POLE POSITION

For Weekly SurgeJuly 10, 2013 

Fitness crazes come and go. Jazzercise, for one. But the latest workout development has gone vertical — think poles and few clothes.

Pole fitness — not to be confused with stripping — is a workout that promises sensuality, fun, and empowerment. Two businesses, Teazers Pole Fitness and Dance Studios and Wicked Fitness, offer pole fitness classes in the Myrtle Beach area.

Don’t get Teezers confused with Teazers, both located on George Bishop Parkway in Myrtle Beach. One is a strip club, the other a pole fitness and dance studio. What’s the difference? If you show up for a pole fitness class at Teezers Gentlemen’s Club, they might try to offer you a job.

What you will find at Teazers, which is inside the X Gym, are instructors who take your boring workout and give you a sensual routine that leaves you feeling confident.

Why would mimicking a stripper make a woman confident? It’s like role play. It’s a safe and more controlled way to exude sexuality without feeling cheap. They become pole artists, not pole dancers. The focus is on fitness and dance as art instead of dance as entertainment or sexual gratification of an ogling man.

“It’s not like we’re taking our clothes off or anything like that, but it makes you feel sexy when you do it,” says Megan Prevatte, a massage therapist in Myrtle Beach who enjoys relieving stress with pole fitness classes. “It makes you feel better. It’s like pole art.”

Tor’keese Moss, owner and founder of Teazers Pole Fitness and Dance Studios, offers an opportunity for women to get fit with a class that she says will make you laugh and allow you to “find the diva in you.”

“I get bored quickly, so this is a workout that is sexy — well, sensual, I don’t like to say sexy — and makes me carry my own weight,” Moss says. “It’s hard, but you’re having fun and burning calories at the same time.”

Moss studied to be a mortician in college. Her grandparents used to own a funeral home in Myrtle Beach, and when her grandmother passed away, she was able to help prepare her for burial. Moss moved to Florida in 2011 because there were more opportunities for jobs in her field than in South Carolina.

Originally, when Moss returned to Myrtle Beach from Miami in 2012, she wanted to open up a shoe store for women with a focus on heels, but when she saw the market for a pole fitness studio was wide open, she jumped on it.

“We were looking for a place to take a pole dance class. I started to look into that. When I couldn’t find a place to take pole classes, I just decided to open a studio. Myrtle Beach was boring. It was the winter time. No tourists were here and a lot of places weren’t exciting to me,” Moss says.

Planting the seeds

But it wasn’t an easy ride. She’d only taken one pole fitness class. Ever. And it was in Miami. Although she had years of experience in dance and placed in competitions with her step team at Myrtle Beach High School, she didn’t know anyone who was qualified to teach a pole fitness — not pole dance — class. Trying to find instructors and a space and marketing took plenty of work, and the usual set-up for a business can take at least a year, but Moss was on the fast track. Moss started in December and had her grand opening on Jan. 31. Mid-January, Moss began building the studio and was in the process of opening without an instructor. Apparently if you build it, they really will come.

“She asked and asked and asked and asked and then finally she found me,” Valerie Reyes say.

Reyes, who lives in Myrtle Beach, was a dancer for 10 years and is a licensed fitness instructor. Reyes became a partner of sorts and helped Moss continue setting up the studio and started marketing for the first class. Reyes already had her own business going before joining Teazers, so finding Reyes was a lucky break for Moss.

“I already had a syllabus and all. When she found me I had everything so she hit the jackpot,” Reyes says.

The two work well together, discussing new classes and strategies and working in tandem handling clientele and teaching. Reyes realized that she preferred to just come in and teach a class rather than handle a constantly ringing phone.

“She does the talking,” Reyes says. “I couldn’t answer the phones as much as she does.”

But, Teazers isn’t the first pole fitness studio in Myrtle Beach. An earlier pole fitness class to open along Myrtle’s coast took at least a year to gather interest. Started by Tammy Appleton, founder of Wicked Fitness in arrogantly shabby Pawleys Island, her pole fitness class was, as she puts it, “not so well received.”

“It was quite shocking to a lot of people. Living in the Bible Belt may have something to do with it.”

Appleton laughs as she says this, but she adds, “People have assumptions that we’re doing flips and hanging upside down, but it’s fitness-related. We’re using the pole as a fitness tool. You are going to be challenged. It’s a 45-minute class and it’s 45 minutes because you can’t last much longer than that. You’ll get a whole new respect for strippers.”

After Moss took her first few classes in a pole fitness course in Greenville in 2011, she was humbled.

“I definitely realized how hard they have to work. I have a new respect for (adult) entertainers,” Moss says.

Who’s doing it?

But most women who take and instruct pole fitness classes are not strippers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Many women are business owners themselves, or doctors, moms, nurses, massage therapists or fitness instructors with other specialties.

“Once I started teaching it, I did not have one stripper,” Reyes says. “I have a girl in my second level class. I said, ‘Man, I need to get my dog shaved,’ and she said, ‘I’m a groomer.’ And a couple of our student work at (one of) the (local) news station(s).”

Appleton has had moms track her down so they could take her classes.

“Because I’m a mom, my friends invited me to this Myrtle Beach Moms on Facebook and someone had been talking about pole fitness,” Appleton says. “They ended up tracking it back to me.”

Appleton even has a children’s book published available on Amazon.com.

“It’s ‘ Charlie’s Monster’,” Appleton says. “It’s about a little fish who gets adopted and comes home and all of a sudden all these strange things start happening.”

But what about the guys? Can men pole and still be considered masculine.

“I’ve had two men officially take the class,” Moss says. “I have a couple guys who come in and do conditioning. He’s like a CrossFit guy.”

Men aren’t barred from taking the courses, and they’ll receive the same workout benefits as the women: arms, abs, legs, and total body toning and strengthening.

There’s a common misconception that every girl (or guy) who pole dances is a stripper. The stigma against pole dancers and pole fitness athletes is hard to overcome. Many people confuse pole dancer with exotic dancer.

“Well, first of all, they’re naked,” Moss explains. “An exotic dancer is dancing for money. What we do is basically an art. We’re doing it for fun and because it’s a workout. They’re doing it for living purposes and to make money. The pole is usually just there. Most of the exotic dancers just walk around it.”

The pervasive connection between the pole and the woman as a sexual object is a constant struggle for Moss and Appleton to overcome, but students who take pole fitness and others who are exposed to more pole fitness performances and competitions often change their minds.

“Right now, because again it’s relatively new, you still get your mixed views,” Appleton says. “We do have some people come in who aren’t sure what to expect. We really try to make it a more fitness and challenging class. We have fun, it’s sexy, but even with this one, you don’t come in your heels until you’re fully immersed and comfortable.”

But it can still be the elephant in the room for some.

“My mom and my sister know,” Prevatte says. “My dad knows a little bit about it, but I don’t really go into detail about it with him. They’re fine with it. They just don’t want me telling the whole world about it. They don’t want my aunt and uncles to know because they have kids. They’ll have the wrong idea about it. Like little teenage boys are gonna be like, ‘Oh my gosh, my cousin’s a stripper.’”

An instructor at Teazers, Meredith Hall, is a tall blonde woman with green eyes and a slight frame. A Myrtle Beach native, Hall is a mother of three and has more ab definition than a Soloflex model. Two of her children are young girls. She sees pole fitness in a slightly different light.

“It doesn’t have to be sensual,” Hall says. “It’s not necessarily for strippers. Lots of athletes train on poles, like Cirque du Soleil.”

Cuban Leigh, who has lived in Murrells Inlet for the past 10 years and is a hula hoop instructor and newbie to pole fitness, joined Teazers specifically for the artistic aspect of the class.

“With hooping, there’s a lot of flow arts that come with it,” Leigh says. “Flow arts include poi, contact staff, fans, flow wand, really any type of object manipulation that you use while dancing. And one of the arts that comes with it are the aerial arts.”

Familiar with Cirque, Leigh remembers that the silks, meaning using silk ropes to fly through the air and wrap yourself around in various acrobatic moves, was what inspired her to start pole fitness.

“That could bring me to aerials,” Leigh says. “It’s a new way to fly.”

Girls just wanna have fun

Although many people still confuse Teezers Gentlemen’s Club with Teazers Pole Fitness and Dance Studio, the stigma that surrounds pole fitness is slowly dissipating.

The opportunity of doing something taboo and using it for fitness is just what draws people to Teazers and Wicked Fitness. Instructors and students agree that pole fitness is all about your body, not your audience.

Prevatte uses pole fitness to help deal with stress. She tries to come every week, even leaving work early to arrive on time.

“It’s weird. Every time something bad happens in my life, I pick up a new hobby,” Prevatte says. “It really helps you get through it and at the end of it, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have this crazy new thing that I can do!’ That’s why I like doing stuff like this. It helps you focus on yourself.”

One of Appleton’s clients, Tricia Amodeo, is a registered nurse and just became a group fitness instructor in December. She joined Appleton’s studio soon after. Amodeo, sees pole fitness as a way to avoid hitting a plateau. “I like to change it up. You reach a kind of plateau stage where you need to try different exercises,” Amodeo says. “I was really interested to see how you could turn it into a whole exercise routine. I was surprised that it’s such a good workout. I was definitely sore. I crave it. You’re laughing the whole time and it’s a way to bond with people too.”

That’s another benefit of the pole fitness classes. There are only a handful of poles, so students can relax and let go a bit (not of the pole, of course). Usually just five people can attend each class, but that appears to be an added benefit for the students interested in pole fitness, with more time for one-on-one instruction.

“It’s more intimate,” Amodeo says. “But it’s nice that it’s a small group. You get a lot of attention. Tammy makes sure that you’re doing it right.”

“Girls don’t just want to go to a gym,” Moss says. “People are more motivated by each other.”

But it’s not just about the pole. Moss has been dancing for years and has been adding classes such as Hip-Hop Cardio, Bikini Boot Camp, Sensual Chair, and Hula “Teaze.” Soon, she’ll add a step dance class called Rockin’ Stilettos taught by a man called 2Krunk wearing heels.

“When was the last time you laughed on a treadmill? We always have a good time in class. We’re always laughing,” Moss said.

One class Appleton hopes to offer soon at Wicked Fitness is Pollet, a combination of pole fitness moves and ballet.

“That is just a softer moving type of class,” Appleton says. “It’s still fitness-related, but the moves are very slow and graceful and the workout is still a strong workout. That would probably be your restorative pole dancing. Gentle pole. Still fun and still challenging, but you’ll be able to walk out.”

But for those who wish to just have a one-time experience, both studios offer party packages — bachelorette, private, business and girls’-night-out parties.

Teazers parties are bring-your-own-alcohol and your own decorations. Teazers packages are set up to teach you a sensual chair dance for your significant other.

At Wicked Fitness, Appleton offers parties ranging from 45 minutes to an hour and can be as detailed or as minimal as the client wants.

“The parties can range from me planning everything from A-to-Z, bringing in food, bringing in beverages, whatever they want,” Appleton says. “Then they just come in and enjoy the experience. Or it can be them saying we just want to come and you show us how to do some pole.”

Novelties include sexy masks, boas, T-shirts, and photographs to remember the night by. But beware of mixing alcohol and pole.

“I have had a group call me from Sunset Beach, (N.C.),” Appleton says. “When they came down, they were all beyond (inebriated). They came in for about 20 minutes and then it was time to go. So for me, that’s not a great experience. I want you to have a great time.”

Schedules change monthly for both studios. Teazers offers pole fitness classes that run through three six-week levels. Level 1 — ground work that focuses on the basics — started at the beginning of June. July saw the start of Level 2 — a segment that focuses more on bodyweight and conditioning. Level 3 is where you get into the aerial acrobatics of so-called “flying” and flipping around upside down. Even if you missed Beginners “Teaze,” you can still attend the drop-in classes no matter what level is running that month.

Wicked Fitness’s pole fitness class is limited to five students, so you should call ahead to secure your spot. Appleton says this is a benefit for the student.

“It’s an extremely challenging class,” Appleton says.” I really want clients to call me so they know exactly what they’re walking into.”

Some students worry about their weight and think it prevents them from being able to join pole fitness or even try it, but Reyes says this is no excuse.

“We have a 200-pound girl in our third level class. Third level means she’s been here for 18 weeks, and now she’s inverting and climbing and going upside down. I’m not saying it was easy for her because it wasn’t. She thought she couldn’t get there. She would look at us with tears in her eyes, but we said, ‘Stop putting yourself in that funk.’”

No matter the size or experience of a student, they always walk (or hobble) away with more confidence.

“I’m excited to see where this takes me in the next couple months,” Prevatte says. “I have cool things that I can do now that people don’t know about me. I feel stronger.”

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