A Look Inside Nashville’s First Burlesque Studio


Performers Ava Dahl, BeBe McQueen and GiGi LaFemme at the grand opening of Studio Debutante, Nashville's first burlesque studio. Photo by Samantha Hearn.

Nashville is now home to Delinquent Debutantes, the city’s first official burlesque studio. The studio, located on Charlotte Avenue, is equipped with full-length mirrors, dance bars and glamorous photographs of performers adorning its magenta walls.

The studio’s grand opening, hosted by headmistress Freya West, was held earlier this month and showcased some of the city’s most well-known dancers. West has been the leader of Music City Burlesque for nearly ten years and lead a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $10,000 to open the studio.

“The best part about it is that our community helped us reach that goal,” Shan de Leers said, the Debutantes assistant manager. “We went $4,000 over our budget. It was awesome and we never expected that.”

The show, exclusively for its Kickstarter backers, featured ten performers who showcased a range of talent, from striptease to theatrics to aerial arts. Instructors Brooklyn Belle, Kinetic Kristen, and de Leers made special performances as well, all to a very responsive and engaging crowd.

The art of burlesque

Burlesque takes it’s inspiration from many different eras of entertainment, which is presented by the performers in their own unique way. Ava Dahl, a graduate of Debutantes and well-known dancer in the burlesque community, performed in costume and hair reminiscent of the 1920s. The crowd saw more modern twists on the art of striptease in performer One Chance Fancy, also a graduate, who was donned in jean shorts and a leather jacket.

But burlesque is not just about dance or striptease. It is a tool for femininity and self-expression for many performers.

“For the most part in our society, femininity is sold to us in a $14 pack of razor blades,” said Delinquent Debutantes graduate BeBe McQueen. “Our femininity is sold to us in wonder bras, and Spanx and slimming swimsuits for crying out loud. At some point in my life, I realized that I could own my own femininity.”

Most burlesque performers create a pseudonym that represents their style and persona while performing. Not all dancers strip down to pasties, such as Kinetic Kristen, an aerial artist. Burlesque is an art that can be individualized for each performer, and the studio’s debut showcased a range of acts including a cannon launch by Dolly Bootiful.

A studio for everyone

Studio Debutante offers classes and workshops, previously held at various locations in Nashville, to those who are intrigued by the art of burlesque.

“It’s nice to have a home now,” Brooklyn Belle said, who teaches Burlesque 101 on Sundays. “We’ve worked really hard on making this happen, and it’s so great to have a space to rehearse and also teach in.”

“So much of burlesque is about presenting yourself as you are, slightly made up, yes, in glitter and sparkly things, but there is no hiding the actual person that is underneath all of that once it is all stripped bare,” added McQueen. “It is an excellent way to reclaim yourself from the corporations that are selling your femininity to you, and that is what I have gained from taking classes from Freya.”

The studio encourages all shapes and sizes to come take classes.

“I have always been a semi-self conscious person,” Shan de Leers said, who teaches Burlesque 101, Booty Burn and Chair Dance. “But burlesque puts you in a place as a woman where you understand that sexuality is part of being human and that it’s okay. Some workout class you go to and might feel like the jiggliest person in the room but here, the more jiggly the better! Even if you don’t have a lot to jiggle, you still have other features. Everyone is accepted and glorified here.”

For beginners who want a six week course in striptease, there is Burlesque 101 which is $100. The next step is Burlesque 201 and 301, and once those are completed customers become graduates, or “grinduates,” as West has dubbed. The 301 class is $200 and offers more advanced burlesque techniques. Drop-in classes in yoga, hoop dance, bumps n’ grinds, and chair dance are also offered for $15. A monthly show will also be held at Studio Debutante showcasing new and seasoned performers alike.

 Delinquent Debutantes is located at 3723 Charlotte Ave. in Nashville. To view the class schedule, visit www.delinquentdebutantes.com.

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To contact Lifestyles editor John Connor Coulston, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com

To contact features editor Dylan Skye Aycock, email features@mtsusidelines.com.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Here is the article. “West has been the leader of Music City Burlesque for nearly ten years and lead a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $10,000 to open the studio.” Correction: West has been the leader of Music City Burlesque for nearly 10 years and lead a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $10,000 to open the studio. […]

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