Egypt’s pole dancing studios wipe out stigma

[Al-Monitor]

“I am happy; it is growing rapidly. We now have four studios and so far we have trained nearly 2,500 girls. There are no body shape requirements; the workout relies on the harmony and coordination between the body and the mind.”

Pole dancing is gaining popularity among women who want to get fit through dance and acrobatics. In societies in the Middle East, however, joining a pole dancing class is still not something that is seen as an appropriate form of exercise for females. Nevertheless, some pole fitness studios have been opening in Egypt.

Manar El Mokadem, aka Mint, studied architecture in the United Kingdom, where she took part in various university student activities. She joined a pole dancing class, and so the idea of bringing this form of exercise to her homeland was born. She says she opened Pole Fit Egypt in Cairo in October 2013, and also has introduced aerial arts to Egypt.

“Once I joined the pole fitness class [in the United Kingdom], I got addicted to it and I decided to turn my obsession into business. When I moved back home, I brought my passion for this workout with me. I then opened my own studio, and I am very proud that I introduced pole fitness to my country,” El Mokadem said.

People in general associate pole dancing with stripping and obscene movements in front of an audience. “There is a difference between erotic pole dancing and pole fitness. Pole fitness is an acrobatic fitness program and an aerobics workout that boosts your mood, strengthens your body and enhances your self-confidence,” she said, noting that she is not a pole dancer; but rather a pole dance instructor.

Initially, El Mokadem wanted to share her love of this form of workout with her close friends, and through word of mouth her classes filled up gradually.

She noted, “I had strict rules and this is the secret of my studio’s success. It is a female-only studio, as I do not want to challenge traditions.” She said in doing so she merely wants to create a safe space that respects Egypt’s culture and traditions. “Therefore, my family was very supportive,” she said.

She added, “I carefully selected the photos posted on the studio’s Facebook page. I started with the photos that only show fitness moves. At first, I did not share photos of Egyptian pole instructors or dancers. I started with the photos of foreign ones. When the time came to post photos of Egyptian girls, I posted photos that only showed the faces of the girls.”

When pole fitness became more accepted in Egyptian society, El Mokadem started posting photos of Egyptian girls wearing trousers while using the pole as a piece of fitness equipment.

She said, “I am happy; it is growing rapidly. We now have four studios and so far we have trained nearly 2,500 girls. There are no body shape requirements; the workout relies on the harmony and coordination between the body and the mind.”

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