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.
A Zumba instructor, certified personal trainer, and dancer since he was 7 years old, FitNice owner Paul Schneider helps students tone their bodies with a variety of Zumba classes. His Zumba fitness classes help adults shed pounds as they use Latin-inspired dance moves to burn calories, whereas Aqua Zumba classes transfer the same properties to the pool for an intense and therapeutic aqua fitness workout. Paul also leads Zumbatomic classes for kids, yoga, and aqua yoga.
Across the 4,500-square-foot space of Dance Arts Center, students of all ages tap, pirouette, and leap, always moving with a sense of grace and purpose. Throughout the studio's three classrooms, groups meet six days a week to practice contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, tap, and hip-hop.
Founder and artistic director Danelle Davies draws on more than 30 years of experience to oversee the handful of instructors. The studio focuses not just on physical acumen and development, but also mental discipline by providing a structured environment in which students can pursue a career in dance or just discover a healthy outlet.
TC Dance Club International's instructors have sharp intuition when it comes to movement. They know just how to align their hips during the tango, and just how to tilt their heads during the waltz. When they watch brand-new dancers, they can pinpoint areas of rigidity and smooth them out with simple adjustments. Whether teaching the cha-cha, foxtrot, or jitterbug, teachers explain and demonstrate each step, helping learners of all abilities dance with proper footwork and without jazz hands.
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.