Slide down into pole fitness, VIP style

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By Emily Hartford and Ashley Gannon
Just before Valentine’s Day last year, a friend persuaded Samantha Toling, a UNF general experimental psychology graduate, to take a pole dancing class at VIP Women’s Dance in Jacksonville Beach.

Growing up playing soccer, tennis and volleyball, fitness was an important part of Toling’s life. She never thought pole dancing would be such an intense workout.

“Immediately I was there three times a week working really hard,” she said. “I love how challenging it is. It takes a couple months, but each move you get to learn it’s like, ‘Oh, man, it took me two weeks, and I finally did it.’”

Toling has been attending classes at VIP for six months and loves how much strength she has gained.

“I’m amazed at what my body can do,” she said. “You’re upside down hanging on with one foot, it’s crazy.”

Lynn Maxey, one of the owners and instructors at VIP Women’s Dance, taught pole dancing classes for three years in Orlando after graduating from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in sports and fitness.  She was working as a personal trainer at Lifestyles when she was first exposed to pole dance fitness.

“I saw a wrapped car while driving, and I saw it on TV as a trend in California,” she said. “I could see how that’d be interesting to try. It’s just so girly.”

She and co-owner Leigh Ann Zagray opened VIP last September, and it has continued to grow ever since.

They started with just one pole and are now up to 11, with between 60 and 75 monthly members. Maxey said classes are usually 50 percent full and at least half of the first-timers come back for more.

She finds women come for a variety of reasons; to get fit, add variety to their workout, be more confident and feel sexy.

Most of her clientele is women between 20 and 30 years old, but she also gets a lot of wives wanting to improve their marriage, she said.

VIP offers 29 classes a week, varying in type and level. Pole Basics is the first of the pole dancing series, which goes from beginning to intermediate to advanced. Also on the fitness schedule is belly dancing and chair class.

Chair class is an all-leg workout and belly dancing gets those abs crunching, but Maxey said clients see more results with pole because it is an overall body workout with a focus on abs.

Maxey said a big part of what she does is help women grow out of their shell through dance.

“The overall sense of confidence is there and a sense of empowerment,” Maxey said. “They leave with an ‘I conquered a mountain today’ feeling.”

Reserve a spot in any of the classes 24 hours in advance online at vipwomensdanceparties.com. They are $20 to drop in, but special promotion deals can be found on the Facebook page: VIPwomensdanceparties.