As people make resolutions to be more active and maintain healthier lifestyles this time of year, one small business in Salem offers a new point of view on your typical exercise program.
At Arete Pole Fitness, newly located at 1600 B Colorado Ave. in Salem (the studio moved from downtown Roanoke after an issue with the former landlord), Jenni Waters, 29, is helping women and even a few men to be stronger, more flexible and more in touch with their bodies–through pole dancing.
Waters, a former waitress at a gentleman’s club, says she used to watch the women dance. “I knew it was a good workout,” she says of the dancing. Eventually she installed a pole in her home and quickly became addicted to practicing, sometimes poling three hours a day. Waters taught herself how to dance by watching videos on YouTube, she says, and has since gone on to win several competitions. Now she runs a pole fitness studio and teaches others–she became a certified instructor in February 2012.
“This is something different to me,” she says. “It’s athletic and beautiful. I wanted to do gymnastics and ballet as a kid, but people said I wouldn’t go far because I was too tall or not graceful enough–I was never graceful. But when I close my eyes and I dance, I feel so beautiful and graceful and elegant. I feel all this stuff people told me I couldn’t be.”
For Waters, although poling is her passion, it’s also a hobby. She works full time at her primary job, she’s going to school at National College to earn her bachelor’s in both business management and accounting, and she’s mother to two children, ages eight and four. She says she can’t wait to buy the equipment for and start learning all sorts of aerial arts–and hopes that down the line she’ll be able to teach those too.
“This is a work of love,” she says.
Waters has seen her fair share of the stigma surrounding pole dancing, but it doesn’t seem to bother her too much.
“Even if people are watching, it’s still just for me,” she says. “My parents support me, my church supports me–my pastor has even seen some of it. Some of my church members are in my classes. It’s like, ‘If my church can get on board, why can’t y’all?’ ”
While the sport is starting to catch on across the nation (there’s even a big push in the poling community for pole dancing as an Olympic sport, Waters says), Arete Pole Fitness is still the only studio of its kind around here.
“I just want to bring pole love to this part of Virginia,” Waters says. “It’s a great form of fitness and it’s a great art form.”
For more information, visit Arete Pole Fitness online.