Come for the Sexy Moves, Stay for the Strong Muscles

Photograph By
Jazelle Hunt

Instructor Valerie Oliphant (far right) preps the class for its first spin, the ballerina. 

The studio was chilly but bright, and the poles were waiting. There was a quiet nervousness in the air as each of the seven women sidled up to a pole and waited for further instruction. Our slender, sculpted instructor suggested we wipe them down and set a yoga mat down nearby. The Flirtyfied Pole Intro class at Jordin’s Paradise is designed for absolute beginners, and provides a solid foundation in the art of exotic pole dance. But there’s substantial effort to exert before the flirty flair kicks in.

Class began with a few minutes of light stretching. Somehow, using the pole for resistance to loosen biceps, triceps, and obliques turned simple stretches into a titillating showcase. To warm up our core, isolated chest and hip movements blended and became cheeky little rolls that could keep a hula hoop in motion. For a bit of strength training, we undulated through half push-ups like something out of Magic Mike.

Things got real with what’s called a shoulder mount prep, a test of core strength. It began in a prone position, with the pole base braced against the curve of the neck and hands gripping the pole a few inches up. It felt like doing a crunch. Except, instead of just bringing the knees toward the forehead, the challenge is to use the pole to pull the lower body straight up and parallel to the pole; then, legs perpendicular to the pole, then reverse all the movements slowly back to the laying position. 

Back on our feet we got acquainted with our gleaming partners, learning how to prance about, tiptoeing around the pole and stealing glances of ourselves in the mirror. The bass-heavy song from the sound system seemed to beg for a slow grind, and our instructor Valerie Oliphant delivered with a body roll and hip sway used to take positions around the pole. Nearly every move is purposeful, but disguised as seduction.

At the same time, Oliphant is completely personable and approachable. Her casual tutorial style broke down the movements to make them accessible, allowing us to add the fire later. In just one class, Oliphant took participants through three ways to spin around the pole, one way to climb it, and even an inversion (hanging upside down from the pole, using core and thigh strength) for those feeling up to it.

It can seem intimidating, especially watching Oliphant move up, down, and around like a seasoned Catwoman. But with her mechanical, easy-to-follow instructions and some self-confidence, everyone was able to accomplish most, if not all of these moves in just an hour.

“I believe that 90 percent of pole is a mental thing,” Oliphant says. “If you come in in a good mood, wanting to have fun…and dance is about how you feel. This is dance, so if you get into it you can have a lot of success. You have to know you can do it.”

At the same time, all the best parts of pole dancing—actually climbing the pole and doing seductive, impressive things with it—require serious strength, stamina, and control. And some of it is a bit painful—climbing the pole, for example, requires pressing the arch of one foot and the same knee into the pole, really hard. Oliphant wore foot-and-ankle protectors. 

The first day of soreness was fairly intense. The second and third day are the usual aches and pains, plus finding a bruise or two, maybe. 

So although a little confidence goes a long way with pole dancing, the physical demands are very real. Oliphant herself can attest to this; before becoming a Flirtified instructor a year-and-a-half ago, she was just another Jordin’s Paradise client.

“When I first came [to class], I had these chicken arms. I just never worked [my upper body] out so I had a hard time climbing,” says Oliphant, who is a trained dancer and runner outside of class. “But the instructor was awesome and after seeing her I was just like, man, I need to do some pull-ups or something. Once I got my basic strength there, everything was easier.”

Flirtified Pole participants can expect serious toning and strength over time; but obviously the ego-boost of mastering these skillful, sultry moves is the real draw. 

Titania Hunter, a Forrestville resident, took to Oliphant’s instruction pretty quickly.

“I would definitely come back. [Oliphant] gives us time to learn and do everything, and we learned a lot in one session,” says Hunter. “There’s a lot of teamwork, even though nobody knows each other.”

That’s what makes Jordin’s Paradise a perfect place to explore the sexy side of fitness—it’s a supportive, judgment-free environment where participants can learn at their own pace. 

Shalanda Webb, an Alexandria resident, comes for the exercise and flexibility training but returns for the challenge and support.

“It’s great for your self-esteem. As women, we tend to not feel confident standing in front the mirror,” she says. “If you’re interested in giving it a try, come on in…. You can surprise yourself with what you’re able to do. Because this is truly beyond my comfort zone.”

Instructor Valerie Oliphant demonstrates a carousel spin, which is pretty tough on the arms.
After a quick climbing tutorial, first-timer Titania Hunter is the first to reach the top of the pole, to everyone’s applause.

Jordin’s Paradise (1215 Connecticut Ave. NW 4th Fl) hosts Flirtyfied Pole Intro with Valerie Oliphant on Saturdays at 1 p.m.; there is a session on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. with Yasmine. It’s $25 to drop-in. A four-class pass is $49; an eight-class pass is $88; and a 10-class pass is $99. Unlimited classes per month for $149, or unlimited classes per year for $999. Call (202) 997-8211 or visit for more information. 

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