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Former Exotic Dance Champion, Fitness Instructor and New Mom on Pole Dancing for Kids
It's a controversy that continues to swirl around Tammy Morris, owner of Tantra Fitness, after she and mothers of two of her underage students appeared on national TV to promote "pole fitness" for kids.
Almost immediately, jaw-dropping viewers of the CBS morning show "The Talk," and Fox Nation took to the Internet to debate whether or not teaching young girls dance moves around a prominent pole is risqué and inappropriate
"No way, over my dead body would my daughter be learning that from a stripper pole," Leah Remini, co-host of "The Talk," said on the show.
Tantra Fitness operates in Vancouver and Langley, where instructors have taught students age 7 and older in regular classes and has gone as young as 5 years old in private lessons, Morris says. The studio's offerings include Mommy & Me and teen pole classes, as well as pole fitness for men. About 20 percent, or 130 of the studio's 650 students, are teens between the ages of 13 and 18. Classes also are offered at the University of British Columbia.
ParentDish caught up with Morris, the 37-year-old exotic dance champion-turned pole fitness instructor, via phone from her Vancouver, British Columbia, home after she had been up all night caring for her crying 9-month-old daughter, True.
ParentDish: Is it appropriate to teach young girls pole dancing moves that can be associated with adult behaviors?
Tammy Morris: Children have no erotic association with the pole, whatsoever. We call it pole fitness, not pole dancing. This is very frustrating for me because everyone immediately associates pole dancing with strippers. But if you're not stripping on the poles, it's not strip dancing. We're very careful not to teach any provocative moves to children. We're not teaching them how to grind or ungulate. Poles can be found on any playground.
PD: Your critics ask what happens when these young girls grow up and learn that pole dancing is associated with strip tease dancing.
TM: Perhaps some of those people should look at what's on TV: Little girls in sequins and makeup strutting down a catwalk and being judged on their beauty or half-naked girls on MTV slapping their asses. I don't think that inspiring a healthy lifestyle by working out on a vertical bar is anything compared to that. I'm not teaching them to twirl their hair and slap themselves like Britney Spears.
If you constantly teach your child that it's only for strippers, when your child comes in to contact with a pole they will gyrate on it and slap their ass because that's what you told them it's for. My child will do chin ups on it and think nothing of it because that's what I taught her it's for.
PD: Your pole fitness classes for young girls have caused quite an uproar lately after you appeared on national TV. What's fueling the controversy?
TM: There are many studios offering pole fitness classes to younger people. I just think that I am one of the only ones that outright admits it and am not afraid to defend it. When you hear pole dancing and children in the same sentence, it doesn't sound good, as there is a negative association with the pole. It is closed-minded adults that continue to attach negativity to it. It's no different than climbing a rope in gym class or figure skating. I truly believe that, given time, pole fitness will evolve at an incredible rate with thousands of studios across the nation and with legitimate competitions and sporting events being held on a regular basis.
PD: Some of the classes at your studio have suggestive names, such as Lap Dance, Sexy Flexy and Promiscuous Girls. Doesn't that imply sex?
TM: We have classes that are restricted for age groups. Sexy Flexy is more about flexibility. And yes, I admit the name of the studio itself, Tantra, implies sex. I am considering changing it. I was an exotic dancer, but I made the transition to this and to becoming a fitness instructor. None of our instructors are exotic dancers and most have gymnastics or fitness backgrounds.
PD: How did you get into pole dancing?
TM: I have been pole dancing for 15 years. I started as an exotic dancer and retired in 2003 to take my fitness certification. I opened Tantra Fitness the next year and taught poll dancing until I was eight months pregnant with my daughter.
PD: Would you teach your daughter pole dancing?
TM: She is not old enough to do anything yet, but she does come to our Mommy & Me pole classes. I hope that when she is old enough, she will teach, but who knows? Maybe she won't want to have anything to do with the pole.
PD: What do you believe are the benefits of pole fitness for these young students?
TM: All the benefits of working out are the same when it comes to pole fitness, so all the physical benefits to build a strong healthy body.
With technology at the tips of our fingers, kids seem to be less active and, therefore, at risk of disease such as obesity and diabetes. Inspiring your child to stay active is so important and to choose an activity that you can both enjoy, such as pole fitness, is great to lead by example. Pole fitness focuses on flexibility and core strength.
There are also many physiological benefits for children and teens, such as increasing confidence by giving them a sense of accomplishment when they learn harder moves. It also helps them to feel more comfortable in their own skin and promotes a more positive body image.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.