Photo by TGR Fitness.
BY SHANNON RABOTSKI
Nestled between Skeffington’s Formal Wear and K Renee in West Des Moines’ Governor Square is Club B-Fit, a fitness studio that would look like any other if it weren’t for the poles and hammocks coming from the ceiling.
Every day, students aged 14 to 70 fill the studio as the lights go out and the stilettos come on.
Club B-Fit is one of Des Moines’ two pole and aerial fitness studios, along with TGR Fitness. Aerial fitness is another form of dance and can be done with long curtain-like silks or hammocks that hang from the ceiling.
“It’s just basically getting off the ground and dancing in the air,” said Lisa Crabbs, a student and aerial instructor at TGR Fitness in Des Moines.
Pole and aerial fitness require not only high levels of strength, but also a lot of coordination and balance, as they are full-body workouts that often involve holding one’s entire body off of the ground while also performing a dance sequence.
On top of providing a hard workout, pole fitness is a good alternative to regular gym trips because it provides its own motivation.
“It’s more like playing, I feel like going to the gym sometimes or running can get a little monotonous,” Crabbs said. “With aerial, I love it because it’s like playing, dancing around. You’re always learning something new.”
Despite pole dancing’s ability to provide a full body workout and health benefits, it is often associated with strippers and being overtly sexual.
The stigma surrounding the sexual nature of pole dancing is a hurdle for many women and men interested in trying the sport.
Crabbs was hesitant to get into pole and aerial fitness because she was scared of what her friends and coworkers might have thought, but she realized after starting that pole dancing is much more than just strippers swinging around a pole.
“You can make it as sexy as you want or you can make it as sweet and innocent as you want,” Crabbs said.
Both Club B-Fit and TGR Fitness offer a variety of classes, ranging from sexual exotic style classes to stretching and yoga classes, all offering a unique fitness-centered twist on typically stereotyped pole dancing.
“I’m just here to teach a good ol’ fitness class and it happens to be with a bunch of hair whips and a lot of attitude,” Jen Bramble, owner of Club B-Fit said.
Sarah Molenburg, a pole and flexibility instructor at TGR Fitness, started pole at 28 and was initially hesitant about what her parents would think. After starting, Molenburg realized that the stereotypes surrounding the sport do not define the sport or those who participate in it.
“I’ve kind of given up on challenging that stereotype,” Molenburg said. “I’ve come across so many different types of people from all different walks of life doing this … There are doctors who pole dance, and there are strippers who pole dance, and there are lawyers and there’s nurses and teachers.”
Today, Molenburg teaches pole as well as travels the country to compete in pole competitions, no longer worried of what others may think of her hobby.
“On this side of the gym door, nobody cares anymore,” Molenburg said. “But I realize that the outside world still has their hang-ups and I used to try to battle that and I’ve come to realize that it really is not my problem, it’s their problem.”
At Club B-Fit, students learn not only about fitness routines but also embracing their sexuality and empowering themselves through their dance moves, and Bramble hopes to see this trend continue to grow in Iowa.
“I just want people to feel good every day and not necessarily feel like fitness has to be a competitive option,” Bramble said. “There’s so much competition out there in so many other things … I think our life is a performance, and we should all just be on that fitness dance floor every day enjoying it.”