Fabulous Funcie Femme: Interview with Studio Exhale's Stephanie Hutchison
There’s really nowhere quite like Studio Exhale. Can you detail some of the distinctive features or highlights?
Studio Exhale is not your average yoga studio. We purposely do things a little outside of the box. Not only do we offer traditional yoga, we also have classes that are new to the Muncie community, like meditation and Kids Yoga. It's a user friendly studio in the sense that ideas from our teacher and clientele directly impact our monthly schedule. We listen and then try to get classes that people really want participate in. Our small gift shop carries items that Muncie yogini's would find of interest. From crystals, to yoga mats, eye pillows and herbal teas, to bath and body products free of harsh chemicals. It's important that we try to source most of our vendors locally to support other small businesses. Also, what makes Exhale different is that we frequently have karma yoga classes and projects. Our karma classes usually deal with community outreach. They can sometimes be free of charge or if it isn't, a portion of the proceeds go to a worthy community cause. This makes everyone feel good by helping out and doing some yoga.
Your yoga with cats and yoga with goats events are the first of their kind that I had ever heard of. Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for these events, and some of the positive outcomes for the animals?
A friend of mine, who lives in North Carolina, emailed me a story from their local news about a yoga studio who was offering yoga with cats. She thought it was a really neat idea. I totally agreed. I knew that a good source for cats would be the Muncie Animal Shelter, which is a no-kill shelter. I wanted to take it a couple of steps further by giving some of the proceeds directly to the shelter and offering a free yoga class to those who brought a donation. It was super successful. That one class ended up donating over $500 to the shelter as well as bags of food, beds, toys and litter. With the overwhelming success of Yoga with Cats, the Muncie Animal Shelter has offered us a space in their awesome new facility every Third Thursday of the month to keep doing yoga with cats. This is great because it gets the community in direct contact with the adoptable animals there. The staff at the shelter is amazingly open minded and even let us do Yoga with Goats there too! The Fabulous Funcie Femmes have certainly been getting a lot of attention! How does this modern incarnation of burlesque figure into today’s landscape of feminism?
The Fabulous Funcie Femmes is my heart and soul. I'm so proud of all we have accomplished and it's definitely a labor of love. I think there's always been a spark of feminism in burlesque ever since its inception. In the beginning these women were challenging the social norms of that time. They were working for their pay and not relying on a man to provide for them. Most were just trying to get by with whatever life had thrown their way and burlesque was sometimes best way to form these independent women to make a living. Today's burlesque scene is much different. It's a scene primarily run by women. They not only dance, but also produce shows and are some of the most talented and business savvy people I know. Also, most burlesque dancers do it as a very expensive and time consuming hobby. You really have to be in it 100%. Modern women are strong, intelligent and very aware of their sexual prowess. We realize you can be sexy without being objectified. I've seen first-hand, women's lives positively changed because of burlesque. It gives an outlet for women to dress up and feel beautiful in their own skin. It empowers them to love the body they live in. When a dancer performs on stage they get to control what the audience reacts to. It's a very powerful thing to watch as a feminist. What the audience doesn't see is the sisterhood and camaraderie that come along with being a burlesque performer. We take care of each other, encourage one another. It's defiantly girl power. I also realize how very lucky I am to live in country where I can express myself in this art form. There are many women in other parts of the world who are not free to do what I do.
“I also realize how very lucky I am to live in country where I can express myself in this art form. There are many women in other parts of the world who are not free to do what I do.” As a Muncie fitness icon, can you give us some advice for beginners looking to increase their activity? Which of your classes do you most recommend for newcomers?
Yoga philosophy teaches that growth lies between comfortability and discomfort. I believe that holds true in many aspect of life, so I would encourage fitness beginners to get out of their comfort zone. Try something new and try a lot of classes. You may try 10 yoga classes before you find one that speaks to you. Find a class that not only works for you but is also something you enjoy doing. Get a group of friends or accountability buddies that will go to class with you. And lastly, try to make friends in class. This makes it more fun when you can also socialize a little bit too. Some great classes for beginners at Studio Exhale would be, Sunday Yoga, Sunday 10:00-11:30am; Beginners Yoga, Monday 6:15-7:15pm; Chair Yoga (if getting on the floor isn't your thing), Wednesday 6:00-7:00pm; Restorative Yoga, Wednesday 7:00-8:00pm; Tai Chi, Friday 6:30-7:30pm. “Right now I'm collecting vintage showgirl costumes from a local Muncie Burlesque dancer from the 1940's and 50's named Mademoiselle GeeGee/ Gladys Hearne. She was tiny and I can't wear most of them but they are all handmade. I just love seeing her handiwork and thinking of the places the costumes have been. I haven't been there yet but I'm very excited to make a trip to the Vintage Shoppe Thrift and Gift boutique in downtown Muncie. Places like this make my heart happy.”
Your many different activities seem to demand a number of different looks throughout the week, from active wear to retro glam. What are your favorite places to shop locally for each of your creative outlets, as well as street style? My two styles are extreme polar opposites. I like that because I totally feel like a shapeshifter. The people that regularly see me in yoga pants, and a tee shirt with my hair thrown up in a half pulled through ponytail, find me completely unrecognizable in my burlesque makeup, waist cinched and vintage hair style and vice-versa. It's so satisfying! Target is great for my everyday, muggle, vanilla clothing. Since I wear a lot of basic things, I find their selection comfortable, stylish and affordable. This is a stark contrast to my more retro side. I usually reserve that side for special occasions or whenever the mood hits me and it's really more of a treat for myself. I like to shop at local antique stores for my vintage accessories . It's hard for me to shop locally for all of my vintage styling needs. Most sizes I find from vintage clothing stores are super tiny, and I am not. So I do a lot (actually way too much) shopping at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I try to make most of my retro inspired clothing. I'm a crafter at heart so I really enjoy every step in the process of making a garment. Another great place to hit up awesome vintage clothing are local theater sales. I'm like a kid in a candy store. When we I hear of a theater sale I always find great vintage items that have been well taken care of and they're usually pretty cheap. Right now I'm collecting vintage showgirl costumes from a local Muncie Burlesque dancer from the 1940's and 50's named Mademoiselle GeeGee/ Gladys Hearne. She was tiny and I can't wear most of them but they are all handmade. I just love seeing her handiwork and thinking of the places the costumes have been. I haven't been there yet but I'm very excited to make a trip to the Vintage Shoppe Thrift and Gift boutique in downtown Muncie. Places like this make my heart happy. “I've had the opportunity to live in bigger cities for some parts of my life but my heart really is in Muncie. When I was growing up, the factories in Muncie were starting to close up, so everything the community relied on was slowly going away. Now, I think Muncie is in the beginning stages of a major positive shift economically because we had to figure out a different way to make the town work.”
With your skill set and ingenuity, I’m sure you’ve been offered lots of opportunities, and we are so glad to have you in Muncie! Can you tell us what special aspects of the city keep you local? I've had the opportunity to live in bigger cities for some parts of my life but my heart really is in Muncie. When I was growing up, the factories in Muncie were starting to close up, so everything the community relied on was slowly going away. Now, I think Muncie is in the beginning stages of a major positive shift economically because we had to figure out a different way to make the town work. It's really neat to live in a town that is starting to go through something like this. It's like a blank slate for all the entrepreneurs and young leaders in Muncie. They're really taking advantage of new opportunities. Instead of saying, "not Muncie", people are starting to say, "Why not Muncie". There are so many things about Muncie I love. The art and artists of this city are amazing. I love living downtown and seeing new little shops open up. I love hearing live music outside my window during the summertime. Muncie defiantly has a vibrant nightlife. The two new breweries, The Guardian and Elm Street Brewery add so much to Muncie's uniqueness. The White River is an amazingly beautiful place to be active with the trails running alongside it or kayaking in it. On the same note, the Cardinal Greenway is also a great place to be outdoors while staying fit. There are so many different committees and groups to be involved in around Muncie that are making a positive impact. A couple of my favorite community groups are my neighborhood association, the Arts Council and Bike Muncie.