When Andrea Harper moved to Ottawa from New York in 2006, she wanted to keep up with her hobby of pole fitness so she bought a pole and practiced by watching videos on YouTube.
Now, she is organizing a regional championship that might change people’s perceptions of pole dancing.
“It’s very different from what you see in the bars,” said Harper, pole fitness instructor and owner of Ottawa’s Cherry Blossom Studio. “It’s very skilled and it’s very reminiscent to what you see in Cirque du Soleil athletics, so it requires a lot of upper body and core strength.”
For the first time, Ottawa will host the Ontario Pole Fitness Championships on Sept. 29 at the Bronson Centre in the lead up to the national competition at the Edgewater Casino in Vancouver on Oct. 13.
It blends techniques from contemporary dance and gymnastics, she said, so people can expect to see a lot of climbing, inverts, and spins on the pole. The end result that unfolds are “gorgeous routines,” she added.
And unlike strippers, pole dancers keep their clothes on.
“I started doing it when it was really frowned upon,” she recalled.
But lately, she said, people are more interested in trying it out rather than criticizing it.
Jennifer Renaud is one example. The 30-year-old stay-at-home mom has been practising pole fitness for about four years and will compete this year in the amateur division.
“I got bored of the gym,” said Renaud, while practising at Cherry Blossom Thursday. “It keeps me physically fit. And if I’ve had a bad day I just take it out on my pole.”