you’re less inclined to fall. It is very, very hard, but it’s possible.
What are your inspirations?
Routine inspiration comes from all over the place. I normally think ‘what would I want to see?’ I love slapstick and parody; most of my routines are quite comical and involve farcical situations and costumes. I enjoy taking things people are familiar with and turning them into something quite risqué – like my Garden of Eden routine set to the music of Slayer (although I still love a good bit of traditional Swing to tease to!) It’s important not to become a copycat. I also sing – singing was my first love, so I will always do my best to get a good show tune in there somewhere!
What are the upsides to being a Burlesque entertainer? And are there any downsides?
The best thing is that I’m doing what I love. It’s very fun coming up with my own routines and finding new and original ways of teasing and entertaining the audience. I’ve always loved the stress and pressures of live performance; moving around from place to place, adapting to new audiences and getting made-up in tiny bathrooms. All the joy and all the stress makes it worthwhile. If you can’t handle these elements then perhaps it’s not for you. I’m lucky and intend to enjoy every moment of this job – even when I’m tired from dancing for hours, or I can’t get a costume to work properly. These are all things that come with the territory and dealing with them is half the fun!
Rebecca Musgrove dances as Carmen Havalook with the Etrois dance troupe.