[McKenna Sorensen | Monterey County Now]

Seven would-be pole dancers stand in the dark on an autumn night in Seaside awaiting a 7:15pm class. “Hi my babies!” yells Beth Kumar, our teacher for the night, as she runs up to the studio door to unlock it. Inside Ms. Tryss – the name of the studio where the class is held – black poles run floor to ceiling, with enough space between them for turns and twirls. An enormous mirror is mounted on the back wall, and an array of sparkling, sequined high heels are displayed on the shelf above the front desk.

Opened in 2010, this is the Peninsula’s only pole dancing studio. Owner Megan Kamp decided to turn her passion into a business after the single pole in her garage became too limited for her growing number of students. Originally on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey, where it doubled as a lingerie boutique, Kamp moved Ms. Tryss to Broadway Avenue in 2012 where it’s been used solely as a pole dancing studio.

When our night class begins, the beginners – which include me – stand out. We embody nervous energy, not quite sure of what to do with the pole.

I feel like I’m the Earth rotating around the sun – only more awkwardly, because I have to coordinate my feet and the way I grip the pole at the same time. But Kumar takes a peek at each of us and offers simple pointers – which help a lot, as this skill is complicated enough it takes most of us quite a few tries to get the hang of. When the class finally begins to master the turns – after being shocked how hard it is, I’m surprised at how accomplished I feel at getting it – Kumar challenges us to do inversions.

Inversions mean our bodies will hang upside down on the pole, by our legs. The first step is to stand in front of the pole with our backs against it and wrap our right leg around it for stabilization. Next we must grab the pole and use arm and shoulder strength to try and lift our feet off the ground. Think of it like a pull-up but more acrobatic. I try numerous times, failing to get my feet very far off the floor. I end up leaning against the pole, panting.

After a few minutes of trial and error, Kumar yells, “There you go baby!” It wasn’t me she was cheering, nor any of the other women, but instead the one man who showed up. “Guys generally excel in the inversion part of the class due to their upper body strength,” Kumar says. My feelings of failure are relieved. If he can figure it out – and Kumar can make it look easy without having to be rippling with muscle – there’s hope.