Finding self-love in a studio, on a pole

Pole dancing instructors share their art with others to inspire self-love and confidence.

Instructor Dakota Wolfe helps Marijo Greeman during a pole tricks class at Knockout Bodies Pole & Aerial Studio in Minneapolis on Thursday, March 28.

Ellen Schmidt

Instructor Dakota Wolfe helps Marijo Greeman during a pole tricks class at Knockout Bodies Pole & Aerial Studio in Minneapolis on Thursday, March 28.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

Mesmerizing aerial lifts and spins make their bodies appear like well-oiled machines, highlighting their strength and beauty while they dance.

The pole is the frame and the dancer is the painting — twirls become colors and leg extensions are the outlines. 

In the past 10 years, pole dancing in the Twin Cities has grown into an art and an opportunity to get to know your body. 

Studios are encouraging people to find their fit in pole dancing, whether a person prefers lyrical style, tricks-oriented or exotic dancing. They want you to love your body.

“As women, we just don’t feel like we are capable of doing some of those things, but we really are,” said Charisma Blue, the owner of Knockout Bodies, a studio in Northeast Minneapolis. “That’s one of the amazing things about pole dancing, you get to discover some of those things that you never really thought [were] possible.”

Blue began pole dancing to fulfill a need to dance. With previous experience in various sports, she turned to dance as a way to express herself. 

After her first few classes at Knockout Bodies (under its original owner), Blue said she was hooked. 

“I never thought of myself as someone who was really strong,” Blue said. “But when I was able to hold my own body weight up with my own arms, that was just an incredible feeling, like ‘I’m strong, look at me, look what I can do.’”

For Blue, pole dancing has become a way of becoming more intimately familiar with her body. This is also the case for many other dancers in the community. 

They find the way their bodies move best.

“Three pole classes and you are [a] diva and you are loving your curves,” said Myss Angie, an instructor at Knockout Bodies and the creator of Pole and Performing Art, a promotional company that organizes events with pole and aerial dancing. “You’re looking in the mirror and giving yourself the cat eye.”

Today, the pole community strives to be more inclusive. Gender is not a deterrent from taking classes, and the community is embracing where dance style came from.

“There wasn’t a really big crossover into exotic, even though that’s where it came from,” said Dakota Wolfe, an instructor at Knockout Bodies and the studio’s resident heels expert. “I was like the only stripper around. I really got shamed even though I was hired to bring that style into it.”

With the opening of additional studios and a push to erase those prejudices, the pole community has become more welcoming. Anyone who tries pole dancing is supported, regardless of their background.

“It’s more about celebrating the individual person and what their style is,” Blue said.

Dancers and instructors have noticed having a powerful shift in self-esteem as a result of pursuing the art. However, it doesn’t only affect the individual. It’s a push against a larger issue. 

“As women, we are told that we’re not strong or being sexy is bad,” Myss Angie said. “Pole is a way to reclaim [that].”

Which is exactly what these instructors set out to do.

“When I see my students on stage doing something that I’ve taught them or helped them with, I get to share in that celebration,” Blue said. “Our focus is giving you an opportunity to fall in love with who you are.”