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Pole athletes blur the line between strength and sensuality

Okanagan Pole Dance is staging its inaugural demonstration March 27 and 28.
March 18, 2015 - 4:29 PM

KELOWNA - If you have any illusions or misconceptions about what exactly pole dancing is or isn't, Erin Smith is gonna calmly bust 'em up for ya and right away.

Number one on the list is that pole dancing is not particularly athletic, more akin to erotic dancing than, say, Crossfit or TRX.

“Ninety-nine per cent of people are completely surprised about how athletic pole dancing really is,” says Smith, owner of Okanagan Pole Dance. “They come in here and struggle just to lift their feet off the ground.”

Number two is the idea that a pole dance instructor must somehow be a washed-up ex-stripper.

Smith, a mother of three,  has a day job as a neurology technologist at Kelowna General Hospital. “I don’t get a lot of sleep,” she laughs. “That’s my job, this is my passion.

Erin Smith talks her class through a routine.
Erin Smith talks her class through a routine.

Still, she doesn’t shy away from the connection between pole dancing and the ubiquitious brass poles found on stages in strip clubs everywhere.

“There’s an obvious link to erotic dancing but there has been a great change in the attitude of the public since I started,” says Smith. She fights that image problem by staging public demonstrations every chance she gets. “When people see it and know who we are and what’s going on in here, they can more accurately judge it."

Newbies to a pole dance class are taught three basic moves, Smith says; the front spin, a back spin and something more complicated called the knee lock spin. “Everything else come from those moves."

Time for a costume change.
Time for a costume change.

She welcomes all shapes, sizes and genders — she has several male clients — and her certified Canadian Pole Fitness Association instructors will scale the workouts to the person’s physical ability and comfort level. “We start them off slowly and build progressively,” says Smith, who adds she spends as much time working on a client’s mind as she does with the body.

“We have cues that tell us the the level of strength someone has and whether they are ready for the next progression,” says Smith. “But that doesn’t always mean they are mentally ready. We have to gauge and encourage them to surpass not only their physical boundaries, but their mental boundaries as well."

For anyone who still doubts the legitimacy and athleticism of the sport — it’s being considered for possible Olympic inclusion — Smith and her crew of pole dancers are busy developing their innaugural pole dance show Strong & Sassy set for March 27 and 28.

Strong & Sassy rehearsal is in full swing.
Strong & Sassy rehearsal is in full swing.

That’s also how Smith divides her pupils, directing those who are attracted to the sensual side of pole dancing to the Sassy classes, and those in it for the workout to the Strong classes.

Again, Smith doesn’t hesitate to tackle the sensual side of pole dancing head on. “We’re not teaching them to be sexual, but rather giving them the confidence to be comfortable with their own bodies, in their own skin,” she says. “That’s what makes them sexy and amazing.”

Megan Fahlgren says she has noticed great improvements in her fitness since starting pole dance about a year ago.
Megan Fahlgren says she has noticed great improvements in her fitness since starting pole dance about a year ago.

Megan Fahlgren is one of Smith’s advanced students and says she started out on the strong side but has since embraced the sassy side as well.

“I was in strong first, mostly, because dancing wasn’t my thing,” says Fahlgren. “I had no idea how to dance like that, but you need a bit of sassy too to learn transitions. A strong routine looks kind of silly without them. It pulls them all together. You need a bit of dance in everything.”

Fahlgren said she’s noted improvements in every area of her fitness since starting with Smith about a year ago. “I’ve got abs I never had before, my arms are a lot bigger and more toned,” she says. “My extra flab is gone and I’ve got tons more cardio endurance.”

The crew watches a video playback of their routine.
The crew watches a video playback of their routine.

She’s also had to endure some attitude from people, mostly men, when they find out she’s a pole dancer, although most are supportive.

“The only thing they’ve ever seen is the girls at the Liquid Zoo,” Fahlgren adds. “This is such a big confidence builder, not only because you get stronger, but you know you can do something that not a lot of people can do.”

Fahlgren and her classmates will be presenting Strong & Sassy at  the Okanagan Pole Dance studio near Spall and Enterprise. Tickets are $15 and are limited in number. For more information contact Smith at 778-363-3015 or purchase tickets online.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infotelnews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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