WASHINGTON — Once reserved for the privacy of a men’s club, pole dancing is turning up in unexpected places. Health clubs and dance studios offering the slow grind are attracting women who might have otherwise settled for a step class.
“You let your hair down, and it’s that girl’s club, slumber party feel,” said Teri Jaworksi, who works out at the S Factor, an all-women studio in Los Angeles.
It counts as exercise because it leaves you extremely winded, she said.
Crunch, an urban-oriented subsidiary of Bally Total Fitness with about 30 clubs nationwide, prides itself on offering something different. Strip classes, with or without poles, are no challenge in popularity to step or other big-name dance routines, but they have found a niche among the daring.
“You are becoming a stripper for an hour,” said aerobics instructor David Doyle, who leads a cardio aerobics class at a Crunch Fitness club in Chicago. “It’s average people who want to do something that is not average.”
Strip and pole classes are generating interest in the city, Doyle said, but they’re not for every town.
“As far as, is it ready for Kansas, is Kansas ready for it? That is the question,” he said.
Yet, the classes could be more widely available than Doyle perceives.
Detachable poles for the home
Businessman Randy Blacker, of San Jose, Calif., has patented detachable poles that can be installed in homes and stored discreetly out of sight when not in use. His company, Pacific International Marketing and Promotion, has been selling them for two years, including mail order, to just about every state, he said.
Strip aerobics routines are available on videos as well as in the gym, and Blacker said the poles can be part of a good workout. “You are doing regular aerobics mixed with the pole,” he said. “The unique thing is, it’s a sexy workout.”
The majority of people in Doyle’s class, about 99 percent, have never been this exposed in public but seemed to welcome the opportunity to unwind. The feeling is, “I just worked in a 9 to 5 job all day, and now I get to dance against a pole,” he said.
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Generally, the dancers are women. The class, held once a week at a Crunch club that opened this month, accepts men, but few have tried it, Doyle said.
Crunch offers cardio strip in all its markets and class sizes vary from 20 to 40. The Chicago class usually has about 30 participants.
Despite the name, the class doesn’t encourage nudity. Those who feel the urge to remove something usually have prepared by wearing something extra — a T-shirt, for instance, so they can strip down to a halter top, Doyle said. “It depends on how creative you want to be and how uninhibited you want to be.”
Similarly, with pole dancing — some do, some don’t. “The folks that don’t, that’s OK, too, as long as they feel comfortable enough to be there,” Doyle said. “For the most part, people after the first 15 minutes get over the shyness factor.”
The new dance partner
Once past that hurdle, sexual expressiveness takes over. “It becomes the dance partner. A lot of movement is around that pole,” Doyle said.
In cardio strip, participants follow the standard routine for group exercise classes — 10-minute warm-up, 40-minute aerobic workout, 10-minute cool-down.
At the S Factor, the pole and the strip serve different purposes.
“We do a little aerobics, but it’s more like a sensual yoga,” said actress Sheila Kelley, who created what she calls the S Factor workout. Her classes are for women only; the S in the name describes the curve of a woman’s body.
Kelley learned about strip and pole exercise through “Dancing at the Blue Iguana,” a movie she produced in which she played a dancer in a Los Angeles strip club. She returned to strip aerobics and pole dancing to lose the 50 pounds she gained after the birth of her second child.
The exercise turned into a business. Kelley now has a 2,800-foot studio with three poles and eight instructors, a video (no pole) and a book (pole work included).
The class is as much about being female as about being fit.
“Most of the times, we just want to move our body into its own shape,” Kelley said. “It feels good to do that. The stripping is totally optional, and that’s the playful part.”
Jaworksi discovered the hip sway she learned in class had other powers when she showed it to a male friend. “I was just demonstrating, and I saw the look on his face,” she said. “If you move your body in a very female way, the male mind is programmed to respond, and you get that reaction. It’s fascinating.”
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