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Posted December 30, 2008 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Fitness for divas

Dazzling Diva Fitness owners Missy Luttrell, left, and Renee Williamson perform on the poles inside their Winchester studio. Rich Cooley/Daily

Luttrell and Williamson perform a sundial — one of the more advanced techniques. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sexy pumps are required for advanced classes. Rich Cooley/Daily

Luttrell and Williamson hang inverted during a workout. Rich Cooley/Daily

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By Natalie Austin -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- Even with its blackout curtains, dark purple walls, stripper poles and mirror balls, Dazzling Diva Fitness puts to shame thoughts of exotic dancers, smoke-filled rooms and groping clientele.

Men aren't allowed here.

It's about the exercise.

And, it's all about the women.

The gratification isn't for an audience, it's for finding the inner diva within every woman that walks through the door, whether she be 18 or 60, its owners say.

Dazzling Diva, started in November by two best friends, boasts the latest fitness trend crossing the world -- pole aerobics.

The sexy moves are there, as demonstrated by the two young women spinning around the poles, upside down at times, dismounts accentuated by a perky little stance.

Missy Luttrell and Renee Williamson make it look effortless, but the upper body, core and leg strength needed to pull off these moves is nothing short of heart-pounding, hard work.

No exercise buff, Luttrell says she was amazed at the workout she was getting when the two friends first began talking pole aerobics classes in the Northern Virginia area. She was no fan of treadmills, step machines and the like.

"The whole time you are just having fun," she says.

The obvious results came later, a strong body made possible in 5-inch heels.

The two friends are strong women, their arms and legs defined, bodies tight with muscles. Yet, the result appears purely feminine.

"I've never had upper body strength in my entire life. The shape of my arms, it's just amazing," says Williamson, not boasting, just stating the obvious.

The disco-era shoes -- they come in acrylic and black and are available for more advanced classes -- are for sale at Dazzling Diva, as are the poles, the latter of which go for $279. Once women get started, many like to practice between classes, giving home gyms a whole new direction.

"We are better mentally, physically and we wanted to share this with other women," says Williamson.

A little more than a month later, between 30 and 40 women are flocking to the classes, laughing at times, looking sexy when a spin around the pole goes flawlessly. Most importantly, say the business partners, participants feel better about themselves.

"We were surprised at the response from the beginning, says Luttrell.

They are already adding classes due to the response. Classes are one night a week for eight weeks per levels. Each class, limited to 11 women, lasts an hour and 10 minutes.

What began on the West Coast has spread to other countries -- there's actually a Miss Pole Australia -- with a vengeance.

It's something about the feeling sexy aspect, far from sweating on a treadmill or in a spin class with mascara-induced raccoon eyes. Finding that inner diva, both say, is key.

There are some diva mottos:

"We don't teach you to walk. We teach you to strut," says Williamson.

"Divas don't sweat, we glisten," says Luttrell.

Both dissolve in giggles.

"It empowers women and gives them confidence they never had," says Williamson, serious now.

After hitting the road Saturday after Saturday for 18 months to get to their pole classes, the two women decided to start their own, receiving certification from the nonprofit American Council on Exercise. The response has been more than either imagined.

So far, though, they have kept their day jobs. Luttrell works in the pharmacy at Shenandoah University and Williamson is an agent for Nationwide Insurance, hitting the poles for night classes.

Rather than competition, the women say they see a bonding among the women in their classes.

"This is about you and how it makes you feel," says Williamson.

The youngest woman at a recent Tuesday night class was 40, adds Luttrell. In fact, most are 35 and up. There are two studios. One contains two poles for one-on-one training, the other 11, with mirror lined walls. So far, no one has requested to go it alone.

"By the time they leave their first class, they are friends," says Luttrell. "They have a common bond among them."

This common bond develops along seven diva levels, each with colorfully named spins.

No experience or fitness level is required for the first two levels, "Divas in Training." A half-spin around the pole and the firemen's spin are taught at the first session. Among the others taught later on are the flying body spiral, martini, Peter Pan, corkscrew, ballerina, show girl and sundial.

Dressed in Dazzling Diva tank tops, Luttrell and Williamson lose the gym shoes and put on the 5-inchers. No stilettos are allowed; the Diva shoes have a rubber cone-shaped heel for safety.

They hit the poles, side by side, gliding down gracefully from spins, some of which leave them upside down.

Each session builds upon the other, they say, with more difficult spins and combination spins added at each class. "Divas in the Making" are the third and fourth levels, followed by "Dazzling Divas," which encompasses five and six, to the ultimate -- "Queen Diva." By the fifth level, the inverted spins begin. Participants will be upside down on the pole, completing descending angels head-first. Later, much later, these spins will be hands-free, using leg muscles only.

"Eventually they will be upside down on the pole and be able to climb it to the top," says Williamson. "The progression makes you stronger."

It is, after all, exercise. Once in a class, however, participants become so involved in learning new spins, they often forget about the workout they are receiving.

"We aren't here to train strippers," says Luttrell. "It's a new piece of exercise equipment; we just use a vertical pole."

Proper attire is required; no skimpy numbers. Capri workout pants, T-shirts or tank tops are recommended.

As the weeks progress, however, participants can't avoid feeling sexier, the partners say. Their bodies are toned, long hidden muscles uncovered, the diva released.

"We bring that diva out," says Williamson, smiling. "It's in there."

For more information on Dazzling Diva Fitness, at 121 Weems Lane, call 678-8878, send an e-mail to info@dazzlingdivafitness.com or visit the Web site, www.dazzlingdivafitness.com. The facility also is available for women-only private parties. No alcohol is allowed. All participants in the classes must be at least 18.

* Contact Natalie Austin at naustin@nvdaily.com

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