This Friday at the Thirsty Hippo, local dance troupe Hattiesburlesque will bring its particular style of entertainment to the Hub City in a special show, ‘Part Deux.’
According to the Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburlesque began in 2014, with musical director Abigail Lenz Allen and lead choreographer Rebecca Chandler teaming up to bring a new, more risqué form of art to the town.
Women of all ages and body types were invited to show their talents and audition for the troupe.
Allen told the Hattiesburg American that she believes Hattiesburlesque is about celebrating self-confidence.
“What I actually think we’re here doing is lifting up women and celebrating women in all different body shapes and all different ages and that all women are beautiful,” she said.
Burlesque is a diverse form of entertainment, with a variety of acts compromising a single show.
This show has a “Love is a Circus” theme, complete with pearls and circus-themed shows. Performers will hula-hoop, sing, dance, twirl batons and many other acts.
A few of these lovely women are also students at The University of Southern Mississippi, where their backgrounds are as diverse as their talents.
Maria Shumaker, a junior dance major, was born in Russia and went to high school in Brandon, Mississippi.
She heard about the dance troupe through the Department of Dance at Southern Miss and decided to try it out. While she also dances in the larger company numbers, her individual solo dance is both fun and sensual.
“For my solo I am dancing to (the song) ‘Whatever Lola Wants,’ and it’s going to have a lot of cheeky moments,” she said. “I am also going to be draped in all pearls.”
Amy Allegrezza, a senior advertising major, explained that her route into the burlesque troupe was a little more unconventional. “I actually missed the audition in order to audition for (another dance troupe),” she said.
“Maria taught me the audition dance and I decided to show up for the first practice. I walked in and pretended that I’d been at the audition. They didn’t know (that I hadn’t) until a few weeks later when I finally told them.”
The first show of the new troupe was performed in October to a sold-out crowd. “People loved it,” said Allegrezza. “I still hear about my (jazz adaptation of) ‘All About that Bass.’ (People in Hattiesburg) have taken to (burlesque) a lot more than I would have predicted.”
She also contributed the success of the show to the city of Hattiesburg’s artistic leanings.
“Hattiesburg is really metropolitan and open minded. I really think that if it had happened in any other town in Mississippi, people wouldn’t have been as receptive.”
Shumaker said the success of Hattiesburlesque is attributed to the relationship that the performers have both on and offstage. “We didn’t know each other when we first met and we became friends,” she said. “I would have to say we all click together.”
While the acts are sexy and sultry, this show remains firmly PG-13. “We’re a very mild version of burlesque,” Allegrezza said.“Hattiesburg specifically has very (strict) nudity laws. We have someone who does ‘panty police,’ who watches the last run and makes sure nothing has the possibility of slipping out.”
With the success of their first show in Hattiesburg, the women are taking the show on the road.
Ardenland, a booking company that recently hosted Seryn and Young Valley at the Thirsty Hippo, offered to bring the girls to perform in Duling Hall in Jackson, which holds up to 500 people at once. The show sold quickly for their Feb. 20 performance date.
“It’s amazing,” Allegrezza said. “I’m so excited to perform in my hometown.”
Hattiesburlesque is sponsored by Southern Prohibition Brewery and in conjunction with the Grand Ballroom of Hattiesburg.
Tickets are currently sold out for all shows on Feb. 13 and 14 in Hattiesburg. However, through the Ardenland website, some tickets are still available for the Feb. 20 show in Duling Hall of Jackson.
For more information on the performers or the show itself, check out their website at www.hattiesburlesque.com.