Sexy strength

Poles mark new territory for women

By Amanda Dee

Photo: Some pole dance students come for the workout, others come to learn about performance

“Welcome to your new addiction.”

The room is windowless. Blackness cushions you to your right, left, above. Below, the blackness sparkles in the light of chandeliers. The only one looking at you is you, in the few mirrors on the black walls and the gleaming nine poles.

Welcome to the pole room.

The Femme Fatale Fitness pole room was designed to make women feel comfortable enough in classes with the “tight-knit community” of instructors and dancers to “let loose” and “be themselves,” according to Nicki Czarnecki, an instructor and the general manager of the studio.

“There’s this world of pole out there,” one of Czarnecki’s students Amanda Hanisch says (referring to what Czarnecki calls “the pole bubble”). Inside this bubble, Jamilla and Anastasia are names like Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé. This world isn’t new territory, though. It was established years ago “behind closed doors” in clubs, but is just recently going “out in the open,” Czarnecki explains.

Although other local businesses are part the local pole bubble, like The Studio Fitness in Vandalia and Premier Pole Parties, Femme is the only one specifically dedicated to studio pole (though, they additionally teach other classes).

Kelly Clark says her “one-woman operation,” Premier Pole Parties, brings classes “perfect for the shy woman who thinks pole dancing looks fun but is reluctant to go to a studio” directly to them. With Premier Pole, women “don’t have to leave the comfort and safety of their own home,” Clark says.

Czarnecki acknowledges the difficulty of facing these “mental challenges” about strength and body image: “It takes a powerful woman, whether it’s in a club or a student, to take this journey.” But whether people come with a friend or are alone, she says, “the first step” is walking through the door.

Femme Fatale started in 2009 after founder and Dayton-native Jacqueline Allen quit her job and became a personal trainer and pole fitness instructor to create something she couldn’t find for herself: a way to get fit and feel good in her own skin, according to Femme’s official site.

Now, about 10 instructors work together to continue giving women a “a safe place” and “a home away from home,” Czarnecki says, whether women are looking for introductory open classes on a drop-in basis or more serious enrollment classes that build upon each other.

The minimum age for classes is 18. Most of the clientele are in their 20s, 30s and 40s, but many are in their 50s and 60s. The music for classes could be “straight off of the radio” one day, and Nirvana the next. Some walk in wearing yoga pants. Others walk in with Stilettos. Some initially come for the extreme workout. Some come to dance. But, “no matter what people think about pole,” Czarnecki believes, the draw is its taboo origins in the club scene.

“There’s all types, from one extreme to the other,” Czarnecki says. “I think both [athletic types and playful types] end up flirting with the other side for sure. You might start off thinking, ‘I’m just going to come in here just for fun, and eventually it’s like ‘let me learn these trick combos.’ ‘Let me get this down.’ And then the people who don’t come in with the intention to dance come in and say, ‘I know I’m strong, but can I put something together into a performance and make it look good?’”

Some students like Hanisch are experienced dancers. Some students, like Orlando, are not. Hanisch has belly-danced for 10 years. Orlando works at a law firm. Regardless of the level of experience, Czarnecki says, “there’s always a new trick that comes out or a new style that emerges.”

At the core of the dancing, workouts and heels, is this brand Allen created for Femme, this brand of pole feminism.

“I think women were taught that we’re not physically strong, maybe we’re not mentally and emotionally strong or stable, and these are things that stay with us no matter what,” she says. “Or once you have children then, you know, you can’t maybe be sexy. Nobody’s saying that to your face, but those are just the messages that we get. At the same time, we get the messages that we have to look perfect or have a perfect body.

“…Once people get in here and start doing stuff, a lot of that fades away,” Czarnecki says.

That’s why Czarnecki is territorial over her world, a world where “women can be in the spotlight” for themselves—unseen by the male gaze and the gaze scrutinizing most female bodies.

Once Orlando fell in love with the pole, the body dysmorphia she had been fighting every day started cowering away from “the confidence [that] started oozing out of [her].”

“You just did this amazing thing,” Orlando says. “This body that you hate… You can’t hate.”

That’s why Hanisch and Orlando talk about this world more than any other. Because it doesn’t stay in the pole room.

For more information about Femme Fatale Fitness, please visit femmefatalellc.com or contact info@femmefatalelc.com. For more on Premier Pole Parties and The Studio Fitness, please visit premierpoledancing.com and thestudiofit.com/pole-chair-fit.htm.

­­Reach DCP freelance writer Amanda Dee at AmandaDee@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Reach DCP Editor Amanda Dee at editor@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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