Pole Dancing Goes Mainstream
It’s the Newest Thing for Fun and Fitness
BY DOUG NELSEN
From the time the athletic club where Rebecca Stokes worked in Colorado first installed fitness poles, she was hooked. Having graduated with a degree in Media, she initially took a job with Powder magazine, but wanted more, so she became a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor at the Colorado fitness club.
"The owner of the club put in a pole," Stokes told the Pioneer, “and I thought she was crazy. But I started taking classes and thought they were so much fun that I started teaching classes."
At that point, Stokes knew she wanted her own studio somewhere. When it came to deciding on a location, she considered Denver, Fort Collins and Phoenix, before ultimately deciding on Bozeman. Starting a new business in a city she wasn't familiar could have been a significant disadvantage, and "I really wanted some family support," she told us.
The energetic 32-year-old Bozeman native brought with her an extensive cross training background dating all the way back to her high school years. At that time, she participated in competition climbing as a member of the Bozeman High climbing team. She has also been a hardcore cyclist since the age of 15.
"I was never much for team sports,” she said. “I always felt that could drain a lot of the fun out of it, and my passion was to crosstrain, so I really didn't want to concentrate all my energies on one sport."
The sports in which Stokes has engaged, though, she told us, including pole dancing, all offer the participant a strong mind-body connection.
Bozeman Pole Fitness, located at 2413 W. Main Street, opened its doors in October 2010. When asked why she thought a business of this type would be a hit in Bozeman, she responded, "Because [Bozeman] had a little bigger population than where I was in Colorado, and because of the influence of the university." Another factor in choosing Bozeman was that the nearest Pole Fitness studios were in Billings and Spokane.
Pole dancing and its connotations have a diverse history, Stokes told us. "The dance side of 'pole' shares a kinship with Belly Dancing, Burlesque, Go Go Dancing, and my personal favorites, Jazz and Hip Hop." The roots of Pole Dancing date back many centuries to India and China, and as “ariel art” is peformed in the present by the likes of Cirque du Soleil.
One of the biggest business challenges Stokes has faced has been overcoming the misconception that her studio is a training ground for exotic dancers or unseemly endeavors. "In the last 5 years,” she said, “there has been a real change, turning the perception of pole dancing to a pure fitness workout. She also added that "women are looking at 'pole' as a legitimate alternative to weight lifting for strength training." Men make up a small percentage of her classes, but she added that they are welcome, and that co-ed classes are common in bigger cities.
Regarding future goals for her business, Stokes mentioned the possibility of hiring some of her peers after they complete her certification program. This would help with her demanding workload, she told us, which also includes teaching seniors at Bozeman's Ridge Athletic Club.
Stokes also has in mind offering instructions to women of southwest Montana planning bachlorette parties. "The bachlorette parties are so fun to teach because most of the girls know each other,” she said, “and they are all giggly and having a great time. It's one of my favorite things to do."