Published: December 1, 2010
Send to a friend


At 16 years, SBF member Marissa Burgess made her professional debut in Australia in C'est si Bon. Immediately after this a call came from Paris and Marissa headed there to be part of the prestigious Bal du Moulin Rouge, where she had the privilege of performing alongside such greats as: Ella Fitgerald, Ray Charles, Mikhail Baryshikov, Sir Elton John, Svion Glover, Donald O'Connor, Charles Aznavour, Sacha Distel, Jerry Lewis and many more.
She starred in three multi-million dollar revues: Femmes Femmes Femmes, Formidable and Féerie, over 18 years, earning the title of longest serving star in the Moulin Rouge's 120 year history, a remarkable achievement officially recognized in the Guinness Book of Records.
A royal performance before the Prince and Princess of Wales at the Savoy Hotel, London, was surely a career highlight.
Marissa also made her appearance into the Paris fashion scene modeling for such prestigious brands as Dior, YSL, Byblos, Adidas, Rodier, Cacharel, Mugler, etc. and posing with Naomi Cambell, Tatiana Patitz and Elle McPherson for Italian Vogue. Marissa also participated in the largest fashion show ever held, at the Eiffel Tower.
She then moved into Company Management.
Undoubtedly more than enough to be deservedly showcased as SBF's Star of the Month.
We asked Marissa to tell us more about her showbiz life...
Marissa Burgess

Quote ...Each show has it's challenges and the sum of all the challenges makes for a fun and rounded career. That's what's great about this business...
  • How old were you when you started dancing and what inspired you to take it up?
    Paris, Moulin Rouge
Marissa in all her splendor
2000 Marissa Burgess: My Mom put me into dancing purely to ensure I had good deportment in life, as a refined kind of hobby. She didn't know that the local school was the finest in Australia and deadly serious about dedication and quality of dance. Our teacher, Miss Tessa Maunder OAM, had seen many a ballerina off to the finest companies in the world and many showgirls to Paris too.

  • What's your most memorable show and the highest moment of your life as a performer?
    MB: Formidable at the Moulin Rouge was the show I felt suited me the best. It lasted 12 years and I did every day of it (except days off and holidays of course), 2 shows per day for the most part. I counted them up and it came to over 7500 perfomances.
    It was hard, but the level of difficulty in my role and the pressure of being lead was enough to keep me stimulated artistically and physically. My partner Yoki Staaf and I had a complementary energy together on stage and we helped each other through the good and bad times. Finding this level of partnership is a real blessing in any ones career.
    I think the highlight of my life was my closing night at the Moulin Rouge. Not realising the reality of what was happening to me, that I was leaving my home of 18 years, it was just like any night, only more fun because of the vibe. Paris, Moulin Rouge
Marissa in feathers
2000 There were flowers brought to me on stage, enough bouquets to line the whole breadth of the stage, and one bouquet of 100 pink roses to match the Finale costume. So heavy I couldn't lift it! Cast and crew crying around me, fabulous gifts and lovely treatment, farewell party with parodies of me and faces in the crowd I hadn't seen in years, a cake bigger than any wedding cake. My photos lined the backstage corridors and foyer, it felt like star treatment!

  • What was your most challenging show?
    MB: Each show has it's challenges and the sum of all the challenges makes for a fun and rounded career. That's what's great about this business.
    C'est Ci Bon was the affirmation that I had chosen the right path becoming a professional dancer.
    Gold Coast, Conrad Jupiters Casino
Rhythm of the Night
Gold Coast magazine
Marissa on front cover
2002 Femmes, Femmes, Femmes was finding my feet, personality, assimilating the style within the Moulin Rouge.
    Formidable establishing myself as outright lead, learning staying power, improving on my role in the finest detail.
    Féerie letting go and trusting instincts, comfortable in improvising and being more artistically free.
    Rhythm of the Night first live singing contract, how to stop dancing and just sing.
    Etc. etc.
    One of the most challenging things was just meeting the expectations of my choreographer Billy Goodson. He would push my boundaries and I'd have to find a way to please him. I think however the most challenging thing was to be able to go on stage every day and always remain fresh. I remember being shocked about people losing their passion on stage and becoming jaded and, at a young age. I told myself: "Never allow that to happen!".

  • What's your funniest moment on stage?
    MB: Well wasn't funny at the time, but being in the spot light alone at the top of a stair case, getting my heel caught in my trouser leg and sliding down a flight of stairs on my knees all the way to the floor. Hearing the collective gasp of a thousand people and realising that the playback of my 'voice' was still going. Standing up to continue on in a three way adage. I wasn't hurt (much), but boy, my pride was. Gold Coast, Conrad Jupiters Casino
Marissa in Rhythm of the Night

  • What was your most embarrassing costume?
    MB: Gee! am I weird? I never had an embarrassing costume, I thought they were all lovely.

  • Did you ever have a show, where everything went wrong?
    MB: Not that I recall specifically, but there are days when you just can't pull it together and the more you try, the worse it gets!
    Second performance always seems to be better than first, more warmed up and in a better mood.
    Injuries are always the real downer. When there's a serious injury you feel like your whole world has come to an end.
    Once I busted up my ankle from a lift gone wrong (not my usual partner) and had to crawl off stage on all fours in the middle of a battle scene with a horse galloping around me.
    Only to fall in a heap in the wing, and realize I was in the horses exit wing and he was on his way. Then I scrambled into a tiny little space between decors only to find that I was scratched all over from the set glitter, lights and electrical ties.

  • What's the strangest audience you have performed for?
    MB: Once in Sheraton Walker Hill there were so few people in the audience, the MD decided to get the waiters to put their personal coats on and sit at the tables to make up some kind of respectable audience size.
    Otherwise with a table full of Saudis, the women clad in full burka with their backs to the shows and heads down while the men watched openly and drank alcohol.

    Quote ...Many times in my career as a dancer, I have been frustrated at a certain situation, but not able to do anything about it. Company Management has been quite liberating for this reason, if I see a problem I can fix it...

  • You made the changeover from performer to choreographer/company manager. Please tell us about some of your productions.
    MB: I was brought into Company Management by Dion & Randall in Jupiters Casino. Despite no formal training in Management, I fell into the job quite naturally. I think having been an artist myself, I can anticipate what their needs will be before they do. It's been very rewarding in that sense.
    I'm able to stay in and amongst my people and I don't mind the paper work side of things. Many times in my career as a dancer, I have been frustrated at a certain situation, but not able to do anything about it. Company Management has been quite liberating for this reason, if I see a problem I can fix it. I get a great kick out of watching the dancers and acts get their items together and watch them settle into a season. I like to help them when they're not quite in the mood and motivate them if they get in a rut.
    Seoul, Sheraton Grande Walker Hill
Marissa between showgirls

  • What are you doing now?
    MB: Right now I'm about to bump in 4 shows. 3 of my own companies and help my husband with his acts too. I have 15 beautiful ladies to choreograph, costume, manage and put on stage, and I am so proud of the quality of these experienced showgirls and their level of charisma and character. Not to mention dance quality. We shall be in three different venues in Germany, all in the Spiegeltents of the Palazzo company.
    Notably I am employing, former Showbiz Friends Star of the Month, Herma Vos, who I idolised as a young girl on the TV. Until last year I have been performing myself as lead of one of my groups, but this year I have given her my own place. I am so excited to work with a star of that calibre. Herma inspired me to be the best lead I could be and I hope to learn still something more from her and see her live for the first time. I am pleased to offer her the occasion to do the white ostrich feathers again and be once again in a starring role where she belongs.

  • Do you have any plans for the future?
    MB: After spending many years at the Moulin Rouge attempting to make plans and not arriving at any real conclusion, I realize now that doors just open and we have a choice to go through them or not. I don't make any more plans, if I do they don't work out, and anyhow the best things just come along naturally when you're open to people.

  • How have your Showbiz years helped you in your life after the stage and if you could do it all over again, would you?
    MB: I would do it all over again and not really need to change anything. I like the fact that I can still be marvelled and enjoy growth as much as when I was 16 and starting out. I think it's a shame to have everything too young.
    The experiences all build up and can be transferred into any type of new work avenue. Dancers in general are more disciplined people and have better work ethics than most people anyhow, therefore always have a place in any workforce. That I was able to stay in Showbiz makes me very happy, I like to explore my own world, but from different angles. Mannheim, Palazzo
Les Déesses
Jade, Leah, Sammy, Marissa & Megan

  • What advice would you give to up and coming performers and what, from your own experience, are the "do's & don't" of this business?
    Quote ...I remember being shocked about people losing their passion on stage and becoming jaded and, at a young age. I told myself: "Never allow that to happen!"...
    MB: I would say: "Watch your elders". Research and take an interest in the history of your art. I really don't think anyone is doing anything groundbreakingly different from the past stars. Therefore once a performer has studied all the prior stars and understood their techniques and qualities and assimilated them, then their own brand of character is created by simply being themselves with smart extras learnt from the past icons.
    I don't think there will ever be anyone better than Marylyn Monroe, for example. I can't wait to get my hands on the new book coming out about her. I'm hoping there is something more in there about her that I can learn.
    I learned a lot from Diane MacDonald and Belinda Smith especially and my first inspiration of course was my sister Corina Burgess.
    I was privileged to see all these grand ladies on stage and in person and my whole purpose was to follow in their footsteps.

  • What do you think of ShowBiz Friends?
    MB: I was very pleased to see a website that was obviously needed to fill the gaps where the other sites fall short.
    Something for us showgirls and for the working people, the ones that just get on with it and cram as many shows into their careers. The youngsters need to see where they can go and what are their openings and Showbiz Friends is very practical in that sense.

    Thank you Marissa for this enticing interview!