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

The Brooklyn Paper
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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

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Carol from Midwood says:
Thank God for Stephanie!

This kind of workout would be great for women like me! I am disabled and cannot do any high-impact exercises. I can't go to the gym anymore because too much is medium or high-impact. Also, the trainers at the gym don't want to be bothered by the low-impact crowd.

Stephanie's idea is fabulous for us! I can already feel my flexibility and muscle tone improving. I hope Stephanie puts a sign in her shop so other women like me know this is low-impact. So many of us have simply given up.

Too bad this article makes it out to be one big sex thing.
July 20, 2010, 12:21 pm
A O from BKLYN says:
Is this a women only club? can guys join in and throw dollars at them while they work out we also need practice :)
July 20, 2010, 1:12 pm
Virginia from Bensonhurst says:
I read about Stephanie's fitness club for women and showed up for the grand-opening. I am 57 years old and enjoyed the fact that Stephanie approached me and made me feel good for my age. She said that "low level floor workout with the help of the pole can strengthen back, knee, hips"...she worked with me showing me how to keep my head straight move about while holding on the pole and not loose my balance...Wow! What a smart girl!! Thanks Stephanie for helping Seniors like me feel beautiful. Good Luck to you and much success!!
July 20, 2010, 2 pm
Margarita from Sunset Park says:
I was in the neighborhood and saw the girls handing out water, and flyers on the day of the grand-opening celebration. The D.J music, and healthy food been served made me feel very special. The dancers gave us a spread Zumba, hip hop, pole fitness, belly dancing, and pilates. What a great idea. There are many fitness clubs in the neighborhood, but none give free things out. ECP has a special flavor to it. The pink, purple, lavender and magenta colors give the place a retro look. The personalized treatment one gets from the girls is way cheaper than a personal trainer. Shaneequa, one of the pole dancing instructors, Stephanie, and Courtnie climbed the pole and looked like a Cirque De Soleil act. I know I can't do that but the fun was contagious. I'm stressed out and felt real nice that hot and balmy Saturday afternoon...Good Luck to ECP Fitness Studio
July 20, 2010, 2:08 pm
BklynJohnny from Greenpoint says:
Chris Rock said being a good father is almost impossible these days, but there is one rule to remember and then you will have succeeded: "Keep Your Daughters off The Pole!"
July 21, 2010, 2:36 am
Hillary from Willyamsboergh says:
Pole dancing is just one of the fabulous fitness courses they offer - there is also heroin shooting for weight loss, mafia shake downs for upper body strength, and bicycle theft for a complete cardio workout. It's fab!
July 26, 2010, 7:07 am
SilverTongue from Silver Lake Park, SI says:
Hilary, your comment's off the wall. Wishing the women at ECP Fitness Studio much success.
Aug. 4, 2010, 5:16 pm
Elisa from Bay Ridge says:
Hillary from Willyamsboergh IS JEALOUS.
Aug. 10, 2010, 1:23 pm
Lorraine from Bayridge says:
I think this establishment is an abomination.
Wake up, ladies. This woman is making a mockery out of me and you and moreover, our community. On the one hand she says it's PG, but strippers are welcome to become better strippers. The article refers to us as the borough of churches, and theso as to allude to it's corruption, and then goes on to list position such as the "crucifix" to drive a stake into the ground of its mockery.
We'd like to keep this the borough of churches. Take this place where it belongs. Not here.
Dec. 31, 2010, 12:31 am
K from Brooklyn says:
I dont see what the big deal is about pole dancing and how it can be considered an "abomination". Just because you know how to work a pole does not mean you are going to go work it for strange men for dollar bills. You can work that pole for you christian husbands too. If I can do it then there wont be any need for my husband to run off to any strip club. Those close minded women are the ones who lose their men to infidelity....
Feb. 22, 2011, 5:33 pm

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