Filipino women learn to ‘feel sexy’ through dance
Exploring their sensual side

Filipino women learn to ‘feel sexy’ through dance

/ 05:38 AM March 07, 2024

PHOTO: Henna So (center), a 50-year-old single mother, performs with other students during a class at Chairlesque, a burlesque and chair dancing studio in San Juan, Metro Manila. STORY: Pinays learn to ‘feel sexy’ through dance

TO THE RIGHT | Henna So (center), a 50-year-old single mother, performs with other students during a class at Chairlesque, a burlesque and chair dancing studio in San Juan, Metro Manila. (Agence France-Presse)

MANILA—Boldly dressed in black bikini bottoms, a lacy bra, and knee protectors, call center agent Chriselle Guno sashays to the beat of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” spins and straddles a metal chair.

Like other scantily clad women inside the softly lit studio in San Juan, Metro Manila, Guno is learning to express her sexuality and accept her body through Chairlesque.


Chairlesque is a combination of burlesque and chair dancing, which uses a chair as a centerpiece or prop in choreography.


“I’ve been bullied since I was a child for being chubby, so I became insecure,” Guno, 29, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) during a class.

“I chose this because of the safe space and I feel it allows me to express my emotions more,” she said.

“I feel sexy as well and it’s really giving me the confidence that I want.”

Noreen Claire Efondo, who runs the Chairlesque classes, began teaching the style in 2017 to help women “feel sexy,” challenging Filipino society’s taboos around sex.

“It’s very important for us to feel sexy or sensual because our body needs a release,” Efondo told AFP.

“Our body needs to feel free from any of those inhibitions.”


Women as old as 50 take part in the classes, which start with students sharing their insecurities about their bodies and sexuality.

Efondo then teaches the women dance steps and how to move their bodies to the sultry music when standing, sitting on a chair or lying on the floor.

Single mother Henna So, 50, enrolled because she wanted “to express” and “explore” herself after her child had grown up.

“I just want to give this for myself,” So said.


“After everything that I’ve given, taking care of my son, I think it’s time to love myself. You need to love yourself first before everything else.”

Fellow student Bianca Alvarez, 38, said her husband had initial reservations about her learning the seductive dance style.

She signed up anyway in a bid to “nourish” her sensual side that she often set aside in her role as wife and mother of two children.

Clinical sexologist Rica Cruz said women were discouraged from discussing or expressing their sexuality in the Philippines, where nearly 80 percent of the population is Catholic.

Sex was still considered “shameful” and a taboo subject, she said.

“You’re vulgar when you’re just talking about sex because the expectation is as a woman you shouldn’t be talking about it,” Cruz said.

To attract new students, Efondo posts choreographed videos on social media that sometimes receive negative comments such as “it’s a disgrace” to women.

Guno spotted one of the videos on TikTok two years ago and, despite her fears, signed up.In the beginning, she wore thigh-high socks and a long-sleeved shirt to cover her body.

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Now, Guno feels comfortable dancing in nothing more than a bra and bikini bottoms.

She’s also training to be a chairlesque instructor so she can help other women learn to accept themselves.

“It’s so difficult in the Philippines. I do not fit in many people’s standards of beauty,” Guno said.

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“It is important for all of us to feel sexy.”

TAGS: Chairlesque, dancing

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