A dance and fitness studio in Duncan, B.C. has sparked controversy after introducing a pole dancing class for young children.

Twisted Grip Dance and Fitness is offering the weekend class, Little Spinners, to boys and girls of all ages, owner Kristy Craig said.

Craig said she introduced the class due to demand from existing clients, and so far three girls and one boy have registered for classes, which start on Sept. 22. Her youngest student is just five years old and the oldest is about 12 years old.

Little Spinners will teach similar moves to those offered in adult sessions at the studio, including classes called Sexy Flexy, Pole Fit, Babes on Bikes and Bunny Bootcamp, Craig said.

“[The kids’ class has] some of the same moves, some of them are different, but yeah it’s very similar,” she said. “There’s definitely movements in [the adult classes] that are sexual, but there’s nothing geared toward stripping.”

Craig said pole dancing is a great way to get kids active and interested in exercise and wants to separate pole fitness from its stripping routes.

“The kids’ class is aimed at climbing and holding,” Craig said. “I’m not teaching them any sexual moves.”

But Craig admits it is a challenge to remove the sexual stigma attached to pole dancing.

“Any criticism that comes in I understand, but pole dancing in general is trying to change people’s perception away from the stripping and more into it being fitness and an athletic sport,” she explained. “I don’t think you can avoid the stigma.”

Child psychologist Dr. Derek Swain said he doesn’t see a problem with pole dancing purely as a physical activity, but warns because of its ties with the sex industry, it could cause bullying and even increase the likelihood of girls becoming strippers when they’re older.

“My guess is that that’s going to be a real challenge [to separate pole dancing with its sexual stigma],” he said. “I think if children are really interested in pursuing it, I see it as being a worthwhile physical activity and they should be encouraged and supported to do so.”

But Swain questioned whether kids in the class truly want to learn pole dancing themselves, or if parents are projecting their own interests.

“Sometimes these kinds of activities are more of an interest to the parent than they are to the kids,” he said.

He also warned being involved in the class could cause kids to be bullied and teased.

“They need to have parental support in recognizing some of their peers and some other adults may not be very supportive of it and may jeer them and make derogatory remarks to them, and they need to be prepared for that. Ultimately, they need to decide whether or not they can handle the stress if that occurs.”

Swain worries introducing pole dancing to young girls could make them more likely to join the sex industry later in life.

“There would be that potential and that is something of concern because we know that people in the adult industry are out recruiting in colleges and universities, as well as attempting to recruit in high schools. That temptation would certainly be there, and for someone who already has those skills it would be an easy transition," he said.

“Pole dancing is very athletic, that itself is a good and healthy thing for kids to be involved with. The big issue is whether it becomes sexualized, that comes down to the attire and the moves that the girls would be participating in.”