Studio Soiree is a new business in Sugar House offering pole fitness lessons. Participants include men learning acrobatic manuvers shaping up for rock climbing.
Niqui Eastman knew that opening a pole dancing studio in Salt Lake City, Utah would be a challenge given the highly conservative nature of most citizens. Pole dancing lessons have been popular in the Eastern United States the West Coast and especially in Las Vegas for some time.
Due to the cultural misgivings, Eastman and her business partner decided to offer pole dancing lessons with varying degrees of sexiness. All of their exercises are designed to provide killer core workouts. However, Eastman’s new class is designed for men (sexy hip movements or high-heeled stilettos not required). One might assume that men in pole dancing lessons might be there to watch more than participate. The men observed in Niqu’s class, however, were acrobatic and incredibly strong. Along side of Eastman, are Zoria, Kyle, Nielson and Des. The only female in Eastman’s class is Zoria Judd. Judd says she isn’t graceful enough for pole dancing but she says the workout from the maneuvers has made her stronger than ever.
My first instinct of coming to a class to watch men spinning on poles was that I might cringe. I kept wondering what kind of man one must be to take pole dancing lessons. Although the maneuvers are indeed much more acrobatic than seductive, it seems it would take a man with a lot of inhibition and courage to sign up for pole dancing.
Participants learn how to perform moves with names such as “falling angel”. Without watching the film one might assume Niqui is training these men to become strippers. However, I was amazed by how easily I mischaracterized the nature of the classes and participants. According to Kyle Borland he would never consider a class to become a stripper. “I’m far too shy to dance,” says Borland. Kyle Borland is a self-employed stone mason and rock climber. These aren’t men who put out a weird vibe, they all were outgoing, friendly with a normal balance of testosterone. All the men I spoke to said the class has helped them to feel less inhibited and have fun while exercising. Des Lownds, a software engineer, laughs as he attempts a maneuver that sends him in a awkward spirol down the pole.
“Men are on poles, and I kind of think that throwing your body around a pole is much more fun than curling a weight or pulling on a band,” says Eastman.
In the same neighborhood that offers the Blue Boutique (offering adult lingerie) and a bakery offering X rated shaped cakes and cookies, one might assume that if there were any location to offer a pole dancing class that that place would be Sugar House. However, Eastman doesn’t want her classes to be labeled as erotic or gross. “We want to offer classes that are fun, classy and a great way to get fit… I don’t teach men or women how to be sexy, I think either your momma gave it to you, or you don’t have it.” Eastman defines “sexy” more in terms of confidence and less in terms of erotic behavior. She believes her classes help students to be less inhibited, and feel good about who they are, all while having a great time.
The success of Studio Soiree is apparent in both the number of classes they offer as well as the number of students. The pole fitness is a international phenomenon, popular even in China. Soon Studio Soiree will be offering a DVD video of their pole maneuvers to a world-wide audience. There are also talks in the works of a reality T.V program. Eastman says they will also soon be opening another studio in Utah. Past disputes over controversial businesses in Utah have been over the Bikini Cuts franchise expansion and the moving of Blue Boutique (East of Highland Drive). These past controversies are likely an indication that Eastman will face an uphill battle if she attempts to move almost anywhere outside of Sugar House. Eastman’s classy reputation will need to proceed her in order to prevent the skeptics from defining Studio Soiree, before they have a chance to define themselves.