Yes to exotic 'pole' dancing
September 06, 2016 3:00 AM
by Dave Dye
You don’t have to be a stripper to practice exotic dancing these days.
There’s actually a convention coming to town this week – the fifth annual Pole Expo – that’s expected to draw more than 2,000 pole-dancing enthusiasts to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
It’s the brainchild of former Canadian stripper Fawnia Mondey, who has helped mainstream exotic dancing and turn it into a seductive form of intense exercise.
Mondey is the owner of Pole Fitness Studio, which has two locations locally, including one on Arville Street, just off the Strip near the Palms casino. She estimates only 5-10 percent of her customers are really strippers.
Most, she said, are just women celebrating bachelorette parties, birthday parties, even divorce parties or just looking for some fun on a “girls’ night out” in Vegas, while the rest simply use pole dancing as a regular workout to get and stay in shape.
Mondey became a big believer in the health benefits of pole dancing after losing 42 pounds in her first four months of stripping. She considers this to be an ideal way to increase strength and flexibility, and that it can also be quite empowering, not to mention a good time.
Her objective with Pole Expo is to “share our passion for pole dancing as a movement that is rewarding both physically and emotionally.”
And if someone learns a few moves to take back home and entertain their significant other, well, then all the better.
Mondey, 40, is often described as “the pioneer of pole dancing instruction” because she created the first video about two decades ago.
“I went right into being an exotic dancer after high school,” said Mondey, who grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. “One night I looked out and saw my principal in the audience.”
Her income had gone from $5 an hour working at a yogurt shop to a minimum of $25 an hour stripping.
What she learned, however, was that it could be quite terrifying without any experience or instruction. After two months, she decided to offer her help to other girls getting started.
“I knew there was no way I was the only one who felt nervous getting on stage taking off my clothes,” Mondey said. “My goal was just to make sure people were not as nervous as I was, just to give them some training and self-confidence.”
She charged $10 an hour in the beginning and soon, with the help of her entrepreneurial boyfriend at the time, realized there could be serious business opportunities in pole dancing without actually performing regularly on stage.
Mondey said she danced “for only a year and a half” before focusing more on the business side while teaching and producing the instructional videos. She said she was making about $5,500 a month just selling the videos.
In 2005, Mondey relocated to the Las Vegas area and opened up shop in Henderson to teach pole dancing, primarily to young strippers who needed guidance.
She was sharing a Pilates studio at the time and had to put the poles up every day before classes and take them down every day after classes. Business was extremely slow.
The turning point came when Channel 13, the ABC affiliate in Las Vegas, ran a piece about the studio during its newscast right after the Super Bowl.
Mondey’s phone started ringing off the hook. She was soon teaching classes eight hours a day and still ended up with a three-month waiting list. It became less about stripping and more about exercise and fun for anyone.
The business grew steadily to where she organized this Pole Expo, which went from 500 attendees to 800 then 1,500 and finally 1,800 over the first four years. Visitors are expected to come from more than 50 countries because this is considered the top show of its kind worldwide.
The four-day event kicks off Thursday night at The Joint inside Hard Rock with 10 females and 10 males (yes, some men like to pole dance, too) competing in the Pole Classic championship.
The schedule includes workshops, seminars, contests, performances and partying throughout the weekend. For more information, visit www.PoleExpo.com. Single-day passes cost $79. A weekend pass goes for $185.
Mondey, who goes by the stage name of “Sky,” also plans to make a cameo appearance as a backup dancer Friday night at Hard Rock’s Vanity Nightclub.
She’ll be the one with the “Made in Canada” tattoo on her left ankle.