Health: Pole Dancing Both Empowering And Physically Challenging

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Health


Jena Clough, owner of DreamFyre Pole Fitness, believes that studying pole dance does as much for the mind and attitude as it does for the body.

“I’m here to empower women,” she says. “Moms come to me—they can’t stand to look in the mirror.” Through pole dance they have “gotten physical strength and confidence back. The pole means confidence.”

Clough, 30, offers classes at Bodystrong Fitness in Orleans and private lessons in her home in Eastham.

This morning Suzanne Bryan of Eastham is just finishing her lesson in Clough’s home studio. Clough’s husband Michael installed a bamboo floor, two poles—one 12 feet and the other nine – and mirrors in the large open room to create a studio. The other end of the room is a playroom for Clough’s children Maddox, four-and-a-half, and Fiona, two-and-a-half. The children of Clough’s private students are welcome to join Maddox and Fiona during their mothers’ lessons, adding to the congeniality of the setting.

Forms of pole dance date back hundreds of years to ancient China and India, according to the website of the International Pole Dance Fitness Association. In the U.S. in the 1920s, “Hoochi Coochi” women danced with the pole holding up the tent of the traveling circus they were a part of. This morphed, in 1968, into a “gentleman’s club” erotic pole dance act. Today the sport has morphed again to become so popular that there is a movement afoot to include pole dance in the Olympics.

“It’s OK,” Clough says, summing up pole dance’s checkered history. “The pole can be whatever you want it to be.”

Pole dance is a form of acrobatics in which participants use just about every muscle in their body. “You’re losing weight and you’re not even knowing you’re doing it,” Clough says. A one-hour session on the pole can burn up to 400 calories and involve a cardio workout.

As her lesson winds down, Bryan asks for a few clarifications on what she has just learned, using terms like “twister grip,” “static pass” and “bunny” (a dance maneuver). After Clough quickly runs through a few moves on the pole, she assigns Bryan homework—Bryan practices on a pole in her home—because Bryan will enter her first competition sponsored by the Pole Sport Organization in Boston next month. In fact, Clough, Bryan, and four other students will participate. Competitions are held on poles that are 12 to 14 feet tall, Clough says.

Clough, who grew up in Eastham and graduated from Nauset Regional High School in 2006, began pole dance nine years ago when she wanted to take a dance class. “I didn’t click with ballet, I wanted hip hop,” she says. After doing a Google search, she located a pole dance class in Yarmouth. “I was hooked.” Shortly after that she bought a pole, a portable version of which retails for about $299, and got very serious with her training.

Before this, Clough had been a surfer and even taught surfing nearby at Nauset Beach. After high school, she picked up business experience working at a toy store that her father owned. During this period she married and also had her two children. So a year and a half ago, when she contemplated going into full-time business for herself, it was “scary,” she recalls.

At Bodystrong she has five poles and will accept a maximum of 10 students per class where the students pair up two to a pole. She also live-streams lessons for students as far away as Florida and Hawaii.

While the majority of Clough’s students are women ages 13 to 54, some of her students are men. But when Clough speaks of the benefits of pole dance, she generally mentions women. “Post-partum depression—that’s real,” she says, and working out on the pole helps.

“We love everyone, no matter what you look like,” Clough adds. “We’re all a pole family, we don’t judge anybody.” Clough herself continues her studies with Tekla Kostek, a former professional ballet dancer, at Barre and Pole in Northampton. Clough’s goal is to someday own a house with a spacious studio in a separate building. Right now she’s working on increasing her recognition Cape-wide and building her professional portfolio.

Clough will host the First Annual DreamFyre Showcase at Bodystrong Fitness in Orleans on Friday, Nov. 3. The doors open at 6 p.m. with the show at 7 p.m. Admission is free. The show will highlight Clough’s pole dance students as well as martial arts performers, chair dancers and more.

For Clough’s classes in Pole Fitness visit and click on “orleansschedule” at the bottom of the page. Classes are $25 with package plans available. Pre-registration is required as registration is limited. Private classes are $75 an hour at Bodystrong and $40 an hour at Clough’s home studio. To schedule Clough’s private classes, call 774-216-0934. Students of any level are welcome. For more information on DreamFyre visit Facebook and Instagram.