COLUMBIA — Jordan Mazur dusts chalk on her palms and grabs the shiny gold pole in the middle of the room.
“Wild Horses” by Natasha Bedingfield plays as Mazur starts to wrap herself around the pole. She scoots up, releases her hands and falls backward until she is upside down.
She calls this move "the cross-ankle release." It's one of dozens she demonstrates in her pole fitness classes.
An experienced ballet dancer, Mazur, 21, owns Muse Pole Fitness, a new studio near MU that combines pole dancing, yoga and Pilates.
The studio opened in February, following a fitness trend that has gained traction around the globe in the last three years. According to the Pole Fitness Association, more than 650 studios now operate in the United States, with another 1,200 worldwide.
Six months ago, Mazur had to recruit clients to expand her business. Now, she said, most of the students at Muse Pole Fitness come looking for her.
Pole dancing landed in cabarets before evolving into a performance art that demanded strength, endurance and flexibility. It has even been suggested that pole dancing will be a sport in the 2016 Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
"There is a big debate within the pole community about how gymnastics is in the Olympics, but pole dancing isn’t," Mazur said. “What is the division between whether it is a sport or an art?”
Classes are conducted in her living room, which she has converted into a fitness studio. She traded her furniture for two floor-to-ceiling poles in the middle of the room.
Different levels of classes allow students to build overall strength and flexibility, as well as learn new skills in a "spicy and expressive way," Mazur said.
"I want to keep it entertaining and less feeling like 'Oh God I'm working out and I hate doing this,'" Mazur said.
At the beginning of class, students perform lunges, push-ups and planks in a yoga- and Pilates-based routine. For "spice," she has students whip their hair to hip- hop music and give themselves "big sassified slaps" on the rear while stretching.
The second half of the class includes Mazur demonstrating, teaching and allowing students to practice new tricks on the pole.
“These classes are fun, and that makes it a lot more enjoyable to get a workout in,” said Maria Huebert, a personal trainer and pole fitness student.
Huebert is training to compete in bikini and fitness shows this fall and joined Muse Pole Fitness to prepare.
“Muse Pole Fitness has helped me in my core, postural and grip strength, which is crucial for my training,” Huebert said. “Jordan does a fantastic job promoting body awareness in her students.”
Mazur grew up in northwest Indiana and began dancing when she was 3. Her passion continued throughout high school when she danced for the Indiana Ballet Theater.
After graduating from Indiana University in May 2011 with a degree in kinesiology, she joined the Missouri Contemporary Ballet in Columbia. This will be her second season.
Mazur started pole fitness during the summer of her freshman year in college. With experience in ballet, jazz, modern and tap, she had a natural talent for pole dancing.
When she moved to Columbia in 2011, she was surprised that it had not yet been introduced to the area.
"Pole fitness is already big in the West and East Coast," Mazur said. "Now it is grilling in the Midwest."
She has begun to plan for expansion within the next couple years.
"I was told to start small and see what sort of response I get," she said. "So that’s what I did, and that’s what I’m building from."
Mazur intends to move her business into a bigger studio with additional room and multiple poles. She also hopes to find someone equally interested as a business partner.
"She radiates passion in what she does, and she makes it inviting for other people to join," Huebert said. "She is very inspiring, so that her students want to accomplish what she has."