“Hey, look, I’m doing it!” Lori Herder, 29, shouts to a dance studio room filled with six .other women. The girls stop what they’re doing and cheer on the VIU horticulture student who, after weeks of building up her strength, has managed to flip herself upside down on a pole. She squeezes tightly with her quadriceps and uses her core strength to hold the stance. Herder, pink-faced and elated from her newfound ability to defy gravity, then allows the pole fitness instructor to assist the slide down the pole until she’s back on the ground.

Herder is proud she’s completed a “pole inversion” for the first time, and the pole instructor is overjoyed at her student’s success. Carrieanne Tozer (or Cat, from SophistiCats Dance and Pole Studio) says the best part about teaching is when a student accomplishes something new after weeks of working on their skills.

Tozer created SophistiCats studio and starting teaching pole lessons last Nov. Originally planning to focus on hosting pole parties, the pole fitness lessons took off and started spinning out of control. Tozer discovered there was a demand for pole fitness classes in Nanaimo and shortly after opened SophistiCats. At her studio loTozered in North Nanaimo, close to Woodgrove mall, Tozer currently teaches four classes: three New2Pole (beginners) and one Level 1 (intermediate).

Herder started taking lessons last Dec. and Tozer has had the opportunity to watch her, and the others from her first New2Pole classes, climb their way to the intermediate level.

“The best is when students finally accomplish moves they’ve been working on, and they’re so happy and excited,” Tozer says. “It’s good knowing that you helped them achieve something they thought they’d never be able to do.”

Tozer, 33, has danced all her life. She started dancing around age two and trained at the Royal Ballet School of London in England. Since then she’s danced ballet, tap, jazz, modern, greek, flamenco, and of course, pole. When Tozer was 12 she performed in The Nutcracker for Princess Diana with the English National Ballet. She’s also worked as a dancer and entertainer within the tourism industry for over 13 years. When she was working for Princess Cruises, pole dance was always something that Tozer missed. So when she moved to Canada three years ago, Tozer was anxious to get back into pole dancing. Now she’s ecstatic because she’s not only pole dancing again, but teaching it as well. Like many others, Tozer admits that she gets bored of normal fitness classes. “I’m not into the gym,” Tozer says, “but pole fitness isn’t like any other form of dance or exercise. It’s Pilates, gymnastics, and yoga rolled into one. It works on toning, strength, and cardio. You get a workout from the tips of your toes to your fingers and you don’t even realize it.” Herder says she’s impressed with the flexibility and strength she’s gained after only a couple of classes. “It’s quite an aggressive muscle work out in a short amount of time,” Herder says, “but you’re having so much fun that you barely notice. I was surprised my first day about how fun of an environment it is to get fit.” Herder says she feels stronger in all parts of her body after pole class—even in parts of her body she finds hard to work out, such as her gluteal (or butt) muscles. And even though she is sore, and covered in (what Tozer refers to as) “pretty bruises,” she knows it’s just because she got a good work out. “Tozer is a great instructor,” Herder says. “She’s fun, she’s energetic, she laughs a lot, and makes us laugh a lot too. She knows how to help you when you ask, and she never leaves anyone out.” “Pole fitness is for women of any age, shape, size. Whatever you are, you just need to be brave and try something new and fun,” Tozer says. “A lot of people may think it’s out of their comfort zone but then they join and realize it’s just like a fitness class.” Tozer says that women who try pole fitness will feel amazing—both physically and emotionally. “I come out smiling after every class,” Tozer says, “and then I’m on a high all week.” She says each pole class is like a dance party with girl friends every week. “Pole fitness gives you a boost of confidence. You feel amazing, beautiful, sexy. You connect your mind with your body, and it’s empowering,” Tozer says. “Many women put themselves last, whether it’s for their husbands or children or in other parts of their lives. It’s good to do something for yourself. Too many women are focused on the negative, but when we’re happy, we can achieve anything.”

Herder agrees that pole fitness is a great activity to get out of the house for an evening. “Pole class definitely builds confidence and makes you feel sexier as a woman. You feel accomplished as you improve and learn new moves, and you also feel happier and more energetic throughout the week.” Herder also notes that everyone has a different style on the pole and brings something unique to the class. “There’s an artistic side to it that you don’t get in a lot of sports. With pole fitness you get a chance to express your artistic side and express your personality through dance,” Herder says, who also says that pole class doesn’t have to carry the ‘sexified’ stigma that people associate it with. “People who think pole dance is a distasteful sport don’t know what it’s about,” Tozer says, “Pole originated from the circus. Look at Cirque du Soleil. Anyone can look up the professionals on YouTube. These dancers are extremely strong and talented.

“Besides, pole dancers could strip, but strippers can’t always pole dance,” Tozer laughs, explaining that even though they can be done together, stripping and pole dancing are still two very different things. “It’d be cool to see pole dance come to the Olympics,” Herder says, “it’s a sport, and it’d be good if people appreciated it as that.”

Herder, who was active in gymnastics when she was child, says there’s a lot of similarities between the two sports. “In gymnastics we had to balance on a bar or beam,” Herder says, “and now, in pole class, we balance ourselves on a bar. A pole is really just a vertical gymnastics bar, anyway.”

Since pole fitness is a diverse sport, Tozer says that every class is different. She adjusts her class outline according to her students as the session progresses. Tozer says that pole dance is a great class for any women who wants try a new way to stay active.

For more information about SophistiCats Dance and Pole Studio, visit:


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