Strong and sexy

Photo By Wes Davis

Most dancers who want to learn something new might take a ballet or jazz class to sharpen their skills. But Sacramento Pole Dance Studio owner and instructor Lisa Hellmann teaches a challenging sport that not many people have mastered—except maybe the strippers at your local club. Hellmann teaches pole-dancing and lap-dance routines that can seriously tone your body and give you an extra boost of confidence. For more information, visit

What types of classes do you offer?

Pole, lap, burlesque, and we do private classes and private parties. We do fitness-oriented classes every day, and we do private classes for whatever the meaning is. We get a few dancers in who want to up their game, and we get a lot of women that just want to do something special for their husband, or they’re too intimidated to take a regular class. Then we do a lot of private and bachelorette parties.

Who is allowed to take classes?

Well, technically, anyone is allowed to take classes. I always prefer girls to be older so that they’re aware of what they’re doing. I have had moms bring in their daughters. And as long as I get a release of liability from a parent, they can.

How do you feel about people who think pole dancing as a sport is inappropriate?

I think they need to watch us, and find out how gymnastics- and artistic-like it is. Pole dancing can be done in different ways, and [you can] approach the pole in a manner that’s very gymnastics-like and very smooth. My background is ballet, and if you approach it from that aspect, it becomes something totally different than if you approach it from a seductive point of view.

None of our teachers here have been strippers, and so we all have an athletic or gymnastics or ballet or fitness approach to it. There’s so much creativity in the positions and the things you can do, and you’re figuring out how your body works. It’s really not [as] seductive [as] people think it is. It can be, if that’s how you want it to be done.

What made you want to teach these kinds of classes?

I did have ballet, and I’ve always just loved dance. I started doing it for myself. I was in my 30s, and I was attracted to it. And I put a pole in my house and started playing on it, kind of figuring out what I can do and started dancing with it, and I got pretty good pretty fast, and I didn’t tell anybody, because it seems taboo. Like, “What are they going to think of me?”

And then I got to the point where I have to find someone else to do this with, because I have to feed off of somebody. So I started telling my friends, and they asked me to teach them.

Do you ever have girls come in with the intention of wanting to become a stripper?

I do have students that come in with the intention to be a stripper. Basically, they’re coming in to get comfortable with the pole before they audition, and I can certainly teach them how to do that. I can teach them spinning. I can teach them to become confident with the pole, but I know nothing of stripping, and so I can’t teach them anything but how to act confident and comfortable and move loosely around the pole so they’re not as nervous when they do audition.

What kinds of things do you teach your students?

Everything is very progressive. We start with movements of how to move on the floor, how to do leg movement, how to make your legs look more attractive, how to be more confident, how to walk more confident, how to move smoothly around the pole and how to spin. And basically we just go from these very small things.

And there’s always another step and then another step, so as they progress and build their strength they’re getting stronger within the movement and building on the same movement. So if you really break it down, we have probably 25 different movements, but you just keep building on and making them bigger.

Is it hard for people starting out?

Yes, if you want to become good. Anybody can come in and do it, but to become good, yeah, it’s really hard. It’s hard on your skin. A lot of it is just traction on the skin and gripping the pole on the right spot and finding where your core has to be or where your head has to be in order to balance it out. It is very hard. It is very challenging.

What are the benefits of taking pole-dancing classes?

Extreme toning. But that’s why strippers have good bodies, because floor work and pole work is constant toning. It burns like 400 to 500 calories an hour, and you have another aspect of it: That you’re more confident and you move different. Anytime you’re stronger or more confident, just the way you walk and you talk will become more confident.

What’s the sexiest move you’ve taught students?

I can suspend and shake my butt. So you’re pulled up on the pole suspending and pushing out and popping your hips. And I can do splits upside down. It’s pretty provocative.

Do you get a lot of thank you notes from boyfriends or husbands of students?

I had one today. It was the strangest thing. Yeah, we do. Women talk about their confidence that it brings to their relationship. And yes, men are very eager to get their women in here so they move different.