Linda Stuart grabbed onto the pole, leaned back and slowly swirled around it.
Stuart, the president of a public relations firm, kept her shoulders back just like the instructor told her as she learned the basic move of going around the silver pole.
"To me this is a great form of exercise and this’ll be unique," she said before a pole-dancing class Saturday in Scottsdale.
The 56-year-old Scottsdale resident was among about a dozen women attending the women-only class at Reza Fitness Resort, 15233 N. 87th St. The facility also offers spinning, Pilates and salsa dance classes.
Pole dancing — usually seen at dance clubs and strip clubs — has become more popular in large cities in the past few years as a form of exercise. It bolsters women’s confidence, improves their posture and body image, raises their self-esteem and makes them more proud of their sexuality, the class instructors said.
Shawn Lee, an Arizona native who lives in Los Angeles, created the cross-training program that uses swinging on the pole to tone the shoulders and the backs of the arms and uses exotic dancing to tone the lower body. She demonstrated flipping herself upside down on the pole before teaching students the basics of gyrating their hips and sliding around the pole.
"Dance classes don’t work the upper body," she said.
Lee described pole dancing as the "urban fertility dance" and compared it to belly dancing or the hula.
"Every culture has that particular form of dance, this is our culture’s," she said.
Lee, who brought instructors with her from Los Angeles where fitness pole dancing is popular, used her background in dancing and gymnastics and her experience as a go-go dancer at a nightclub and as a circus aerialist in developing the program.
"Most cultures do not accept their fertility dancers," she told the women during class.
Although the women said they were not worried about the stereotypes associated with pole dancing, some of the women declined to give their names when interviewed. One was a middle school teacher who said some of her students have "conservative parents." Another who wouldn’t give her name said "Teri Hatcher and curiosity" brought her to the class. The actress pole-dances for exercise, the woman said.