Pole dancing is the nation’s newest fad, with classes popping up in gyms, fitness centers and just about anywhere a dancer can set up a portable pole. But in Austin, Ms. Natasha has taken the sport of pole dancing seriously for years. In 2007 while looking for rental space to open Brass Ovaries, Austin’s only pole dancing studio, she met with great resistance. “People would not rent to us because of what we were teaching” says Ms. Natasha. “It took until the late summer of 2009 to finally find a place that took us seriously and allowed us to open up a studio. Forbidden Fruit (adult fetish boutique) was the only place in Austin that would even allow us to teach back then.”
As far as Ms. Natasha is concerned, pole dancing is not just for exotic dancers and lessons are not just for women. Brass Ovaries studio offers pole fitness classes to anyone who wants to “release their inner monkey” and get a fun, full-body workout. Male and transgender enrollees are welcome. Ms. Natasha notes that men make remarkably good pole dancers, “except they usually forget to point their toes”.
Ms. Natasha has an unusual background. She was one of the first women to complete special operations training in the U.S. Army. She fought in Bosnia. She worked for NATO. She completed the 1,100 mile hike across seven states along the Appalachian Trail. She has performed on The Jerry Springer Show, PBS TV and the National Geographic Channel.
Ms. Natasha started pole dancing because she thought it would be fun. She was already an experienced rock climber, so she knew she wouldn’t have much trouble climbing the pole. She decided to open her own studio after becoming frustrated with the negativity she constantly encountered as a pole dancer. That negativity still persists. The Yellow Pages refuse to move Brass Ovaries out of the “Adult Entertainment” section and will not list the studio under “Dance” or “Fitness”. Some people take classes in secret, the weirdest scenario being a woman who told her husband she was tap dancing instead of pole dancing.
Such stereotyping has led Ms. Natasha to form the Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing troupe, a group of experienced performers who travel nationally to appear at festivals, concerts and events. They promote pole dancing as fitness and to try to break the stigma surrounding pole dancers.
Pole dancing has origins in a traditional form of Indian yoga called Mallakhamb which dates back to the early 1800’s. In Mallakhamb men use a vertical wooden pole and women use a rope (much like corde lisse or aerial silk acrobatics) to support poses. Today’s use of a stainless steel pole relates to the now-defunct practice of Mallastambha where an iron pole was used by male wrestlers in India to enhance power and improve endurance.
Modern pole dancing is an arguably weird form of progressive exercise. Students of all sizes and flexibilities can find fitness benefits. Basic moves include sexy crawling, moving elegantly around the pole and pole-assisted back bends. Brass Ovaries instructor Sarah says beginners are often surprised to find they are stronger than they realize. Many are able to do moves and poses they never thought possible during their first lesson.
Visit the Brass Ovaries website to find out more about pole dancing in Austin. To see Brass Ovaries dancers in action, Miss Sophie and Julie perform Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 during Austin’s Pleasure Fest. Go to the 93.7 KLBJ radio website for Pleasure Fest details.
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