FOR a long time pole fitness has been attacked by critics who call it nothing more than a strip club tease.
But watching Michele Thomas on the pole you can see her muscles tense and the pure concentration hidden behind the stage smile.
There's definitely a lot more involved than sultry looks and excessive hair-flicking.
It's seriously acrobatic stuff and the world is starting to warm up to the idea with strictly non-nude amateur and professional competitions established around the globe.
Ms Thomas started her Pole Dolls classes at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds in November keen to bring Tweed's closet pole dancers out of hiding.
The fine arts graduate has a rather eclectic past.
After studying arts, film and video she practically ran away to the circus.
"I went to a trapeze class in Sydney one day and I have been doing it ever since," she admitted.
"I like circus as a performance, I love the costumes.
"On the pole it's a nice way to combine all your skills."
Considering her circus influences, Ms Thomas sees her classes as being more pole fusion than simply pole fitness.
"Some of the younger girls want to learn sexier moves, others just want the fitness and some really get into the circus element with the pole as well as the silks and the ring," Ms Thomas said.
"You can really see a person's past in the way they come to the pole, some girls you can tell have done gymnastics, some girls have done dance.
"I saw a need for local classes so people don't have to go up the coast."
Her classes attract people from all walks of life and you don't have to be fit or strong to move around the pole.
"Most people are pleasantly surprised by what they're able to do," she said.
"You don't have to be strong, there are all types of moves for beginners to advanced, just give it a go.
"We're not too serious, we like to have some fun and a few laughs.
"It's a fun way to get fit to music that you like."
Just don't moisturise. Skin contact is what keeps you on the pole and you don't want to be slippery.
Ms Thomas currently has about 20 students.
Visit the Pole Dolls Facebook page or call 0449 222 312 to get involved and let loose a few of those inhibitions.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Pole dancing started in America in the 1920s, when travelling show dancers used a tent pole as a prop in their acts. Pole dancing gradually moved from tents to bars in the 1950s.
- A group of advocates is pushing for pole dancing to be represented as an Olympic sport at the 2012 London Olympics.
- The first Miss Pole Dance World competition was held in 2005 in Amsterdam. Strictly clothes on.
- Before the mid 2000s, pole dance mainly took place in strip clubs. Since then it's become a fitness option.
- Recognised schools and qualifications are now available in the art of pole dancing.
- Pole dancing routines usually begin with strength training, dance-based moves, and squats, push-ups, and sit-ups, and gradually works its way up to the climbs and inversions.
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