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Tuesday, September 27,2011

A new kind of therapy … involving a pole

By Blair Madole
photo by Breed Karns
Melanie Piek

An array of brightly colored stilettos are arranged on the floor, there are booty shorts hanging on a rack with a sign reading “For Sale,” feather boas are strung over a shuttered changing screen in the corner, mirrors cover the walls, and eight shiny metal poles reach from floor to ceiling on one side of the large room.

No, it isn’t hard to guess what kind of dance studio this is. What is unexpected, however, is that the dancing has become a form of therapy.

Boulder Spirals was once named Dollhouse Pole Studio, but co-owners Sasha Viers and Melanie Piek decided they needed to tone things down, distinguish themselves from the other dollhouses in the country, and perhaps add a bit of class. “Dollhouse” tends to imply a décor of hot pink and animal print. Not quite what the ladies meant.

In fact, Boulder Spirals has a pretty nice ambiance — soft lighting, delicate chandeliers and white opaque draperies. Aside from the slightly garish accessories strewn about the room, it would be easy to mistake the place for a ballet studio.

After a glance at the class menu, that illusion is quickly dispelled.

The studio offers Pole Technique, levels one through seven. Upon reaching a new level, women are rewarded in a way that is similar to karate practitioners, though the colored belt is replaced with a colored garter. Boulder Spirals also offers a Doll-icious class focusing on sexy dance moves, including chair work, an Eastern Fusion Belly Dance class, a class titled “The Art of Seduction,” which focuses on burlesque techniques, and a Booty Blast class, which is solely a workout and does not involve dancing.

Though the thought of wearing minimal clothing and attempting to spin around a pole or perform a sexy chair dance in front of other members of the class — or the two very in-shape women who own the studio — seems intimidating, Piek insists that isn’t the case.

“I try to show women what’s real about me,” Piek says. “What’s real is that I have four kids. What’s real is that I have to balance work and life. What’s real is that when you get in that balance, you lose a lot of yourself — you lose a lot of your sensuality and confidence. I show that to the women who walk in here, and I think that helps them realize that this isn’t an intimidating place, it’s welcoming.”

Piek and Viers started their pole studio to give women a new way to exercise that would not only get them fit, but would also lead them to realize their innate sensuality and strength. What they didn’t count on was the therapeutic attributes of their classes.

“I knew going into this we would be building a community and supporting women,” Piek says. “I didn’t know it would be this powerful. What we’re doing is actually helping women. Once they gain confidence in themselves, they’re changing and making important decisions about their lives, their relationships.”

Viers says this isn’t only resulting from the community and camaraderie found in the studio, but also the exercise and the changes occurring with the women’s bodies. It can lead to a lot of emotion.

“We’ve had tears here, healthy tears,” says Viers. “When you move the body, especially undulation and gyration, the energy at the base of the spine releases, and a lot of emotions come up. As the muscles move, the thoughts move. We obviously aren’t a licensed place for therapy, but we are here to help and we are here to listen, and a lot of women seem to benefit.”

Faith Knowles has been attending Boulder Spirals since March and can attest to the mental benefits of the classes.

“I’ve seen more than just changes in my body,” Faith says. “I see changes in my confidence, in the way I walk, in the way I sit. I had to adjust the mirrors in my car because suddenly I was sitting up straighter.”

Knowles started coming to Boulder Spirals because she wanted to break her fears. She has three kids to care for, but was afraid to leave the house because of an abusive ex. Now, after five months at the studio, Knowles says she feels confident enough to leave the house and is glad she didn’t need a gun to get there.

“If I hadn’t been going to those pole classes, I would still be afraid,” Knowles says. “I can’t even tell you how much they have done for me. My life has changed so much and I have gotten so much confidence. I found my inner self and am comfortable with letting it out, and it was all from shaking my ass.”

Knowles says the studio helps women realize it is alright to be confident, to be smart, to be sexy, and to say, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

“Sasha and Melanie have created a space where women can feel safe and secure,” Knowles says. “In the studio, women can do things they never thought they would feel comfortable doing.”

Viers and Piek say they are proud of the space they have created. They have made the effort to create a welcoming and safe environment for women to feel confident and let go of the problems in their lives.

“We have a lot of women come in and say ‘I have this stress, or I have that stress, but for that hour I am dancing, I can forget the things going on outside,’” Viers says. “They also leave feeling stronger and feeling like they can go out and deal with their problems.”

Whether a woman is interested in getting back in shape, learning a few tricks on a pole, or feeling sexy in a pair of hot pink platform heels, the co-owners and their clients can provide evidence of the confidence that will be gained.

And, as Knowles says, it is all from shaking your ass.

For more information, see www.boulderspirals.com

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