[Megan Woolhouse | BU Today]

For most people, pole dancing conjures up unsavory images fit for a Sopranos episode, so let’s get a few things out of the way.

BU’s Pole Dancing Circuit class was not intended to train a new generation of exotic dancers. This FitRec class was about fitness, and fun.

Micki Taylor-Pinney, BU dance program director, says the three-session not for credit class was created to introduce students to an increasingly popular form of exercise and self-expression, one that demands muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility.

“Pole dancing has had a certain image,” Taylor-Pinney acknowledges. “But more recently, it’s had a rebirth for fitness. So what we’re offering is a mix of dance and exercise, really not unlike aerial dance.”

It’s a workout whose popularity is growing both in the United States and abroad. Studios dedicated to pole dancing have cropped up in nearly every major American city, and international competitions abound. There’s even a nascent effort to make it an Olympic sport.

“Pole dancing has had a certain image, but more recently, it’s had a rebirth for fitness. So what we’re offering is a mix of dance and exercise, really not unlike aerial dance.”

— Taylor-Pinney

Taylor-Pinney says that students had requested a pole dancing class, so FitRec rolled out a pilot class this spring. The class was deemed so successful that Taylor-Pinney has scheduled four more sections during the summer. The four- or five-week-long classes will meet once a week and will be taught by modern and contemporary dancer and dance instructor Liz Roncka (Sargent’95,’97), who taught the pilot class.

Roncka says she became interested in aerial movement performed using ropes in the late 1990s as a professional dancer. She began studying pole dancing about four years ago as a means of fitness and artistic expression and eventually became certified to teach it.

Performing exotic moves in a safe place surrounded by supportive people is often part of pole’s appeal, and Roncka occasionally wowed observers during class with her aerial splits and other gravity-defying poses.

“Students are choosing pole for a reason,” she says. “Yes, they’re curious and it’s different because it’s aerial, but you also want to experience a more free and empowered version of yourself.”

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