All tangled up

Dayton City Paper writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik getting all tangled up (literally) at Femme Fatale Fitness in Centerville. Dayton City Paper writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik getting all tangled up (literally) at Femme Fatale Fitness in Centerville.

A new kind of fitness regime at Femme Fatale

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Dayton City Paper writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik getting all tangled up (literally) at Femme Fatale Fitness in Centerville.

Dayton City Paper writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik getting all tangled up (literally) at Femme Fatale Fitness in Centerville.

It’s 7:30 on a Thursday night and I’m all tied up.

My wrists are bound and my foot harnessed by a simple, soft piece of red silk.

This is going to be interesting.

I watch as our instructor, Cassie Guard, climbs her way up the fabric, twisting, bending, causing limbs to go where it almost seems unnatural. She makes it look beautifully effortless as she glides between the silk, hoisting herself into the air all while keeping a smile on her face.

I glance over at my partner. “OK, I’m scared,” I tell her.

“You’re going to love it,” said Tansi Holm of Fairborn. “I had my husband cancel our satellite dish just so I could come to this class.”

Sound far-fetched? Think again. At Femme Fatale Fitness in Centerville, it’s not an uncommon sentiment amongst its all-female student body. After all, the fitness facility’s classes were designed to make women want to come back for more. Whether it’s pole fitness, a sexy sculpt strength class or burlesque session, the goal is to not only stay in shape, but increase women’s mental stamina.

“Everyone comes in … I like to call it ‘raw’ … they come in just scared shitless,” said Jacqueline Allen, the founder and owner of Femme Fatale. “But what happens is that since they’re coming in ‘raw,’ all of their insecurities come out, and so we are able to see that and help them out.

“That’s the reason why we get so many people who say it just changes their lives.”

Life-changing for sure. The class I’m in is called aerial fitness and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ll admit, I went in thinking, “I’m in shape and fitness-inclined — how hard could this be?”

Cue Guard and her super-human strength and confidence. Gulp.

After a few minutes spent in the class, I’m thoroughly convinced that no matter a student’s confidence or skill level, classes like this take practice.
And a willingness to look a little silly.

Yes, music and all, I’m going to get sexy with these silks whether I like it or not. But while at first I giggle and feel ridiculous, (hey, I’m a writer, not a performer) I start to get the hang of it. Before I know it, I’m swinging my hips, back bending and flipping around in those silks like we’re old friends.

Allen said this boost in confidence is a common theme amongst students who range in age and size from “70 years old to 300 pounds.”

Perhaps the overlying theme of girl power stems from Allen’s original driving force behind opening the studio. After spending several years feeling restless and unfulfilled in her corporate job, the recession hit and Allen was laid off. She took it as a sign: “I thought, you can continue to do something you are unhappy with, or this is your shot to give it a whirl and see what happens,” she said.

Option two turned out to be the kick in the pants she needed. She opened a studio in Springboro in January 2009, and shortly thereafter, a local paper covered Allen and what the studio had to offer.

“I didn’t think anything grand was going to come out of it,” Allen said. “I thought it was just an opportunity for people to learn more about what I did.”

She received 400 emails overnight.

“It was very overwhelming because I was not expecting it,” Allen said. “The other overwhelming part was that it wasn’t just inquiries about the studio. I was getting life stories, or people saying, “I’ve been waiting for something just like this … I’ve been waiting for someone just like you.””

That increased interest also meant another thing to Allen: It was time to expand—immediately.

Femme Fatale moved to its current Centerville location in June 2009, and now has roughly 400 to 500 students per week with new additions every day. In January 2012, Allen will launch Femme Fatale’s West Coast presence with a downtown Denver location.

“There’s no one else who does what we do, the way we do it,” Allen said.

If the students’ enthusiasm is any indication, then Allen couldn’t be more right. When I first enter the studio, Ward is finishing teaching the Dance Fuzion class. I watch as the women sweat through the last few rounds of crunches and stretching. As if that wasn’t enough, three or four of them stick around for more, toweling off and prepping to take the aerial fitness class.

Allen said the overall theme of commitment to one another stems from her own initiatives, in addition to those of the instructors. After all, each one of them has her own story of how various experiences at Femme Fatale have helped her out of a darker time. “Like what?” I ask. Stories from the leaders ensue: Postpartum depression, date rape linked with a long period of feelings of worthlessness, a hysterectomy and the onset of unexpected hormones at a young age.

“We like to say we pay it forward,” Allen said. “We didn’t start out as femme fatales. If anything, we started off like everyone else or worse. We worked to become self-confident at the level we are and to have a passion like this. And because of that we pay it forward.”

Pay it forward indeed. The morning after the class, I’m sore, hurting in places I didn’t even know existed: The back of my knees, my toes, small muscles that line my rib cage.
But I also feel badass, proud of myself for stepping out of my usual fitness routine of running, Pilates and yoga, and shedding what my husband has dubbed my “indoor kitty” nature.

Look out, pole fitness. Here I come.
For more information on Femme Fatale Fitness classes, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer
Caroline Shannon-Karasik at

About Caroline Shannon-Karasik

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