After graduating from MTSU in 2008, Kristen Nicole Hall had trouble finding adult dance and gymnastics classes nearby. She discovered pole dance fitness, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hall will open her second Middle Tennessee studio on Thompson Lane, across from Riverstone, in Murfreesboro.
“We felt like the demand in Nashville was amazing, and we had so many clients who drove up here from Murfreesboro that we felt it would be beneficial to our clients, and also to us, to have a second studio space in Murfreesboro,” owner Hall explained.
Sometimes referred to as “pole dancing” or “pole fitness,” this type of core strengthening and aerobic exercise entered the market within the past six to 10 years. Gradually, it has become more accepted as a fun, exciting fitness routine and has somewhat lost the stigma of being associated with exotic dancers at gentlemen’s clubs.
“We refer to our classes as Flirty Fitness to avoid any apprehension, but we’re still in the South,” she said. “I graduated with a degree in chemistry, and it took my parents about a year to really understand what I was doing.”
She recalled how her father was particularly hesitant about her endeavor, noting that he didn’t spend 14 years paying for gymnastics classes for her to teach pole dancing.
“I am not a professional dancer, and no one on my staff is a dancer in a nightclub,” Hall continued.
“We all have backgrounds in gymnastics. One of the girls is actually a doctor who works for the Nashville Ballet, and another danced in ‘America’s Got Talent.’ All of our instructors have backgrounds in exercise, but no one has actually danced in an actual (strip) club.”
Instead, Studio Goddess focuses on teaching clients how to work out and how to use the dance pole as an apparatus for fitness, similar to a yoga ball or ballet bar.
Her clientele runs the gamut, ranging in age – Hall said her oldest client was 72 – and size and culture.
“The general consensus is that it’s one of the few workouts that people can actually stick to because they actually enjoy the workout,” Hall said.
This includes Murfreesboro resident Monica Pair, a 30-year-old mother of three. She purchased a Groupon deal in December 2010 and didn’t take her first class until six months later.
One class is all she needed.
“I love it, I absolutely love it ...” she said. “It’s really one of the best things that’s ever happened to me health-wise.”
Having just had her third baby, Pair was nervous to join a gym.
“I’ve been to gyms during the trial period, and you walk through … and feel like you’re being gawked at by all the people who are sweaty and know how to work the machines.”
She took a chance on Studio Goddess and was excited to see that she “wasn’t the only person there who had never done this before and who didn’t know what to do.
“Right after you have kids, you don’t exactly feel your best, and you’re not comfortable going to a gym,” Pair explained. “It was very comforting know that everyone in the beginner class was at the same level as I was, and there was no stress of being stared at.”
Wanting to get back to her pre-baby size and regain her confidence, Pair was drawn to the description of Studio Goddess workouts.
“When I first signed up for it, that was actually the draw. It was a little risqué because it is pole dancing, and there is that stigma of it being a stripper class,” she remembered. “But, it is so not a stripper class.”
And what a difference six months can make.
“I am so much stronger, I have so much more endurance, I’m more flexible, and I’ve lost six inches in my waist alone,” she said. “It’s really been phenomenal. My personal confidence (has grown) and I’ve actually picked up other activities that I would never have done, like hula hoop.”
Pair stressed all the moves are taught in a fitness atmosphere.
“You’re learning form and posture,” she said, likening it to how yoga focuses on the integrity of poses.
In addition to personal fitness and confidence, Hall aims for Studio Goddess to serve as a social atmosphere for her clients.
“We’re very open, and we talk about things with one another, and everybody just builds a kind of bond,” Hall said. “It’s a female sanctuary. We want to release our inner goddess and celebrate the fact that we’re all women and use our bodies in a sensual way that is not sexual.”
This is the concept she wants to bring to Murfreesboro, not “just the whole idea of pole dance fitness or aerobic strip tease.”
Studio Goddess provides the social environment for women – young and old, big and small – to meet other women. Hall pointed out that after college there aren’t many places to meet and interact with like-minded women
“This is a way for them to get together and get a great workout,” she said.
Studio Goddess offers workouts like Pole-lates, which combines yoga, pilates and the barre method using the pole as a vertical ballet bar, Burlesque classes, and even Shake Your Abs, a 60-minute ab exercise that combines hip hop and other dances to get a complete core workout without doing a single crunch.
“We offer classes with the pole that don’t necessarily involve pole dancing,” Hall said. “It is a complete workout. You’re going to get your cardio, strength building, muscle training, toning, stability – it is a total body workout.”