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VIDEO: Pole sports Canadian champion Danielle Reed conquers pole-dancing cliches


"I discovered pole fitness and instantly fell in love with it ... (People are) blown away by the amount of strength and flexibility that it takes.'

REGINA, Sask. —

Let’s start by making one thing clear: Danielle Reed isn’t a pole dancer.

Not in the conventional sense, anyway.

The 27-year-old Reginan is an elite athlete — a national champion, no less — who performs choreographed routines that are set to music and scored by judges.

It’s a dance-based activity which evolved over time into a full-fledged sport. Beyond its distinct brass apparatus, the only real difference between pole fitness and a traditional sport like figure skating is public perception.

“Sometimes I’m very cautious about even saying ‘pole dancing,’ ” Reed admits. “My dad actually hates it when I say pole dancing. He’s like, ‘It’s pole sport and pole fitness.’ Pole dancing just naturally comes out.”

So do misconceptions about its affiliation with nudity and adult entertainment.

Get your minds out of the gutter, people!

“The (pole) community as a whole is really striving to get away from that kind of stereotype,” says Reed, who emphasizes the health and fitness aspect. “It’s a great workout. There is an exotic side but it’s more of a classy (way) of bringing your sexy side out. We try and keep it quite modest. But you still have people, when they hear pole dancing, who think of stripping right away.”

Reed is helping to change that viewpoint.

She made a natural transition to pole fitness about five years ago after training as a gymnast for most of her life. Reed competed at the national level in gymnastics, but injuries began to add up and her body eventually told her it was “time to stop.”

“I did have a really good career with it, but I was getting to that point where I wanted to try something new,” she says. “I discovered pole fitness and instantly fell in love with it. I could really see myself utilizing my background in gymnastics. I love competing. I love performing. It definitely has pushed me and challenged me and put me into comfort zones that I never thought I would experience.”

Although Reed is very passionate about the sport, she was reluctant in the beginning to tell people about her accomplishments.

It was just a matter of testing the waters.

“It took me a little while to warm up to it,” she admits. “Now I’ve grown with the success I’ve had, and I want to promote and share what an amazing sport it is. It’s so much fun. I started sharing it more and getting lots of positive feedback. Other people can see that, and kind of get that motivation to try and step out of their comfort zone and try something new.”

It paid off for Reed, who’s now a true champion of the sport. She tries to tell people what it’s all about, but the best explanation is usually a demonstration.

“We have showcases every now and then at the studio, and we invite our friends and family out,” she says. “The normal reaction is like, ‘Wow!’ My dad is a perfect example. He was really a skeptic. He was like, ‘Oh my god, my daughter is pole dancing.’ I was kind of scared to tell him, but he came out to watch me perform and it changed his mind. (People are) blown away by the amount of strength and flexibility that it takes. It really changes a person’s perspective once they see the movement and skills and the purpose of what we do.”

Despite some obvious differences, there are many similarities between pole competition and sports like gymnastics and figure skating. They all require endurance, skill, power and agility — combined with elements of grace, finesse and, yes, even sex appeal.

“Pole dancing is an art,” Reed says. “You could do a dramatic (routine). You can do something powerful, something emotional. There are so many different aspects. You can utilize that pole in any background or shape or form that you want. That’s what I love about it. I try and change up my routine for my competitions to challenge myself and try different genres of dance.”

Reed has moved quickly up the ranks in just four years as a competitor, going from amateur to professional. She won the Pole Sport Organization’s Canada West championships last fall and added a national title on June 2 in Toronto.

“Ever since she started the sport, she has really excelled at it,” says Anya Holgerson, an instructor at Eclipse Pole and Fitness Studio in Regina. “She learned the skills and movements much quicker than a lot of people. I think a lot of that was due to her gymnastics background.

“It has been great seeing her go from a very gymnastics point to getting her own flow and groove on the pole. She definitely has her very own style that she explodes out into. Seeing her beautiful lines that she has with her extension and her legs and everything is just amazing.”

Having achieved a milestone at the national championships, Reed’s next objective is to represent Canada on the world stage.

The International Pole Sports Federation, which formed in 2009, has been staging world championships since 2012 and even hopes to someday be part of the Olympics.

Two years ago, pole dancing was provisionally recognized as an official sport by the Global Association of International Sports Federations. That’s the first step in a lengthy process toward gaining Olympic status.

Reed would love to see that movement continue, but her current focus is on earning an invitation to the world championships. She has already been asked to compete internationally next spring in the Pole Championship Series, which is part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival in Columbus, OH.

The inclusion of pole sport alongside competitions like strongman and bodybuilding is just another indication of its growing popularity — and acceptance.

“It has just exploded,” says Holgerson, who noted that it was “a very new sport” when she began teaching about 10 years ago. “It has been great to share that passion with a lot of people in Regina and then seeing the younger crowd such as Dani come into the studio with a little bit of a different background. It has been nice to expand my teaching skills as well.”

Athletes like Reed give credibility to the sport while serving as its top ambassadors. The thought of being a role model “is the biggest honour and it makes my heart melt” but it also inspires her to share what she has learned.

“I love seeing it grow,” says Reed, who just received her Level 1 and 2 instructor certificates. “It’s so great to see so many people try it out, even if it’s for a party or if they want to try a really unique way of working out. We offer intro classes, we go out to different trade shows to promote it. I do my best to let people know that you have to give it a try. You might find it a little odd (at the start). I felt super uncomfortable when I first went into pole but the instructors that I had were just amazing. They helped you build up that confidence.”

In Reed’s case, the rest is history — one that she’s not done writing.

“To be a professional athlete has always been a dream of mine,” she adds. “I’m excited to see where it will take me in the next few years. I can’t believe where it has already taken me. I honestly didn’t ever think I would get this far, this fast. To think I’m a national champion, it’s crazy and insane, but it makes me want to work that much harder.”

gharder@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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