When Emily Aygun, owner of Altius Pole Studio, was convinced by a friend to sign up for her first pole dancing class more than fifteen years ago, she nearly never walked through the door. With persuasion from the instructor, Aygun entered the class despite her nerves and found a welcoming and encouraging community that she never knew existed.
“Pole has shown me that I’m bigger than myself, and my ego is not as important as I need it to be,” said Aygun. “It’s allowed me to appreciate my body for what it could do over what it looked like. I’ve found a lot of self-confidence, self-assurance and faith in myself through discovering pole dance.”
Pole dancing and fitness is a multifaceted sport that includes many ways to use a pole, from choreography and tricks to endurance and fitness. The poles are fixed floor-to-ceiling in wood-floor studios, with the option for spinning or static settings. Seksé Fit, the first dance and pole fitness boutique in Bend, opened in 2019 in the Box Factory and offers mood lighting, vibrant ambiance, and spring cushioned hard-wood floors. Altius Pole Studio, which opened in 2021 off Empire Avenue, lets in bright natural light in a small yet spacious space. Both studios offer a complete variety of pole options with classes catered to beginners to experts.
Christina Easly (“Biggs”), Kimberly Yannariello (“Roach”), and Kimberly Thurman (“lil’ Kim”), co-founders of Seksé, faced pushback when they first opened their doors—the idea was still risqué to some of the community. “Pole is still tethered to strip clubs, but we’re trying to redefine it and make it more mainstream,” Yannariello said. Given the option of excusing the sexiness of pole dancing or embracing it, they chose to embrace it, breaking down barriers and stereotypes of pole while introducing it as a type of fitness for anyone and everyone, while letting people know it’s okay to feel sexy. “We’re trying to redefine what it means to be sexy,” Easly said. “We’re saying it’s not about how you look, it’s more about how you feel, the things that make you unique and what’s sexy to you as an individual.”
Seksé Fit was created for people who may not have experience dancing but are looking to get in shape without the monotony of training or typical group fitness, Easly said. “We have the total range of people who don’t like going to gyms, haven’t worked out in a long time, and are looking for something fun to do to keep them motivated,” Easly said.
In an introductory pole class, students may learn a few transitions, like a pirouette, adding up to complete a sequence on the pole, along with a warm-up, cool down, and a few tricks. The result is a full-body toning and sculpting workout, increased flexibility and greater mobility, plus cardio throughout the class.
You’ll leave feeling like you’ve found a community and have the support that maybe you’ve not ever found before.
Pole creates a space that permits people to focus on themselves—both Aygun and Easly are mothers and understand the need for an antidote to the demands of parenthood and family. “This is a place to be a grown-up—dress how you want to dress, bring everything to the table and let it go,” Easly said. “Everyone deserves an hour a day to do something good for themselves.” Aygun similarly said the most positive feedback Altius receives is that it’s a place for members to escape the crazy world and focus on themselves for a moment.
The overall sentiment of pole dance and fitness is that working out should be fun. “The more you play, the exercise and the outcome of the exercise is a side effect,” Aygun said. “If your goal is to get fit, why not have fun?”
“Just come in and take that step,” Easly said, adding to show up with a sense of humor and an open mind. “You’ll leave feeling accomplished,” Aygun said. “You’ll leave feeling like you’ve found a community and have the support that maybe you’ve not ever found before. And, it’s just fun.”