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When most people hear Pole Dancer they immediately think Stripper. But thats like equating Lawyer with Litigator or Doctor with Brain Surgeon one is a specific type of the broader first category. The truth is the world of pole dance like any oth- er community or profession is multifaceted. The what where and why of the women who participate is such a vast array. The arena which pulled my focus and has become a de- fining part of my life is on the pole fitness end of the spectrum. Specifically the sensual feminine moment. This style of dance fo- cuses more on how movement feels rather than how it looks. Its not choreography based on 8 counts or unison dancing. We believe each dancers body has a unique way of expressing itself and our job is to facilitate those bodies finding their voices. Perhaps you saw the viral film Why I Dance I was one of those dancers. Thats what Im talking about. If you didnt see it heres what GQ had to say For women whove been raised to hate their bodies and feel ashamed of their sexuality--dancing is an outlet that empow- ers them to reclaim both. Being a woman is complicated. Youre supposed to be 100 accessible as a sexual object at all times but without ever acting on it or--god forbid--taking any sexual agency of your own. Dont want to be called a prude or a slut Easy. Just do everything and its opposite all at once. Grabbing life by the pole as it were is a re- jection of that double stan- dard. A group of Los An- geles-based dancers wanted to share that transformative power with the world at large--perhaps to help pole dancing shed some of its ludicrous stigma and hope- fully bring some new danc- ers into the fold. Their film Why I Dance is mesmeriz- ing. So many gyms work outs and dance studios make prom- ises of lost weight toning sculpting shaping building but the un- derlying message is always the same Change your body. At my home studio S Factor Los Angeles we teach that your body is good enough just as it is. It doesnt need to be changed to be worthy of love admiration or sex. As founder Sheila Kelley says Your body is like a savant child that just wants to make you happy but doesnt speak your language. So you have to learn to speak its instead. If our bodies really were our children most of us would have had Child Protective Services take them away by now. We think and say horrible things about our bodies on a dai- ly bases and do even worse things in the name of diet and exercise. The crazy thing is taking the focus off working out you still get in great shape Ive been on this journey of speaking my bodys language through pole dancing for the past six years and can honestly say Im in the best shape of my life. I have more strength and flexibility than when I was a serious ballet dancer in my teens. Im not a willowy skinny girl but thats not healthy for my body. If it is for yours more power to you I have a curvy pin up body. And pole dance works with my curves instead of against them like running or weight lifting can do too often. Pole dance also requires kinetic awareness. Basically any time you Pole dance also requires kinetic awareness. Basically any time you climb or invert your brain has to work double time recali- brating your orientation in space. Its like doing Suduko for your re- flexes and motor skills. It makes your smarter as well as stronger. And unlike stripping for money or competition pole sports this soft sensual expression can be as public or as private as you like. My home studio only allows women in class and we have no mirrors. Its a private intimate space to safely explore your dance without judg- ment. We teach that not only are there no negative emotions but that all emotions are sexy and can be released through movement heightened by music. In their dances Ive seen women giggle play- fully atop the pole weep heavily on the floor and flip chairs in raw steaming anger. And its all hot. We affectionately call it Fight Club for Girls. My first three years as a student were deeply personal. Very fewpeopleknew.Therewerenopicturesorvideosandcertainlynoth- ing associating a nice girl like me with pole dancing on the Internet. Now Im on staff as a writer for Bad Kitty the number one pole fit- ness brand in the country and am a proudly public voice within the pole community. But that was all a natural evolution for me find- ing my bodys voice then boldly speaking my truth on the page. Its different for every- one. So if reading all this theres a little voice inside you thats saying Yes Me too then I strongly encour- age you to follow that urge into your local pole studio Give it a try If youre wor- ried that your not in good enough shape to try let that go. Too often Ive heard women say I need to go back to the gym and loose how-ever-many pounds then Ill come with you to pole class But its not true Because youre lifting and maneuvering your own body weight different levels and styles of tricks will come in for you when you are ready. But most beginner pole tricks are not even strength tricks. They come from physics playing with spinning weight count- er balance and gravity. Anyone whos not afraid can be successful with them. Believe me we when I say the hardest part of your first pole class is putting aside your fears and judgments and walking in the door. Photo Credit Lauren Lynn Manzano on set of Why I Dance. Dancers from left to right Harlow Degrange Katie Johnson Rima Parikh Katie Johnson is a Los Angeles based fine art model and actress best known for her work with photographerdirector David LaChapelle. She obtained her BFA in Writing from Screen Television at The Universi- ty of Southern California. Johnson was a nominee for the Shorty Awards Best Actress 2014 and is a staff writer for The Bad Kitty Pole Fitness Blog and a contributing author with CreativeLIVE. She volunteers h 10