[Jesse Cole | Sprucegrove Examiner]

 “The times they are a’ changin” – Bob Dylan.

They certainly are. There was a time, not too long ago, when the idea of women dancing on a pole for an adoring crowd was one confined to the seedy, neon-lit bars of inner-city strip clubs, but no longer does that stereotype ring true. Pole-dancing has gone mainstream.

Saturday night cemented that fact, as eight women from Stony Plain’s Aradia Fitness — the regions only pole-dancing fitness studio — showed off their skills at the Cossack Inn for Spruce Grove’s first-ever pole-dancing competition.

“I feel that it was a huge success,” Flint said in the days after the event. “There was a lot more people than we expected and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I would love to try to do this event again next year and make it an annual event.”

Roughly 50 people sat packed into the Cossack Inn’s medium-sized lounge as they crowded around a newly installed pole-dancing pole. The crowd, falling in line with shattered stereotypes, was mainstream. The crowd was filled with attendees from all age groups and demographics: 20-something men and women sat elbow to elbow with seniors and parents, there in support of a daughter, wife, girlfriend, friend or relative. Still, some others were there, as Aradia Fitness owner Julie Flint said, “out of curiosity.”

While Saturday marked the first time such an event had been held in Spruce Grove, Flint says she doubts it will be the last.

“I feel that it was a huge success,” Flint said in the days after the event. “There was a lot more people than we expected and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I would love to try to do this event again next year and make it an annual event.”

Dancers were judged on a five-point sliding scale for their routines’ originality, audience entertainment factor, flow, technique, floor work and, of course, their costume and make-up. The eight competitors were judged by fellow veteran pole-dancers Kenna Lines-Williamson, Ashleigh Font and Alex Erick.  Liza Balzar took the competition’s first place spot along with more than $600 in prizes. Amana Nicolucci took the second place spot and Kara Rose came in third overall out of the eight performers.

For many of the women at the Cossack, last Saturday was the first time they showcased their pole-dancing outside of Aradia Fitness’s Stony Plain studio. While the practice may have become more mainstream these days, the connection between pole dancers and strippers still pervades public opinion on the sport. Kimberly Wong, dancing with Aradia since 2016, said that misconception hasn’t stopped them from performing.

[READ MORE]