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Pole dancing is attracting a whole new audience at a studio in Salem.
The immediate image, of course, is of the slinky young woman slithering around a floor-to-ceiling pole to exotic music, surrounded by gaping men with tongues hanging.
That’s not what you get at Arete Pole Fitness in Salem.
You’re far more likely to see your neighbor, a 40-year-old mom who is a bit overweight and about as naturally athletic as a bean counter. On a recent evening, there were 11 practitioners of this small, but passionately followed sport working out at the nondescript club on Colorado Street. Their occupations were nuclear medical technician, respiratory therapist, truck company owner, computer operations specialist, RN, clinical researcher, accountant, lawyer, photographer, little boy (7) and the club’s owner.
They ranged in experience from three months to three intense years, and they all were smiling.
Jenni Waters (32), put the club together as a project for a business class at National College. She was managing a Sonic at the time. She brought in her mother, Debbie Robinson, (50), and her son, Gabriel, who is 7 now. Jenni was working 60 hours a week, going to school full-time, raising the kid; and she weighed 200 pounds. She taught herself to pole dance, shed the excess jobs—and weight—and was in business. She has now won trophies in national competitions.
Early in the process Shealynn Salzbach (26), who owns a photo studio next door, was given a month’s membership by her boyfriend. She liked pole dancing so much that she did some computer work—among other things—for Arete to pay for membership and “I coached almost from the day I started,” she says.
New students, says Salzbach, “come in shy, nervous, intimidated and we try to find out what they want out of it: a workout, something sexy, more strength. You can do a lot with it.”
Michelle Derrico, a 55-year-old lawyer, came in with friends on a Groupon promotion and loved it immediately.
“You are guaranteed a laugh and a good workout,” she says. Like several others, Derrico has had some serious orthopedic issues that pole dancing has helped alleviate. A lot of body parts had been replaced in this specific class.
Leah Henderson is a tiny 25-year-old accountant who was once a lacrosse player.
“It’s the only workout I do; the only one I need,” she says. Several of the women had athletic backgrounds, but that is not necessary, says Jenni Waters: “Anybody can do it.” There are tiny steps on the long road to expert status.
Sarah Henderson, a 29-year-old clinical researcher, “came here for a bachelorette party and found the next day I was sore, but it didn’t feel like I’d worked out. Nothing was easy.” But, she found “community support … and I reclaimed my body” after health problems.