The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 21, 2013

Kent: Pole dancing fitness studio gives Mankato a whirl

MANKATO — Pole dancing fitness? Count me among the skeptics.

Or so I thought.

When Mankato native Brittin Wagner called me on the telephone to see if I might be interested in covering the opening of her new pole dancing fitness studio on West Dukes Street, I said I’d look into it and get back to her.

Of course, I had every intention of giving her enterprise a fair judgment on its merits. But whenever the words “pole dancing” precede any phrase, the mind is led to many places — least of them, fodder for a newspaper article.

But Wagner’s version of pole dance fitness isn’t salacious or scandalous. It’s more Cirque de Soleil than high-heeled risqué.

In fact, Wagner began pursuing pole dance fitness as a student at the University of Washington. While finishing her doctorates in sociology and statistics, the 2002 Mankato West graduate was spending long, sedentary hours hunched over a computer.

That’s when her mother purchased her pole dancing fitness lessons at a nearby studio as a Christmas gift.

“It pretty much saved my sanity,” she said.

Fast forward a few years and Wagner is back in Minnesota working in research and development in the health care industry. She teaches at a few studios in the Twin Cities and admits she’s among a small minority of instructors who haven’t worked in strip clubs.

Still, Wagner encourages the non-sexual aspects of the sport. Combining dancing and gymnastics, one session can burn upward of 300 calories — as much as a 35-minute swim or cross-country hike. Even basic moves, she said, require a certain degree of mental focus and physical exertion.

“It’s one of the most calming, relaxing holistic exercises I know,” Wagner said. “I’ve compared it to how it might feel to breathe underwater. I’m definitely in my own space physically and mentally.”

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