BZ Interviews
Spotlight on: Miss Betsy Rose

This award-winning classic burlesque star has toured the globe, from South Korea to South Africa, as well as being a much-loved fixture at Crazy Coqs. She tells us why this historic art form has captured her heart…

What drew you to burlesque?

I studied at Masters Performing Arts in Essex, and while I had an enormous passion for the stage and dancing, I didn’t feel creatively satisfied. At the same time, burlesque, which has always gone through ebbs and flows of popularity, was re-emerging in London in an exciting new way. When I graduated fifteen years ago, with a background in ballet, I was ready to explore the art form. What I love about burlesque is that it’s so unique to the performer – for me it’s about authentic self-expression and confidence. I call it the ‘wild west’ of the performance industry because as a genre it’s so encompassing. It cannot be taught in the conventional sense or constrained to a syllabus.

What special ingredients do you think comprise a truly memorable evening of burlesque?

As a term, ‘burlesque’ is interesting because it means ‘parody’ and started life as a way of storytelling and making social commentary in a creative, often witty, way. I see it as an extension of cabaret and variety, performed with confidence and intimacy. For me, it’s not about the male gaze, but about the kind of empowerment that tends to make other women instantly connect with it. Above all, I believe you have to break down the fourth wall and take your audience on a journey. My own performances are classic and tend to be associated with nostalgia and escapism. The elements of live music, hosting, audience participation and different styles of dance and movement are key.

What is it about the 1920s that intrigues you?

I think it’s the idea of so much freedom and creativity re-emerging after the First World War. The Roaring Twenties were innovative, hedonistic and glamorous – music, clothes, art and fashion went through a revolution. What a time to live!

Tell us how you came to set up The Beguiling Hour Cabaret?

I’ve been lucky that burlesque has always complemented other sides of my work such as film and TV which has enabled me to meet so many types of performers. Nearly a decade ago, I started producing, with an emphasis on classic burlesque. The Beguiling Hour Cabaret was actually born out of lockdown and is my first solo producing project. I missed performing so much and wanted to whisk myself back to a place of joy. So I created exactly the show that I dreamt of coming back to. It features live music, a captivating host, classic burlesque and vaudevillian acts inspired by a bygone era. I hope it transports the audience to a magical place.

What have been your highlights here at Crazy Coqs over the years?

There have been so many – what stands out for me is that it’s such a wonderfully intimate space and the live music element really adds an edge. I think my first performances after lockdown will always feel special as they represented a much-needed and emotional return to the stage for so many of us. Also, the building itself feels other-worldly, which is so fitting.

And in your career in general?

I’d had such a varied career that has taken me all over the globe. It’s always a thrill to witness the reaction of different types of audiences around the world, from South Korea (there, the audience showed their appreciation by waving!) to South Africa. Recently, we performed in Dubai, which felt culturally significant. The emphasis there was on understated elegance. Another highlight was getting the chance to perform on the Orient Express – it was a thrill to pay homage to the Golden Age of Travel.

What can we expect from Miss Betsy Rose next?

Spending more time in my beloved London is right at the top of the list, both in terms of producing and performing. I do love a London audience. Let’s face it, you have to work a little harder for them as they’ve seen so much before. And I do love that creative challenge.