Feature Article - October 2005
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That Feminine Mystique

Solving the mystery of successfully marketing to women

By Stacy St. Clair

Pole position

Fitness programs can, however, celebrate womanhood without specializing in expectant and new mothers.

Some of the most creative classes these days tap into women's sexuality and get them in touch with their bodies. At Flashdance Studios in Broomfield, Colo., instructors teach traditional dance styles, including jazz, tap and ballet. The facility, however, has gained popularity in the Denver area for its other, more inspired offerings.

The studio has nearly a dozen classes that celebrate femininity and indulge imaginations. It offers showgirl workouts, belly dancing and go-go lessons. There's a class called "Fishnets and Fosse" and a burlesque workshop that taught two sexy dance routines: the first to "Hey, Big Spender" and the second to "Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair."

If those seem too tame, there are also hula hoop and Latin Goddess workouts.

"It's a magical experience when women discover and learn to use their hips," says Tonja Van Helden, studio manager.

Flashdance's most popular class, however, is the stripper workout. For several years now, it has been embraced by celebrities such as Teri Hatcher, Natalie Portman and Pam Anderson.

Once Oprah did a segment on it, however, it became a national trend.

Flashdance Studios began teaching the stripper workout about two years ago and has seen no evidence of the movement dying. The facility offers beginner classes and advanced exercise called Pole-ates.

"You get the fantasy of being a stripper without all the negatives and the drawbacks," Van Helden says.

The Flashdance classes, which are open to anyone 17 years or older, lure patrons of all shapes, sizes and ages. The studio used to offer an over-40 class but it didn't go over well.

"People don't like being labeled," Van Helden says. "They like to be with everyone else."

The classes have given the studio an unexpected revenue source. The stripper workout has become so trendy, many women now throw bachelorette parties at Flashdance.

The party packages include, among other things, a stripper class with keepsake pictures shot by a professional photographer.

The studio also has marketed its classes to Denver's gay and lesbian community. Its advertising materials stress that the facility is open to everyone.

The receptive atmosphere makes it possible for patrons to step outside themselves and try something new, Van Helden says. And, in addition to milking imaginations, it offers clients a fun way to get healthy.

"Women have been taught not to trust their own bodies," Van Helden says. "We're trying to create an environment where everything is accepted."