Shannon-Elise Teitz is gyrating on a pole, her hands gripped high, body undulating up and down in sync with music blaring from big speakers beside an exercise ball. "How ya feelin'?" she shouts, looking out to the group, shaking her booty to demonstrate a move.
It's a Wednesday evening at Wolf Studios in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and Teitz, 33, is leading a 45-minute session called "Strip Fitness." On my knees at the front of the class, in the shadow of a stripper's pole, I raise my arms and sway, the lone male among a half-dozen wiggling women.
"You got it!" Teitz calls out, the music thumping, ringing in my ears.
Advertised to "tone your booty, legs, arms and abs with style," Wolf Studios' dirty-dancing-influenced class is the latest local entry into a new exercise form that borrows moves most often associated with strip bars and burlesque shows. Lighted platforms, poles, folding chairs, suggestive moves and thumping music mix to create a sweat-inducing, heart-rate-raising session that Teitz says can be as serious a workout as anything she offers.
"It's a ton of cardio, your heart rate going up and down through different fat-burning zones," she said.
Sexy and Fit
Popular on the West Coast since the early part of this decade, and bolstered by exercise-video stars like Carmen Electra, stripper-influenced workouts take cues from erotic dancing and add in strenuous aerobic procedures. Participants hang and swing on poles, step up and down off platforms, dance to fast-pace beats, and gyrate in varying degrees of suggestiveness.
Some studios encourage extra clothing layers, with feather boas and tank tops thrown off in the fit of a steamy workout--though never further than sports-bra deep.
Melissa Eisler, a managing editor at The Active Network, an online publisher of sports and fitness web sites in San Diego, said exercisers need to have an open mind when attending a strip-based class. "People who are easily offended should set aside their inhibitions before walking through the door or they probably shouldn't go," she said.
Wolf Studios founder Matt Rubenstein classified Strip Fitness as "adults-only." "It can get quite risqu?," he said.
Ali Kuhlman, 22, of Plymouth, Minnesota, has not told her family about being involved in the class. She said her boyfriend's jaw dropped when she mentioned the details. "He asked when he could come watch."
But like most of the psuedo-strippers at Wolf, Kuhlman signed up to burn calories, not to hone her skills on a pole. A dancer and a self-proclaimed fitness freak, Kuhlman said Strip Fitness is just as intense as her other regimens, though more fun. "The music is a huge part," she said. "It makes you want to move and shake."
At Flex Appeal, a facility touted as "Minnesota's premier striptease and pole dancing fitness studio," founder Maria Scherber has been teaching striptease dance aerobics, pole dancing, chair striptease, and "body booty camp" since 2005.
The studio features mirrors, gleaming hardwood floors, speakers and floor-to-ceiling poles for dancers to twirl, dangle, thrust and gyrate at will.