On a recent Monday afternoon, five extremely fit, very diverse women in Lycra bootie shorts and 9-inch Lucite heels are working out a routine at BeSpun Studios, a popular pole-dancing workout spot on Sunset Boulevard. But these gals aren’t strippers. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and their shared love of the pole is driven by fun, exercise and, for the past few weeks, practice. Pole Show L.A., an eye-popping spectacle featuring glitzy costumes, a variety of thematic musical vignettes, Vegas show–style production and Olympic gymnast–worthy athleticism, takes place Saturday at Avalon Hollywood, and creator (also BeSpun’s owner) LeighAnn Reilly is more than excited to see it all come together.
“It’s about filling the stage with the proper imagery,” explains Reilly, taking a break from a particularly challenging routine involving a row of five poles with two girls on each, one appearing to be floating on top of the other — all in choreographed unison. “Pole dancing has a certain stigma, but it is a beautiful art form and it’s so dynamic because it’s dance and acrobatics.”
The stigma, of course, it is the strip-club factor. The pole has long been associated with scantily clad dress, if not nudity, raunchy moves and dollar bills filling the floor below. This has in some respects taken away from acknowledgement of the body strength and skill level one must have to twirl, suspend and climb on the floor-to-ceiling apparatus.
It's not easy and one can hurt herself if not careful. Even when you do it right, it's a little painful. "The thing people don't realize is how much this hurts," Reilly says. “We’re hanging our skin from metal, you know, so it's really intense. You have to be a bit of a masochist."
Reilly, who was a child actress, opened her first studio 11 years ago, inside a martial arts studio; she has been in the current Sunset Boulevard location six years. The first Pole Show was in 2009 at her studio, and it has grown steadily ever since, moving to clubs around L.A. and finally to Avalon. Everyone who takes Reilly's classes has an opportunity to be in the show, from beginners to advanced students.
"It's a transformative experience and the show is just our chance to scream it from the rooftops and to celebrate," Reilly declares. "It's a big celebration of all of our accomplishments because it's really hard to do this. It looks 100 percent professional and it's with everyday people who have regular jobs. These girls are like professional athletes, but they're from all walks of life."
Pole Show L.A. will feature a pole world champion from Australia, but most of the performers, including Reilly, are from L.A. She says the show has slow moments, dark moments, funny parts and funky parts. It's a sexy spectacle but it's for both men and women to enjoy. In fact, she says 70 percent of her audience is female.
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There are different types of pole dance: exotic (sexy heels, catchy music), lyrical (emotional, pretty shapes) and powerful (gymnastics style), and Reilly promises all three, plus moments that she says will be funny, whimsical and unexpected.
"My goal is to bring pole dancing as entertainment to the masses," Reilly declares, and while giving it the respect it deserves is important, she's also celebrating te alluring aspects that for many make it a turn-on to watch. "The show is absolutely sexy. We're not shying away from being powerful, sensual women. We honor that, but we're also extremely strong, extremely tough, all these other things that are evidenced by what we're doing."