Several times a week, April Soldano packs up her short shorts and stiletto heels, kisses her two babies goodbye and drives from Land O'Lakes to Tampa to dance around a pole.
She does it to stay fit, make a living and help others feel good about themselves.
This being Tampa, it's tough not to assume Soldano dances at one of the city's many strip clubs.
But she doesn't.
She owns a pole-dance fitness studio where students learn how to feel sexy and confident while building strength and muscle tone.
Soldano, 32, opened the Rock n Body Pole Studio on Kennedy Boulevard in August, outfitting it with cotton-candy pink walls, floor to ceiling mirrors and shiny stripper poles. Interest was so high among her suburban mom friends, she decided to add a second location in the New Tampa/Lutz area, which opens this weekend.
Clients are women 22 to 55 years old who are looking for a fun way to build upper-body strength and work stomach, leg and core muscles while boosting their self-esteem. Many, like Soldano, have young children and see pole dancing as a way to get their mojo back, physically and mentally.
"A lot of women come for stress relief, to get away from the kids and feel like a girl again," Soldano said. "It's easy to lose all that."
Between weight training, aerobics and spinning, Soldano, 32, had always been active. But when she had her first son two years ago, followed by a second son six months ago, she found herself with less time, energy and enthusiasm to exercise. She went back to work in real estate but felt like it no longer suited her lifestyle.
So Soldano decided to pursue a years-old dream of teaching pole-dancing lessons. She figured Tampa, with all its adult-oriented businesses, would be receptive to the idea and was surprised the nearest pole-dancing studios were in Pinellas.
Rock n Body Pole Studio offers five-week beginner, intermediate, rock star and strip-tease pole classes, in addition to chair dancing. Students need no experience — dance, pole or otherwise. By the third class, everyone straps on the stilettos for the optimal workout and sexiness booster.
Classes are limited to four students and an instructor, who locks the door before each class to ensure outsiders don't try to peek. To avoid any pole envy, everyone gets their own.
Shanna Young, 28, enrolled in the beginner class to bond with her girlfriends and get a break from her mommy duties. She loves the 5-inch heels so much, she wears them at home while vacuuming.
Does her husband object?
"Are you kidding?" she said. "He's super excited and bragging."
Students learn spins called "the fireman," and "the princess" and "the goddess." They do poses, floor work and transitional moves to keep the cardio up and the dance fluid.
It's not painless, as evidenced by the leg bruises and chipped toe-nail polish. But well worth it, based on the soreness in their arms and core muscles each week.
"It helps you feel more confident as a woman — and a little trashy," said Carmen Comas, 27, with a laugh.
Moments later, she grabbed the pole and tried Soldano's new spin of the day: "the gorgeous."