Normally entering a room with one wall covered in a black sheet and fairy lights, with multiple poles throughout the room would be unusual, but not at Ava Fitness.
Ava Fitness offers a variety of pole, aerial, dance and fitness classes, and focuses on being an accepting and welcoming place, according to Alex Connolly, pole dancing instructor at Ava Fitness New West and co-owner at Ava Fitness Vancouver. Pole fitness classes originated in the ‘90s from Canadian-born Fawnia Mondey, and have grown in popularity since. There are now provincial and national pole dancing competitions, and the next national competition will take place June 10 in Vancouver. The pole dancing community supports and motivates women, rather than focusing on the negatives, according to Connolly.
“I was just really inspired by the community and how it encourages women to root for each others rise, and their physical, actual, literal rise up the pole,” said Connolly. “We live in a society where women are constantly told to judge each other, and bring each other down…and in the pole community it’s completely opposite.”
Roberta Hayes, a fitness instructor at Ava Fitness, said the stigma around the sport has shifted, due to the shift in public perception of women.
“I think there’s been a cultural shift in general, with the growth of awareness of sexism and exotic dance and feminism,” said Hayes. “There’s a general consciousness shift that’s gone on, and also we’re getting better and better with women being sexual over time.”
Cyanne Nisbett, a student at Ava Fitness, said that even within her own family there is a stigma against it, and that she faces criticism when she posts things online.
“I’ve definitely encountered the stigma, and it blows my mind,” Nisbett said. When she posts things online, “I’ve had people in my family be like ‘well what about when you go to try and find work?”
Ava Fitness is opening a new studio on Oak and Broadway April 1.