Pole dance fitness

By Katy Nielsen

Women straddle and spin around poles, roll their bodies and flip their hair while following an instructor who leads the class in a heart-pounding cardio workout. Pole dancing is not for strippers anymore. New studios are appearing around Chicago, and more women are discovering pole dancing as a way to express their sexuality, make new friends and get into shape.

Kristin Hubbard, owner of Tease Dance and Fitness, 1831 Wehrli Road in Naperville, Ill., is a personal trainer and fitness instructor who tried pole dancing for the first time seven years ago.

“The first time I tried it I felt like a super hero, a sex goddess and a kid on the playground all at the same time,” Hubbard said.

Pole dance classes offer women a form of exercise that incorporates dance with a body strength workout.  At studios like Tease Dance and Fitness, a wide range of classes are offered, including burlesque, Pilates, Zumba, kick boxing and pole dance.

“Women all say the same thing—they are working on their body image, their fitness is getting kick-ass and they’re making unbelievable girlfriends,” Hubbard said. “I’ve seen complete transformations after one class.”

Hubbard said students thank her for helping them discover their sensuality and getting into shape. There is a sense of accomplishment experienced by women who take pole dance lessons, according to several students.

“It’s so empowering, you feel like you can do anything,” said Shay Berk, student at Flirty Girl Fitness, 1325 W. Randolph St. “You don’t see too many people doing this kind of stuff.”

Pole dancing has a stigma attached to it because it is associated with strip clubs, according to instructors. However, people who take these classes rarely aspire to perform on stage; rather, they want to have fun and get fit. Berk said she used to think pole dancing was something for strippers.

“I have a new found respect for strippers because this stuff is hard, it’s not easy,” Berk said. “Once you keep at it and you tell yourself you can do it, you see that you can. Some people look down on it like it’s degrading to women, but it’s definitely empowering.”

Pole dancing combines athleticism with dance, according to students and teachers.

“There’s nothing more effective as a workout than this,” Hubbard said. “It’s so athletic …  a complete upper body workout. You build core strength when you do inversions, and we do a complete floor workout, which includes yoga and Pilates.”

The pole becomes a tool for dancing. It functions as a pull up bar for strength exercises and a medium for performing tricks or stunts.

For women who feel apprehensive about going to the gym, pole dancing offers an alternative way to get in shape without feeling like you’re working out, Hubbard said.

“It makes working out fun,” said Jade Newton, public relations representative for Flirty Girl Fitness. “You don’t notice the pain as much. This breaks up the monotony. I hate the gym, but I enjoy these classes.”

Women of all shapes and sizes take pole dancing and students progress individually.  Berk, for example, started taking classes one year ago. Now she can climb the pole, hang upside down by her thighs and express herself artistically by adding her personal style while pole dancing.

Diana Douglas, pole dance instructor and personal trainer at Flirty Girl Fitness, said classes are open to all women.

“It’s like a sorority,” Douglas said. “It’s more than just a dance class. This is always fun every time you come to get a workout.”