Can You Drop Pounds Pole-Dancing?

In lieu of the gym, try…the pole

The studio was lit for this photo, but classes typically take place in the dark.
Photograph: Photo courtesy of S. Factor

Her excitement evolved into an empire: The S Factor business includes six locations, DVDs and the holy grail of it all: appearances on the Oprah show.

“It’s so yummy and delicious,” says the bubbly brunette, her own lithe body and comfortably slinky moves a testament to the workout.  “My whole world changed. My relationship with my husband changed. I had a second baby because of it.” (note: she turned her husband’s office into a home studio early on, possibly explaining the second baby.)

Classes defy easy classification like ‘strip-tease’ or ‘pole dance’ and have major fitness and dance components that keep it from going the way of the back alley. S Factor is different than many of today’s fitness trends which, according to Kelley, are made for the compartmentalized body of a man, who responds well to ups and downs, backs and forth.

“Women are very fluid creatures, and they’re more sensual than men. It’s a fact,” says Kelley, frequently punctuating her words with hip rolls and feline sways.  “Women are deep, provocative. You bring sexuality, physicality, emotionality everywhere you go.”

Mat work employs the sort of deep stretches and undulating curves that look sexual, but feel like exercise.  What would be scissors in your everyday aerobics class is suddenly a sultry move that would look at home in an over-sized martini glass. Kelley’s made the impossible happen: ab work feels, suddenly, sexy. Only later, with already shaking legs, do we get to learn “tricks” on the pole. It’s more gymnast than stripper, and it’s easy to forget it’s a great upper body workout until sore arms remind you days later.

There’s a wonderful catch-22 in the class: your body is doing moves that would catch the eye of any hot-blooded male, yet the studio is what Kelley calls “a safe place.” Fighting against the gimmicky striptease classes that have started populating class listings at gyms around the country, she says S Factor classes are a lot about empowerment (she’s even talking about starting teen classes, well aware that could cause an outcry from women not familiar with her teachings.) Studios have no overhead lighting and scattered perimeter candles cast sensual shadows. There are no windows, no mirrors, and definitely no men.

“It’s profoundly moving to allow your body not to try to impress anyone,” she says about the inward-leaning feel of the class. “Before 40, there are so many demands on a woman, like birthing and careering. When you’re over 40, you stand up and take all that’s offered to you.”

A lot of S Factor’s teachers are over-40, a fact she chalks up to the comfort older women have in themselves and in their bodies.

The oldest student Kelley’s had?

85.

After class, muscles are all turned on (tucked, tight, tall) and your feminine senses have never been higher. Thank goodness our teacher warned us to be careful where we did our recently learned and extra languid S Factor walk. Traffic jams could arise.

The second time I took class, my teacher was fresh off of winning New York City’s “Pole Star” competition. Don’t think working a pole can be as beautiful as an evening at the ballet? See for yourself.

S Factor studios can be found in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Costa Mesa and Houston. For more information, visit their website.

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