The Average Salary of a Burlesque Performer

Written by wanda thibodeaux
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The Average Salary of a Burlesque Performer
Burlesque got its start in vaudeville, with the first performers being the strippers of their day. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Burlesque performers appear in acts and skits that are intended to engage laughter; the performances often are parodies of serious works. Burlesque performers usually use strip teases of various levels of vulgarity to have fun and achieve this effect. Most burlesque professionals earn wages that top out around £29 per hour or show, although there is a wide range of pay depending on the artist's talent, availability of work and experience.

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Typical Rates

A burlesque performer can make anywhere from around £5 to £29 an hour, according to 2011 data from the Salary Box website. Rates vary widely by region. However, burlesque performers set their own rates. It isn't unusual for a popular dancer to ask £32 to £65 per hour as of 2011. The number of shows also varies widely, which is why most sources do not have annual figures for burlesque performers.

The majority of burlesque performers consider themselves to be artists and actors and draw a clear distinction between themselves and dancers in strip clubs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, actors earned £5.50 to £41 in 2010, with an average rate of £18. This is consistent with the Salary Box data; burlesque performers make about the same amount of money general actors do.

The Clothing Impact

Most burlesque performers do not consider themselves to be strippers, according to a report conducted by Cheryl Murfin of the Seattle Woman Magazine. In fact, many go to great lengths to create quality skits and authentic period costumes. Even so, burlesque performers are expected to act sensually.

Other Funds

In addition to the regular performances burlesque professionals do, some burlesque performers agree to give private dances on the side. These dances follow the same artistic guidelines as regular shows -- that is, the dancer never strips down completely nude -- but they can be a little more risque if desired. These shows can be a source of additional income. Some performers also earn extra funds by teaching burlesque to others or even lecturing about the art form. Making costumes for other dancers is yet another income source -- each costume can sell for hundreds or even for thousands.

Bottom Line

Like other actors and performers, burlesque performers are paid by the hour or per show, and employment is inconsistent. Although you may set your own rate, the inconsistency of jobs and the cost of costumes means you probably will need another job to support yourself.

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