Get on the pole! Strip-club fitness craze comes to Brooklyn

Get on the pole! Strip-club fitness craze comes to Brooklyn
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Stephanie Mancuso’s got legs — and she knows how to use them.

Mancuso, 26, is the woman behind the borough’s first pole dancing studio, a plum-painted sanctuary of sexy fitness on Fifth Avenue and 90th Street in Bay Ridge.

Pole dancing — a vigorous striptease-style workout performed while clinging, grappling, and swinging from a steel pole — is all the rage in Manhattan, but the craze has yet to fully penetrate the Borough of Churches until now.

“The first time I tried it, I didn’t feel like I was working out,” Mancuso said the day before her studio’s July 17 opening. “It’s not like being on a treadmill. I felt like a woman. I felt sexy.”

After her stab at the pole, she decided to bring the strip-club-inspired workout regimen to Brooklyn, because, as she explains it, “a lot of women don’t want to come to the city to work out.”

The Bensonhurst native found a former television repair shop on Fifth Avenue, renovated it over the past three months, and installed 10 steel poles.

Along with pole dancing, the studio will offer belly dancing, a Latin dance/fitness program called Zumba, and lap dancing. Classes start at $20.

The studio is a labor of love for Mancuso, but she said she has no plans to quit her day job as a legal secretary, and will instead rely on staffers such as instructor Shaneequewa Samuels of Mill Basin to lead classes during the day.

Samuels’ mission is to teach imposing pole positions such as the “crucifix,” “teddy bear” and “butterfly.”

Enthusiasts like Jessica Morabito of Bensonhurst said the pole can initially be daunting. “At first you think you can’t do it, but I was amazed when I could climb it,” she said.

The pole can also have a bad rap. “I usually associated it with strip clubs, but once you see the classes, you can see it is not trashy,” Morabito said.

The workouts are strictly PG-13, but Mancuso said clients must be 18 and over to join in on the pole sessions.

“I feel it’s not for young girls, it’s more for adults,” she said. “But I don’t think there’s anything dirty or raunchy.”

Exotic dancers are certainly encouraged to attend — after all, Mancuso said, they might learn a thing or two.

“I can make a better stripper,” she boasted. “Just because there’s a pole [in a strip club] doesn’t mean a lot of women know what to do with it.”

The studio is next door to a city marshal’s office, and a block from PS 104, where Mancuso hopes to lure teachers for extra-curricular classes.

Of course, no pole dancing studio story can be free of controversy.

Yes, Mancuso has a claim to the borough’s first pole dancing studio, but Bergen Beach resident Debra McCaan opened the first borough-based pole dancing business — East Coast Pole Cats — three years ago. Pole Cats offers private lessons, and instructs at bachelorette parties, bridal showers and corporate events.

“We are the ones who have been doing this for years,” she said, adding that she’ll be opening her own studio soon. “It’s a great workout.”

Exotic Curves Pole Fitness Studio [9008 Fifth Ave. at 90th Street in Bay Ridge, (347) 560-6717]. For info, visit www.exoticcurvespolefitness.com.