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How taking a burlesque class can empower women (and men) on the Coast

Burlesque, bellydance in the spotlight in Ocean Springs

Dancers practice dance moves at Vega Bellydance Studio in Ocean Springs.
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Dancers practice dance moves at Vega Bellydance Studio in Ocean Springs.

The women who participate in Jackie McDuffee’s burlesque classes at Vega Bellydance Studio may not ever perform a striptease on stage or show their choreography to a live audience.

But they still pick out a stage name. And they’ll learn about the history of burlesque, choreography and even how to properly take off elbow-length gloves and feather boas.

McDuffee, a lifelong performer and member of Sultry Southern Sirens burlesque group, said her classes provide women (and men) with a workout while empowering them to feel sexy and confident.

McDuffee said its important for her students to develop their alter ego in class.

“That’s part of the fun of it,” she said. “Not everyone can just feel comfortable. Jackie McDuffee does not take her clothes off on stage. Bridgitte Boudoir does that. She’s wild. Jackie is not wild.”

Not everyone can just feel comfortable. Jackie McDuffee does not take her clothes off on stage. Bridgitte Boudoir does that. She’s wild. Jackie is not wild.

Jackie McDuffee, Vega Bellydance Studio

McDuffee has been a burlesque dancer for six years, but she has been involved in the theater for as long as she can remember. She grew up singing in church in Jackson County.

When she was 10 years old, McDuffee played Baby Louise in a production of “Gypsy,” and that’s when she said she knew she wanted to dance. She remembers being a fifth-grader in Catholic school and getting in trouble for singing “Let Me Entertain You.”

“It just struck a chord with me for some reason,” she said. “At 10 years old, I decided I was going to be in burlesque.”

McDuffee teaches a booty burlesque class and a burlesque basics and chair class at the dance studio. People who participate in the $90 basics class will learn a full burlesque routine in six weeks.

The workout is intense, and McDuffee said most students say the day after practice they’re sore in places they never knew could be sore.

“It’s a good workout,” she said. “My husband always says it’s not as easy at it looks.”

McDuffee hopes students will feel powerful, strong and beautiful after completing her courses. To have a moment to be another person for an hour is vital in the process.

“To have that moment for an hour to get to be this other person, I think that’s valuable,” she said. “Every person should be able to step outside themselves and live a little fantasy.”

Sultry Southern Sirens will perform at the Juke Joint on Dec. 3. The theme of the show is a nod to the 1990s. There will be comedy, improv, and lots of choreographed routines, McDuffee said. And the women who make up the burlesque group? They are a diverse group of professionals of all shapes and sizes.

“These are professional women who do a variety of jobs everyday,” McDuffee said. “We’re real women that embrace our sexuality and we embrace the funny side of life.”

Vega Bellydance offers a variety of dance and fitness classes at the St. Martin studio, from Zumba to yoga to classical dance to advanced bellydance classes. They also offer classes for beginners and classes that involve bellydance props. More information about rates and class times are available on Vega Bellydance’s website.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J

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