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'Mommy and Me' pole dance classes spark debate—instructor says there's 'nothing inappropriate'

“These kids aren’t twerking — nothing inappropriate, nothing sexual is going on here," Tiajuanna “Tia” Harris told TODAY.com

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Should there be an age limit for learning pole dancing?

Pole dancing might have previously been thought of as exclusively adult entertainment, but over the years it has evolved into a veritable fitness regimen, an empowering form of self expression and even a sport worthy of the Olympics. In many ways, the more modern perspective has brought pole dancing back to its original, ancient roots of circus performers pulling off acrobatic tricks.

But it might be safe to say that the mainstream still views the dance style as more risqué, and therefore, not appropriate for kids. And this is why a pole-dancing school in Atlanta offering a "Mommy & Me" pole-dancing workshop is sparking a debate online among parents.

In a now-viral post shared on the class’s Instagram account, we see young boys and girls and their mothers learning spinning tricks as "Take Me There" from the 1998 animated movie "Rugrats” plays in the background.

The class was labeled by many as “insane” and inappropriate, arguing that the inherent context of the art form sexualized young kids. Many were even more concerned that the kids were being recorded doing certain moves and that footage was shared online.

“I think it’s very irresponsible of that mommy and me pole dancing studio to record and upload videos featuring kids in their workshops,” one person said on X, adding “it’s even more irresponsible for the mothers to allow their children to be filmed and uploaded on the internet as well.”

Another argued that people who counter that pole is “just like gymnastics’ know dang well that weirdos also watch child gymnastics videos online.”

However, Pink Poles Studio owner, Tiajuanna “Tia” Harris, maintains her stance that there’s nothing wrong with the “Mommy and Me” workshops, and that the backlash is unwarranted.

“These kids aren’t twerking — nothing inappropriate, nothing sexual is going on here,” Harris explained to TODAY.com, recalling how much it “warmed her heart” to receive a call from a mom saying “I wanted to tell you how much my son enjoyed the class. He said he felt like Spiderman.”

Harris further pushed back against critics on the Pink Poles Studios website, assuring that the “Mommy and Me” workshop provides a healthy, fun, phone-free activity.

“Back in the day, before iPads became babysitters, we relished carefree moments—swinging, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, climbing, and sliding down pole climbs and parallel bars at the playground,” she wrote.

“Fast forward to 2024 at Pink Poles Studios: these children are doing the exact same thing! Having carefree fun and staying physically active without electronics — except now, they’re swinging, sliding and flipping on a pole, under the guidance of a trained children’s gymnast instructor (as a bunch of moms and peers cheer them on in the background!)” Harris even stressed that the kids “wear age-appropriate gym wear, and adult students are fully clothed too.”

It’s certainly a dilemma with no easy answer.

On the one hand, the dance world, whether involving a pole or not, has been guilty of sexualizing young kids, and parents rightfully want to protect their children from exploitation. On the other hand, seeing pole solely as a sexually implicit activity—given its history and the way it's expressed worldwide—might be a bit narrow minded and we could benefit from expanding that viewpoint. After all, many report having increased flexibility, core strength, confidence and stress relief from repeated classes.

Either way, Harris has stood firm that her “Mommy and Me” workshops aren’t going anywhere, and that she hopes to “break stigmas and set the bar” by doing so.

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