Pole dancing might be seen as an activity performed solely by strippers, but Liz Zellner, a junior in Arabic, said pole dancing is actually a confidence booster and great exercise.

“When I tell people that I pole dance, many of them think that I’m a stripper,” said Zellner, who has been pole dancing for two years. “But actually I’ve always pole danced with my clothes on in a studio or regular dance club.”

Zellner got her start when she lived in London last year, where she said pole dancing is relatively popular and common.

“I had many of my English friends take classes and pole dancing was very popular and all over their magazines,” Zellner said.

She said she was so pleased to find a pole dance studio in Columbus when she transferred to Ohio State because it was something she did not want to give up. She searched online and found the Dolphin Dance studio on 431 3rd Ave.

Dolphin Dance offers six-week classes for men and women from levels Pole 1 to Pole 5, as well as exotic and belly dance classes, which cost about $96.

Zellner said they also offer workshops and Girls’ Nights, which she had for her birthday party this year. She also organized a program for Baker Hall West residents which took place last week to take a pole dancing class at the studio.

“The program went really well and the participants seemed to enjoy the opportunity to let loose and try something new,” Zellner said.

She said a first-time lesson can consist of some basic moves on the pole, as well as spins and floor work. Zellner also said learning to pole dance is somewhat difficult in terms of building enough strength to do spins, climb and hang.

“I would challenge anyone to learn who thinks it’s some trivial thing to hang upside down on a pole using only their legs,” she said.

She said pole dancing is a very liberating form of dance.

“I feel much more comfortable learning it in a class than something like ballet, where the student next to me may have 15 years of experience and make me look like a fool,” she said.

Lauren Slemenda, a freshman in music performance and molecular genetics and friend of Zellner, said she took a pole dancing class earlier this year because it seemed like something fun to do.

“I’m not that coordinated so it wasn’t super easy,” Slemenda said. “Doing the moves over and over took so much upper body strength so it was a great workout.”

Slemenda said her mother was not pleased to hear that she took a pole dancing class.

“She’s very traditional, and it was hard to explain to her that I wasn’t doing it to attract men,” she said.

She said Dolphin Dance has about five poles and students in the class, who were mainly from OSU, took turns doing moves. The pole dancing class created camaraderie among the group and made her feel empowered she said. Slemenda also said the instructors were really great and personable.

“I am definitely going to try to take more of the classes next year,” she said.

After hearing the story of how the woman who started the pole dance class at Dolphin Dance got her start, Slemenda said she and others in her class felt inspired.

“They told us about how she was originally a Las Vegas dancer, and after getting breast implants and then later not chosen to be in shows, she moved to Columbus to teach and show women that they can be beautiful without changing their bodies,” she said.

Some students think pole dancing should only happen in a strip club.

“I would never be caught on anybody’s pole because I think it objectifies women and contradicts my morals,” said Sie’ara Williams, a junior in education.

Zellner said people judge her for pole dancing only because they associate it with stripping.

“It’s tough since many strippers don’t even know how to pole dance properly – they just take off their clothes,” she said. “I take it more seriously and believe it’s a fun way to exercise and express myself.”

She said pole dancing will become just as popular in the U.S. as it currently is in London once people can get past the negative stigma.

Heather Hope can be reached at hope.27@osu.edu.