The perception of pole dancing is changing. When Maureen Metzger and her business partner DJ Hamilton started Blush Pole Fitness & Dance six years ago, Maureen says, "people thought [the instructors] were strippers." Since then, she's seen attitudes adjust as pole dancing went from taboo to a possible Olympic sport. Maureen equates pole dancing with aerial arts, on par with performances seen in shows such as Cirque du Soleil. She leads a series of classes and workshops that focus on upper-body and core strength or hone in sensual spins and dances. "You can be sexy and sensual," Maureen says, "and it doesn’t have to be tasteless . . . I watch Dancing with the Stars, and I think that is way more sexual than anything we do."
Occasionally, she still has to spend some time fighting inaccurate stereotypes, including an episode in early 2012 that involved inviting Jim Stingl of the Journal Sentinel to studio for a fact-finding mission. But mostly, Maureen and DJ concern themselves with empowering women to be "strong physically and emotionally." There comes a time, she says, when "you stop feeling sexy, you age, you gain weight, you get so busy with other parts of your life. . . I think we lose [that] and [pole dancing] reminds us to be women." She credits pole dancing as a vital ally in boosting her self-esteem during a double mastectomy in her battle against breast cancer.
And though Maureen is the first to tout the power of pole dancing, she is also one of the first to undercut some of its weightier connotations, much like a doctor who uses a stethoscope that squeaks. "[We're] totally willing to laugh at ourselves," she says. "Nobody is taking this too seriously." The lighter mood, in particular, helps welcome shy students, who Maureen and DJ witness transform into "strong, confident, sexy, and feminine [women]."
Dance Fabulous's instructors think that dancing should be a stress-free experience. With that in mind, they’ve crafted a lineup of commitment-free drop-in classes that introduce students to hip-hop grooves, teach them core-strengthening belly-dance shimmies, and help party away calories with energy-packed Zumba moves. The lineup also includes more sensual classes meant to boost students' confidence, such as aerobic striptease dance and core-strengthening pole dance. During Hot Heels Hour classes, participants learn a new routine designed to be performed in pumps, which help strengthen cores, lift buns, and aerate the front lawn if practiced at home.
In addition to their drop-in classes, the instructors also schedule private lessons, which may cover the styles taught in group classes or focus on ballroom techniques or wedding choreography. Their adult parties come with similar themes, with lessons in styles from break dancing to striptease to Irish step. The studio was also named one of The Daily Page's picks for best places for a kids' birthday party; soirees can center around such themes as cheerleading, West African dance, and ballet. The staff offers a kids' hip-hop classes and a once-a-month family dance party, during which parents can tenderly pass down their ability to do the worm.
The certified teachers at TC Dance Club International recognize that people dance for all kinds of reasons; accordingly, they structure different programs to meet the needs of everyone from casual dancers hoping to light up the dance floor at an upcoming party to perfectionists in the pursuit of lifelong grace. Their lessons incorporate a multitude of styles, including tango, merengue, foxtrot, and rain dances. On Friday nights, students can practice what they've learned in dance parties, which are set to premade mixes in a room with dimmed lights and an open bar.
Walking a mile in someone else's shoes can be very educational, especially if the shoes belong to Mandy Carlisle, a professional dancer. As a competitive American Rhythm Style ballroom dancer, Mandy has toured the country and racked up awards—she's been ranked among the top 13 dancers in the United States, placed second in the United States Professional Rising Star Rhythm Championship, and conducted an undefeated run as the Fred Astaire National Rising Star Rhythm Champion. In her spare time, she has earned teaching certifications in more than 13 styles of dance (among them, classic ballet, hip-hop, and jazz) and opened her own studio, Aspire Dance.
Mandy and her staff of 12 instructors hone the skills of young dancers, providing a reception area for parents to wait and witness progress. For adults, the teachers conduct fitness-focused classes. Latin-inspired Zumba classes boost cardiovascular endurance, whereas yoga sessions cultivate flexibility and balance so that you can finally touch your toes while standing on stilts.
Arthur Murray Dance Studios has been a leading name in social dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with certified instructors. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.