“For such a long time, women were told that it is not okay to be sexy.”
Jordan Mazur is used to dancing with a pole. She moved to Columbia, Missouri in 2011 as an apprentice with the Missouri Contemporary Ballet company and had grown up dancing on ballet bars. That’s why she did not struggle when she channeled her passion and skill into pole fitness — now the bar was just sideways.
Mazur opened Muse Pole Fitness on Providence Road in 2012 as a way to share the growing dance form with the Columbia community. As the studio became increasingly popular, she eventually had to leave the ballet in 2015 to focus on being a full-time business owner and pole dancing instructor.
Pole dancing wears a multicolored robe: For some, it’s an art form; for others, it’s a sport on its way into the Olympics. But for the dancers at Muse, it’s also a community of support, a judgement-free zone and a home for the misfits.
“We always joke about the fact that pole attracts misfits,” said Leah Franklin, an instructor at Muse. For her, Muse is not just an exercise studio or the source of her pay check — it’s her family.
“Pole is so unique and somewhat stigmatized that I think we all bond off of that,” Franklin said.
The stigma associated with pole dancing only brings the dancers closer together, Stef Lim agrees. Lim has done pole all around the world: She started in Australia, then Canada, and eventually found her way to Columbia, Missouri and her friends at Muse. Next month, she’ll leave the city for a neurology neurosurgery residency in veterinary medicine, but she plans to keep dancing and to come back and see her friends compete.
Lim believes any negative stigma associated with pole fitness comes from a lack of an open mind.
“I encourage people that if they look at it and say ‘hey, this is inappropriate, this is not a workout’ — I challenge [them] to try it,” Lim said. “Being judgmental or pre-judgmental about something you have never tried is not going to do you any favors.”
Pole is about building strength, finding empowerment and discovering what you love about yourself, Mazur said. In six years, her studio has accrued 13 different classes (all with a feline pun) — from an introductory “Pole Kitten” class to “Power Panther” Strength and Conditioning to Exotic and Contemporary “Pawgraphy.”
She also said there is nothing wrong with expressing your sexy side — “if someone is really against what we are doing, we are not going to constantly seek their opinion.”
Mazur encourages her dancers to use pole not just as a workout but as an outlet for self-expression.
“Whatever makes you feel confident and whatever makes you feel good about yourself is inherently sexy,” she said.