Redcard Roberts | ParkRecord.com

Redcard Roberts

Amy Roberts

The lights are dimmed, the music pulsing, the room filled with women wearing strappy stilettos, shimmying across the hardwood floor and dancing around a 16-foot brass pole.

But these women are not exotic dancers in a strip club. They’re stay-at-home moms, teachers, lawyers, accountants, cancer survivors, doctors even a bishop’s wife all looking for a good workout.

"Pole dancing is a great way to strengthen your core and upper body," says Lizz Schofield, owner of Studio Soiree, a pole fitness studio now offering classes in Park City. "We have women of all shapes and sizes, from 18 to 70 years old. They come for different reasons: to lose weight, add something new to their workouts, socialize with friends, spice up their relationships, and some are just plain curious."

According to Lizz, pole dancing hits the exercise sweet spot combining strength and resistance training with cardiovascular exercise. She estimates women burn anywhere from 600 to 900 calories in an hour of pole dancing. "The dancing part is where you get the cardio benefits," she said. Then there’s pole tricking, or doing specific movements to balance your body weight against the pole, such as the fireman spin. "That’s where you get the weight lifting and resistance training," Lizz added.

And while she has hundreds of students who have lost significant weight, pole dancing is not just about fitness. "It empowers women. They don’t just get strong physically, they get strong mentally too. It builds confidence."

Parkite Kate Rogers, who started taking pole-dancing classes a few months ago, couldn’t agree more. "I’ve lost about 15 pounds and have gone down two full pant sizes. I’m in the best shape of my life and feel strong and toned. But it’s more than that. I also feel better about my body. I feel sexy and sensual and more confident."

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Rogers is a stay-at-home mother of four and admits she was skeptical at first. "I’m LDS and pretty conservative. There’s a stigma attached to something like this. But I was tired of going to the gym and my usual routine. So I decided to try pole dancing, and I couldn’t be happier. Who says exercise can’t be sexy?"

It’s stories like this that have helped Lizz’s little pole project grow at a staggering pace. Just a few years ago she started by teaching private classes in her dining room. Then she opened a studio in Sugar House, and eventually answered the increasing demand with classes in Riverton and now Park City.

Lizz leases space a couple times a week at the Park City Yoga Studio on Bonanza Drive. She plans to add classes as demand increases. And she even has a portable pole that she takes to people’s homes for private lessons. "Park City residents love to throw parties. I do a lot of private parties and personal in-home instruction up here."

In all, more than 100 women a week take pole classes at one of Lizz’s three studios, though getting to this point wasn’t exactly easy. When she first decided to open a studio in 2007, she had a hard time just getting a lease. "People thought I was running an escort service. They heard the words ‘pole dancing’ and immediately shut me down."

But slowly the conservative tide has shifted. Studio Soiree is now the largest pole fitness studio in the country and, ironically, Utah of all places is the unofficial capital of pole dancing, in large part due to Lizz’s efforts. She founded the Pole Fitness Association, which acts as a governing body for pole professionals. The group is even lobbying to add pole dancing as an Olympic sport.

And despite our state’s conservative reputation, it turns out pole dancing isn’t polarizing. Especially not in Kate Rogers’ home, "My husband loves that I’m taking these classes. He knows I’ll come home from class in a great mood. And more often than not, in the mood!"

For more information on class times and locations, visit http://www.StudioSoiree.com.

Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.

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