College students swap weights for pole dancing

Every girl inside the hot pink room accented with multi-colored fluorescent lights clapped as Lia Massia and Siara Johnson were awarded certificates that read, “Mastered in Official Rapture Graduate.”

Massia, a FAMU Alumna with a degree in mathematics from Colorado Springs, Colo. and her friend, Siara Johnson, 21, a third year, civil and environmental engineering student at Florida A&M University and Tallahassee native, bonded as their instructor promoted both of them to Level III of pole dancing.

FAMU offers a selection of classes for students at its fully-equipped recreational center. However, students are going beyond the traditional way of exercising to a new, sexy, fun and unique form of exercise which involves a vertical pole and high heels known as pole dancing.

The Art of the Catwalk is located on West Tennessee St., and is a second home to some college students that prefer to come to classes three to five days a week to exercise and learn different tricks while having fun at the same time. For Massia, who was once a self-proclaimed “homebody” before enrolling in the class six months ago, pole dancing is “the best form of exercise she could ever ask for.”

“Working out in the gym is boring [and] FAMU Recreation Center is a fashion show,” said Massia. “When you don’t really want to be around a whole bunch of people that you know are always looking at you, [Art of the Catwalk] is a smaller setting, and it’s more fun. You really don’t realize how much you are working out until like the next day when you wake up.”

Classes are offered six days a week. There are currently over a thousand active students in Tallahassee taking classes at the Art of the Catwalk. The membership is $159 for two months and $259 for six months which includes pole classes and fitness classes. But it is $20 for the pole “intro” class without a membership per class session.

For Onassis Vilaire, a 20-year-old, junior accounting student at Florida State University, her membership with the gym combined with the pole dancing class is “addictive,” and helped her to lose weight and stay healthy.

“When you see a little change in your body, then you’re like maybe I should eat better too; I started eating better then I really saw a change. I lost about 15 pounds,” the Miami native said.

According to Marion Shaffer, Owner and Creative Director of Art of the Catwalk, pole dancing helps increase strength, flexibility, cardio and muscle toning, and also helps women gain more confidence. Shaffer also emphasized the acrobatic side of pole dancing, and that there is more to the exercise than being sexy.

“I feel like it’s more about being strong and confident and about learning that you can do fun things when you workout; it’s not all about going and lifting weights,” said Shaffer. “You can find your workout in other ways and make it fun.”