Ditch the sneakers and grab some heels, a local studio is helping women gain confidence through a more exotic workout.

Located south of campus, Studio Rouge offers workout classes like aerial hoops, which finds students hanging from elevated hoops, as well as aerial silks, pole dancing and exotic dancing.

Carolyn Cull, owner and instructor at Studio Rouge, twirls down a pole to demonstrate pole dancing. Cull opened the studio in 2011 to help empower women and show them what their bodies are capable of doing physically.

The idea arose in 2011 when local businesswoman Carolyn Cull’s favorite Columbus pole-dancing studio, Dolphin Dance, closed its doors in 2010. Cull said she was upset, but saw an opportunity to start a new career and continue to help empower women.

“I was heartbroken at the thought of living life without pole [dancing]” she said. “Our society seems to place a lot of importance on the physical appearance of the body. Pole, aerial and exotic [dancing] take the emphasis off what your body looks like and places the importance on what your body can do.”

The classes require no prior dance experience, but are intended for any woman who wants to master multiple moves, like hanging upside down on the pole with one leg or performing a routine on an aerial hoop.

Elizabeth Perry, an Ohio State alumna and an associate instructor at Studio Rouge who works at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said the classes help her feel more feminine after a long day of wearing her uniform: khaki pants, a polo shirt and muddy boots.

“My current occupation … is not very glamorous or very girly,” she said. “So, I kind of needed something with dance and something a little more feminine. And when my best friend wanted to take [pole dancing] classes with me, it seemed like the perfect thing to do.”

Perry has been pole dancing for four years, and is now a certified Vertical Joe’s twerk technician, a certification from the Atlanta-based fitness studio, Vertical Joe’s, who helped pioneer the dance move twerking.

Perry said Cull encourages her to become a more informed instructor and pole dancer by pursuing educational opportunities like those offered by Vertical Joe’s.

“She really seems like a mentor for us, whether it’s in terms of pole [dancing], or honestly just in terms of being an adult female in general,” she said. “[Cull] is always trying to better herself and she is always pushing us to be better … She kind of has created a solid network of empowered females in Columbus, and that’s a pretty big deal.”

Cull said she loves seeing members push themselves physically to accomplish a new dance move or a new level of confidence, like wearing heels in class. Often, women don’t even realize they’re getting a full body workout.

“You will be constantly challenged with new skills and you won’t feel like you’re working out, until the next day when your arms feel like Jell-O.” Cull said. “I love seeing women accomplish goals that they didn’t think [were] possible.”