A DANCE studio was today blasted for offering pole dancing classes to children as young as 10.The sessions, which are being run for 10 to 16-year-olds at
Fusion Dance School in South Shore, Blackpool, have been branded "totally inappropriate" and "disgusting" by parents - including dad Chris Hyde - and community leaders.
While bosses at the school insist "Junior Pole Dance Fitness" is a form of exercise monitored by parents, Blackpool Council's leader says it is premature sexualisation of children.
Coun Peter Callow said: "This is totally inappropriate.
The councillor, who launched the resort's anti-sleaze campaing, added: "This is dressed up as healthy exercise, but there will be parents who think it is extremely harmful for children to be gyrating around a pole in a sexy manner.
"It's not a harmless children's pursuit, this is children acting as grown-ups.
"One of the main responsibilities of a council is to protect children from harm.
"We have every reason to be concerned. If any of these girls roll up to a club already trained up with fake ID, who's to say what's going to happen?"
The Gazette understands there are currently six children – the youngest aged 10 and the oldest 14 – who are taking part in Fusion's six-week course, which costs £30.
Sessions include a 10 minute warm-up, followed by exercises such as the pole spilt – similar to the splits on the ground but holding onto the pole – and pulling the body up the pole.
Concerned Sam Bell, who co-runs FY West Coast street dance classes, said: "10-years-old is a little bit young. There are other dances they could be doing.
"If they can deter it away from the sexual side of pole dancing, it's great for fitness. Maybe the 15 to 16-year-olds would be OK."
Father-of-two Chris Hyde, 38, whose 13-year-old daughter goes to street dance classes in Blackpool, said: "I think it's disgusting someone has come up with this course.
"In this day and age young girls grow up so quickly. I think most parents would be pretty upset if they knew that's what children are doing.
"There is too much exposure to this kind of thing in magazines, on television and the internet. They don't need to be taken to a dance studio to be shown these moves too."
But Carolyn Armstrong, principal dance teacher and owner of Fusion Dance School, said the pole fitness classes were exercise sessions and parents have to sign a consent form before children can join in.
The school, which runs lessons by qualified dance teachers, says it is very specific about asking the children to wear school gym gear and invites parents to watch the classes.
She said: "We don't do pole dancing, we don't do the sleazy side of pole. People get the wrong end of the stick."
What about pole dancing ISN'T sleazy? I'll be the first to admit that Yes, it's exercise. (Hip movements tone your core...ask a bellydancer) Yes, it's difficult. (Holding your body weight up on a pole? That MUST be hard) But is it appropriate? NO.
Personally, I think that the dance classes for "little girls" tend to be a bit over sexual anyway. People seem to think it's cute to dress their 5 year old up in skimpy hot pants and have her shake her butt to Britney Spears. When she's 5 it's cute, but when she's 15 it's trashy? That's a HUGE mixed message. Why not keep it inappropriate throughout the ages?
I remember seeing a special on the news (many years ago) about a "new" Cheerleading competition...the outfits and dances had to be modest. (Of course, it was Christian based. Do you even have to ask?) The girls wore longer skirts and had to have sleeve caps on their tops AND the had to cover their stomachs. The performances were focused on cheer ability and dance and tumbling talent; not the sex appeal of the dance moves. At the time I rolled my eyes (I was 16 and a liberal feminist) but now I look at it and think, "Good idea."
I was glad to hear that the parents were outraged over the classes. However, what kind of person thinks up this sort of thing and thinks it's okay? Let's keep our children innocent for a bit longer shall we?