[Elizabeth Roman | Mass Live]

It may seem like pole dancing would require a lot of upper body strength, coordination and flexibility, but the most important thing is the will to try.

“Guts are also key, will and guts,” said Holly Woods, the owner of the Academy of Aerial Arts, Pole Control Studios in Springfield.

Woods started the business in Hartford nine years ago, but decided to make the switch to Springfield this year.

The studio offers 90-minute pole dancing fitness workshops several days a week.

“I found that about 75 percent of our clientele was coming from this area, and they were willing to travel all the way to Hartford to take the classes and give it a try,” Woods said. “Here I have the space, and I feel like Springfield is an exciting place to be right now.”

With the larger space, Woods also will offer classes in other aerial arts including silks and hoops.

“Silks are also known as fabrics. The fabric may be hung as two pieces, or a single piece, folded to make a loop, to create hammock silks,” Woods explained. “Performers climb the suspended fabric and use it to wrap, suspend, fall, swing, fly and spiral their bodies into and out of various drops, spins and positions.”

The steel hoops, which resemble hula hoops, are suspended from the ceiling and performers can do aerial tricks on them like they would with the silks.

"The aerial art form is always evolving, and as popular as pole dancing for fitness has become, silks seem to be the next step."

— Holly Woods

“The aerial art form is always evolving, and as popular as pole dancing for fitness has become, silks seem to be the next step,” she said.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno stopped by the studio last month before it officially opened to meet Woods and check out the new location on Hillman Street in the city’s downtown.

“I think it’s an eclectic, innovative business, and I appreciate the fact that she is investing in the city,” he said.

Woods said over the past nine years she has worked with more than 20,000 women and some men who have tried pole dancing fitness at her studio in Hartford or at pole dancing conventions and workshops.

For those skeptical about taking a class, Woods said it’s for anyone who’s just willing to try.

“Funny enough, I have not had any adult entertainers take the class, it’s always moms, teachers, doctors, lawyers,” she said. “It’s something different, especially if you’re bored with the gym.”

Introductory classes are $19.99, and drop-in classes range between $25 to $50 depending on the class.

“We offer pole, hoops, silks, yoga, barre, cardio dance and sensual dance workshops,” she said.