An Atlanta dance studio went viral after posting a reel of its “Mommy and Me” pole fitness workshop, sparking endless comments on social media about whether or not the class was inappropriate for young children.
But Pink Dance and Aerial Studio owner Tiajuanna “Tia” Harris said she wants people to understand that what happens in the class is no different from gymnastics or playing on monkey bars and vertical poles at a park playground.
Many online accused the studio of sexualizing children. Harris, who has no background in exotic dancing, said those claims are false. The instructors, who also do not have an exotic dancing background, and class participants are all fully clothed, there’s no stripping involved and the workshop is all about parents having fun with their children in a positive environment, she said.
Harris said she’s received nothing but positive feedback from participants in the sold-out classes, with one parent saying her son “felt like Spiderman" after taking the class.
Harris started the studio over a decade ago intending to create a positive environment for a variety of clients to feel empowered through pole and aerial workouts. The classes with kids ages 4 and up have been going on for a couple of years, despite recently gaining national attention.
The classes attract moms and children from all walks of life, Harris said. The majority of the students are stay-at-home moms or working professionals and, while the class is centered around mothers, the fathers are fully aware of their children participating, despite social media comments trying to paint an “absent father” stereotype.
“If children doing pole fitness in other parts of the world and gymnastics aren't deemed as coming from broken households, then neither should Tia's students,” said Harris’ media representative. “This is all speculation and, more often than not, due to a lack of research.”
In addition to the classes, the studio has a kids' pole fitness team that will be competing in the U.S. Aerial Federation’s National World Qualifier Championship this summer in Charleston, South Carolina.
Pole fitness, which does not always include dancing, has grown in popularity over the last few years as many have caught on to its physical and mental health benefits.
According to a study published in the BMC Psychology journal, pole workouts showed an increase in mental well-being, self-esteem and body appreciation in 50 women who took an eight-week program.
This is something Harris said participants in her studio classes have often told her, with some saying it “has helped with depression, anxiety, body image and quite literally saved their lives.”
The act of pole dancing can be traced back to the ancient Indian sport of mallakhamb, which started as a martial arts practice involving a vertical pole. According to the official Olympics website, "malla" means wrestling and "khamb" translates to pole.
Back in 2017, the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF) granted pole dancing an “observer status,” meaning it became a provisionally recognized sport worldwide.
“Pole Sports is a performance sport combining dance and acrobatics on a vertical pole,” GAISF said on its website. “Pole Sports requires great physical and mental exertion, strength and endurance are required to lift, hold and spin the body. A high degree of flexibility is needed to contort, pose, demonstrate lines and execute techniques.”
Because of this, pole dancing could become an Olympic sport one day.
“Who are we to say they won’t become the next Gabby Douglas or Simone Biles? The sky is the limit!” Harris said.
That’s not to say that there aren’t pole classes for adults that do focus on sensuality at the studio. But the “Mommy and Me” workshop is not one of them, and Harris hopes her studio can help break the stigmas surrounding it.
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