Because my dance experience consists of a kindergarten ballet class and hip-hop class in fourth grade, I had low expectations for a pole dancing class that my friend announced we were going to for her birthday. Nevertheless, I was excited at the idea. I had been raised to have a judgmental and negative view towards any form of sex work, but with more education and exposure I adopted a more understanding, positive, and nuanced view. Yet this was still a world I had never been a part of, so I was interested to experience some behind-the-scenes work in a fun night spent with friends.

All ten of us spilled out of the two Ubers and into the dance studio, Studio Rouge. The studio's walls are a sultry red, the lighting dim. We shucked our shoes and paired off onto the poles that were set up throughout the room. The instructor greeted us warmly and came around with a basket of "exotic name tags" for each of us to draw from to embody our "exotic alter egos," names such as Eden, Pandora, and Chardonnay. Mine was the not-so-sophisticated (and therefore perfect for me I suppose) name Glitter.

We were walked through a basic routine over the course of an hour. We laughed at each other's awkwardness and cheered at each other's successes. We surprised ourselves with perfectly-executed body rolls, smooth pivots, and exhilarating spins; while somewhat lacking in the hair department, I was still able to nail an (imaginary) hair flip. We danced to the bops of Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and some much-appreciated early-2000 throwbacks.

The instructor reminded me of my yoga instructors that I love so much: grounded, positive, confident, and encouraging. Aspects of the class were also reminiscent of yoga -- aligning your body with your mind, intentional movement and coordination, balance and strength, all in a safe and welcoming environment.

After spending these recently cold days walking around campus hunched over my steaming cup of coffee with my beanie pulled down to my brow, it was a welcome change to experience the freedom and confidence-boosting provided by this class. It was a girls-bonding night spent cultivating sexual energy in a safe space. We ended the class feeling refreshed and elated; it boosted our self-confidence and increased our respect for the strength and skill required of professional exotic dancers. As someone coming from a background where sexual expression is looked upon with disdain and sexual acts are regarded with shame, the experience was empowering and nearly necessary. We can't wait for another lesson.