A new kind of therapy … involving a pole

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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