Tucked into a second floor suite on University Boulevard, the hardwood floors, flanked by two elongated murals of mirrors, resemble that of a ballet studio. Five metallic poles, however, reveal the studio’s true specialization: pole dancing.
Pole N Play Fitness Studio opened in Tuscaloosa last April, providing an array of sensual dance classes for students and others willing to try something new.
TaNieka Wilson, owner and lead instructor of Pole N Play, said dance had always been in her life, but she had not been introduced to “poleing” until more recently. She was first introduced to pole dancing at a friend’s party and gave it a try.
“I was probably one of the most conservative dancers there,” Wilson said.
Intrigued by the dance’s sensuality and physical demands, she made the jump into the business, working for a cell phone company and in studios around the South until she opened Pole N Play Tuscaloosa with a business partner, her mother.
“I’m hoping to get her on the pole at some point,” Wilson said.
Her mother, Marilyn, who helps out with the front end of the business, said she was looking forward to trying out a class with her daughter.
The studio offers a variety of classes for different levels and styles, featuring Chair Play, Floor Play, Ab Play, Pole Teaz and other sessions. The studio is open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for most days and is open Monday-Saturday.
According to Wilson, the studio averages between six to 15 girls a session (pole classes capping at 10), and they don’t have a “typical” customer.
Wilson said her classes aren’t for everyone and some link pole dancing immediately to stripping, but the technicality of the dances is making it be seen more and more as an athletic sport.
“Come with an open mind,” Wilson said. “We’re here to have fun.”
Wilson said she doesn’t want customers to forget her studio’s tagline: Where being sexy gets you fit. She said women should “own their sexy” and she does not shy away from any “sexy” aspects of the dance in her lessons or advertisements.
As for the promise of fitness, Wilson said the transformations she’s seen in herself and her students, working rarely-used muscles and delivering a full-body workout.
Pole N Play is spreading the word about their Tuscaloosa location through a social media presence accounted for by her PR interns from The University of Alabama, Gabrielle Coventing and Alexandria Washington.
Washington, a senior majoring in public relations, said the studio was growing steadily, especially since the start of the University’s fall semester, but she also credited the strength of their students’ word-of-mouth endorsements on top of their own media presence.
“With the generation we’re living with right now, more things that were maybe once against the grain are becoming more accepted,” Washington said.
A student as well as a part of the staff, Washington said the eclectic music used and the full but subtle workout experience would help with the businesses’ growth.
“The Rec better watch their backs,” she said. “It really is a cool environment to hang out, explore your body and enjoy being a woman.”