Week 6: Strip Moves, Pole Dancing for Fitness

Sheila Kelley started teaching how to strip-tease after a role in 'Dancing at the Blue Iguana'

Sheila Kelley started teaching S Factor classes after a role in the film Dancing at the Blue Iguana. Sheila Kelley's S Factor hide caption

itoggle caption Sheila Kelley's S Factor
Farai Chideya tries out the 'tease' move at the S Factor studio.

Farai Chideya tries out the "flirt" move at the S Factor studio. Devin Robins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Devin Robins, NPR
S Factor instructor Amy Olsen shows off one of her signature moves on the pole.

S Factor instructor Amy Olsen shows off one of her signature moves on the pole. Devin Robins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Devin Robins, NPR
Sheila Kelley with one of her two children

Sheila Kelley, pictured here with one of her two children, once had a strip pole installed in her husband's office. Sheila Kelley's S Factor hide caption

itoggle caption Sheila Kelley's S Factor
Farai Chideya tries out a move with her back to a strip pole at the S Factor studios.

Farai Chideya tries out a "pole slide" move with her back to a strip pole at the S Factor studios. Devin Robins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Devin Robins, NPR

You know, I'm a fairly adventurous kind of gal, and so far during my fitness challenge, I've lost 11 pounds by biking, doing yoga and working out at the gym.

But one day, I was watching Oprah and saw a woman pole dancing — that's right, like in a strip club. And I thought, "Now that puts the 'challenge' in fitness challenge."

The woman I saw on television is Sheila Kelley, an actress who has turned erotic dancing into a workout that combines yoga, pilates and plenty of sex appeal. She calls her workout "The S Factor."

Kelley has been acting for almost 20 years and has appeared on some of television's biggest shows, including The Sopranos and ER. In 2000 she produced and co-starred in the HBO film Dancing at The Blue Iguana.

The dancing in the title wasn't ballet — it was erotic dance. She practiced hard for the role, and her experience inspired her to teach others. Now women from coast to coast take "S Factor" classes.

When I walked into the Los Angeles-area studio, what I didn't see was just as important as what I did. There was no harsh overhead lighting, and no mirrors. My teacher Amy Olsen explained that mirrors can sometimes make clients play to the mirror instead of feeling the joy and flow of the exercise.

As I learned in my yoga class, what feels good to one person can be torture for someone like me. Olsen put me on a yoga mat and started the warm-up. She once taught ballet, and she's lean and flexible. I am neither.

After warming up, I was ready. I wanted to be one of those women who could take a flying leap at a chrome pole, grab it between my thighs, and gracefully descend to the floor.

Of course, we had to start small by learning the "flirt." You lie on your back, put your legs in the air and rub them together seductively. At least, that's how it's supposed to look. Honestly, even the simplest moves require strength, flexibility, and the ability to smile seductively through the pain.

I could see how this workout would reshape my body, but the best benefit is self-confidence. Many women are socialized to be ashamed of their bodies. For Kelley, the art of erotic dancing helped her overcome her own sense of shame.

Kelley got back in shape using strip-dance techniques after having two children. She even installed a pole in her husband's home office. She finally opened her first studio five years ago and now has seven locations from Los Angeles to New York.

Kelley has had plenty of celebrity clients, but women of all ages and sizes are lined up to strut their stuff. Just from one class, I can see how this could be addictive. And by the end, I finally figured out how to flirt — like a dancer, that is.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.