Pole dancing for fitness

In Arts & Entertainment, Top Stories
Photo by William Camargo

Pole dancing — an industry that still has a stigma attached to it, but that is undeniably gaining a worldwide following.

For some, the phrase still brings strippers and dollar bills to mind. But for those who have joined the world of pole fitness, it means another thing entirely; and once they began, there was no turning back.

“You’re doing something you never thought your body was capable of,” said Jenny Shih, 27, owner of Inversion Dance Studios, located on East Commonwealth Avenue.

A self-proclaimed gym rat, Shih graduated from USC with a B.S. in business administration. She discovered pole fitness by browsing for hot new things to do in LA, then opened Inversion Dance Studios in 2009.

“There were a lot less classes … back then,” Shih said regarding her first encounter with pole fitness classes in 2006. Now, however, she cites YouTube videos and the numerous pole competitions available to dancers as a testament to the industry’s growth.

This development in pole fitness has earned enough attention that there are even talks throughout the pole dancing community of it becoming an Olympic sport.

Although some enthusiasts don’t like the idea of the sensuality being stripped from pole dancing in order to sterilize it for the Olympics, all agree on one thing — pole dancing has changed them mentally, emotionally and physically.

Inversion Dance and Cal State Fullerton student Phyllis Liang, 21, a biology major, says pole dancing allowed her to break out of her shell and find a relationship.

“I was too shy and unconfident in myself to even talk to a cute guy,” said Liang. “Since I am more confident in myself, I make the effort to talk to more people, and it has ultimately (led) me to my wonderful boyfriend.”

“I definitely learned a lot about myself and became more comfortable in my own skin,” said CSUF student Krystal Kohlberg, 22, a kinesiology major.

Kohlberg, who dances at Unveiled Fitness in Laguna Hills, also credits her newfound self-assurance to the physical change in her body.

“My body shape changed tremendously, I became very strong, which led to a major increase in my confidence,” Kohlberg said.

Shih referred to Inversion Dance Studios and the atmosphere it offers as a place of healing. “Not only is it a workout, but you can rediscover a part of your feminine self,” she said. “You have to allow yourself … to be more artistically creative.”

Despite the obvious benefits, some still find it necessary to keep pole fitness classes as their own naughty secret.

“I keep it a secret (from) my parents because they are more on the conservative side and would think of the worst,” said Liang. She has told her friends and co-workers, most of whom are supportive, although there are still “some (who) joke around about strippers,” she said.

Similarly, Shih waited six or seven months after her first pole class before telling her parents and recalled sitting down with her best friend to tell her a “big secret” that she had been “holding in for so long.”

In addition to the fear of rejection from friends and family, Shih also dealt with the issue of finding space to house her studio and its accompanying poles.

“It is difficult … a lot of dance studios (say), ‘We don’t gear toward that clientele,’…we still get that. I’m still surprised by it, ” said Shih.

There is no doubt that pole dance classes provide students with a unique experience.

“The atmosphere in class is really supportive and high energy,” said Liang. “The ladies in class are all friendly, nice, supportive and just amazing. We all help each other out as much as we can.”

Interested in trying a pole dance class? Check out these Orange County studios. But do your research—some studios are for women only, while others may focus on either pole acrobatics or sensual movement. Take the time to find your best fit.

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