By Mariana Riquezes
Pole dancing is notorious for being an overly erotic performance that objectifies women. Enthusiasts are refuting this stigma by introducing it into fitness studios and showing how pole dancing can strengthen women physically and empower them psychologically.
Studio owner Johanna Griego originally started her business as a way to introduce pole fitness to women in Gainesville, Florida. She started offering classes at her personal studio, Happy Kiss Pole Fitness, over a year and a half ago. Griego, 30, first got a taste of pole dancing when her friends talked her into trying it by buying a Groupon.
With help from three other instructors, Griego now teaches two to five classes each day. Some classes are more focused on the dance aspect of pole dancing by learning choreography and sexy moves. Other classes concentrate on the fitness quality of pole dancing by having students focus on strength and flexibility.
“The goal is basically to just get people fit, comfortable with their bodies and exercising while doing something fun,” Griego says.
Pole dancing is a challenging combination of endurance, strength training and flexibility, which can burn as many as 250 calories in one session. Pole also significantly improves flexibility, elasticity and joint mobility. As your body becomes more limber, you lower the risk of sprains, pains and soreness, while also building connective tissue. Not only does pole dancing improve your body’s proficiency, but it helps boost your kinesthetic awareness. Kinesthetic awareness is a sensory skill that your body uses to know where it is in space.
UF RecSports group fitness instructor and exercise physiology major Olivia Toudjarov says she did pole dancing classes twice a week for an entire summer.
“There’s a great deal of strength that is needed to be able to work yourself around the pole, so it’s definitely a great workout,” Toudjarov says. “I also think it’s an amazing self-confidence builder.”
Griego agrees with Toudjarov and how pole dancing fitness builds self-confidence.
“I think at first, students find the mirrors a bit intimidating,” Griego says. “Eventually, when we dim the lights and the students feel more comfortable in the moves, the mirror becomes their audience and they can enjoy what they see reflected.”
Kelly Kochis started pole dancing less than two weeks ago and she is hooked. The 34-year-old bartender set up a spinning-pole in her apartment’s kitchen after she had seen that her friend had a pole her living room. Kochis says she plays around with it every chance she gets, when she is waiting for her morning cup of joe to finishing brewing, when she has a few minutes to spare before work and even when she is just rambling about her day to her roommate.
Kochis says that pole gives her the chance to have a tough workout while also getting the chance to be creative with movement and music.
“If anyone has the opportunity or even the tiniest bit of curiosity about trying it, do it,” Kochis says.