After losing 135 pounds, Spinderella Fitness owner Elizabeth Rodriguez was determined to inspire other women to seize control of their health and strive for the energy and confidence of the physically fit. She became a certified nutritionist and personal trainer before undertaking the study of a less conventional subject: pole dancing. Rodriguez struggled at first. She recalls that she "use[d] to go home in tears" of frustration. But 17 months later, she opened her own pole-dance fitness studio, and then a second one to meet the demand for her teachings.
Rodriguez's studios host more than two-dozen classes thanks to her collaboration with Melissa Fernandez—a trained dancer with a background in jazz, ballet, and hip hop—who helped broaden the curriculum. This collaboration has resulted in both high-energy, cardio-driven workouts as well as those inspired by salsa, Flashdance, and the sensual rippling of national flags.
Students who are serious about mastering advanced pole maneuvers progress through several levels. After mastering a pole routine at one level, they receive a colored thong to mark their graduation to the next. Pole climbing students repeat the process until they are certified black-thong dancers capable of disarming a kung fu master with the twist of a hip.