Pole dancing class turns bump and grind into muscle and tone

Maria Hernandez, 23, center, holds herself up on a fire pole while performing a maneuver as instructor Mikal Mount, background, watches her while performing the same move during class at Pole Dance Fitness of Southwest Florida in Bonita Springs. Hernandez started taking classes with Mount in May and enjoyed the exercise and dance so much, she had a pole installed in her home in Naples. 'I feel more confident and have more energy,' said Hernandez, who lost 40 pounds before starting the classes. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

Maria Hernandez, 23, center, holds herself up on a fire pole while performing a maneuver as instructor Mikal Mount, background, watches her while performing the same move during class at Pole Dance Fitness of Southwest Florida in Bonita Springs. Hernandez started taking classes with Mount in May and enjoyed the exercise and dance so much, she had a pole installed in her home in Naples. "I feel more confident and have more energy," said Hernandez, who lost 40 pounds before starting the classes. Lexey Swall/Staff

What: Pole dancing exercise classes

Where: Pole Dance Fitness of Southwest Florida, 11308 Bonita Beach Road, Suite 102

Fee: Class times vary, and are limited to four participants. $30 per class or $125 for a prepaid package of five classes. Through Oct. 17, the studio is running a special: A one-hour intro class is $20, and the participant may bring up to three friends for free.

For more information: www.poledancefitnessofswfl.com

Ladies, if your regular workout routine has lost its luster, it may be time to give Mikal Mount’s new Bonita Springs exercise studio a spin.

And not just a spin, but also a bump and grind.

Mount opened Pole Dance Fitness of Southwest Florida in August, and she now teaches one-hour classes Monday through Saturday. Attendees do a bit of floor work to get started — moves on a yoga mat that are designed to warm up the body for the routine to come — and then don sky-high, strappy platform heels and head to one of the studio’s five floor-to-ceiling stainless steel poles.

Friends Lorrie Goulet of Bonita Springs and Maria Rivera of Naples take a weekly class together at the studio. The women, who are home care nurses, quickly dismiss a trip to the gym as an effective and satisfying workout.

“You don’t have somebody there to motivate you,” Goulet says.

“The gym is boring,” Rivera adds.

“This is fun,” Goulet continues. “This is hot.”

Mount agrees. First, there are the physical benefits of the class: Teaching six days a week is the only exercise Mount does, and she proudly admits that at age 35, she is in better shape than she was at age 25.

A former accountant, Mount began pole dancing after she was laid off from work. That was about a year-and-a-half ago, and her greatest exercise goal was to lose 10 to 15 pounds. But within six months of attending pole-dancing classes, Mount had not only shed the unwanted weight but also enjoyed newly-sculpted shoulders, slimmer legs and rock-hard abs. Enchanted with the workout’s results, Mount decided to pursue it. She studied at a Miami pole dancing fitness studio and became a certified instructor.

“This is really a full body conditioning,” Mount says of the workout.

Then, there are the psychological perks of pole dancing.

“I used to be very self-conscious,” Mount admits. “And all that’s gone now. I feel good. And it’s nice to feel feminine.”

She realizes there is a slight stigma to be a pole dance practitioner — it is, after all, a style of dance that’s most frequently found within the confines of a men’s club — but Mount believes that stigma is merely a result of not understanding what the class entails. Not only does the pole dancing cultivate fitness, it’s also an opportunity for women to do something that’s fun, flirty and purely for them.

“We get kind of lost in the shuffle,” she says. “I know it made me a better person.”

In creating her studio, Mount aimed for an atmosphere of subtle sexiness. There are lush red draperies, flickering flameless candles and black-and-white poster pinups of classic Hollywood sirens such as Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.

“They were beautiful in their time, and they had curves,” Mount says.

In the lobby, display cases contain a variety of dancing shoes. Patent leather is popular, but so are rhinestones, studs and polka dots. The heels are skinny, spiky and tall — most are 5 ½ to 6 inches, including the shoe’s thick platform sole. If an attendee does not wish to buy shoes, which range in average price from $35 to $55, the studio also has some available to borrow.

It might seem like an agony to workout in such footwear, but Mount says her class attendees feel differently. Women from age 20 to 60-something take her class, although the average age is 40s.

“They love the shoes,” she says of her studio’s patrons. “And they make your legs look sexy.”

As the class begins, Mount plays music on the studio’s stereo, including slow R-and-B tunes, and plenty of moody, dreamy trip-hop songs. After a 20-minute warm-up that includes lunges, splits and hip rotations, Mount amps up the musical selections, and attendees strap on their high heels. Then, they begin a series of pole dancing moves with names like “fireman spin” and “pole circle.” The former has the class leaping into a full, two-legged spin down the pole, while the latter is a complex series of pivots and turns.

As she teaches, Mount counsels her class on how to give each move a little more verve. Do the spin all the way down to the ground, she suggests, but remember to stick your backside out as you rise up again. That’s the secret to making it pulling it all together — and, naturally, squeezing in a bit of sexiness, too.

Occasionally, the participants stop to catch their breath, knead a sore arm muscle or dab the pole with a bit of rubbing alcohol to wipe away the tracks of their sweaty palms. And they laugh. A lot.

“It’s something fun for the girls,” Rivera says of the class. “We can be as exotic as we want. And yet there’s no judgment.”

She also jokes that class has given her a greater understanding of just what it would take to do such work for a living. Whatever professional pole dancers earn, it’s absolutely not enough, Rivera says. Post-class, “you ache all over, where you didn’t know muscles exist,” she says.

She jests that she someday plans to invite her significant other to the class.

“Maybe we can use our dancing skills for our boyfriends later on,” Rivera says. “We should have a recital and have them bring one-hundred dollar bills. And the biggest earner will be the valedictorian.”

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