Pole dancing competition held in Sandy

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SANDY, Utah -- Pole dancing is ditching the stripper stigma and gaining respect as a sport all over the world.

Competitions for the dance style are held in Russia, China and as of Sunday, Sandy Utah.

The first round of Sunday’s pole dancing competition had  no flashy costumes, high heels or music.

Competitor Rachel Fox said it’s really all about strength, grace and fitness. Like many in the sport, Fox was a competitive gymnast before finding pole dancing.

“It was a way for me to still do gymnastics in a way, but not hurt myself constantly,” she said. “After one class, I was hooked.”

Just eight months ago, Fox gave birth to twins. She said pole dancing kept her strong during her pregnancy and helped her shed the baby weight

“Six weeks after babies, as soon as my doctor said I could, I was back in the studio,” Fox said.

Jennifer Wilkens owns a studio in Sandy and co-hosted the competition with Pole Dance America.

It’s one of 17 preliminary competitions in the country. Contestants must perform on two different 14-foot poles. One is static and the other spins. Wilkens said it takes a lot of strength and even a little science to perform on poles.

“So kind of like an ice skater, the tighter you tuck in the faster you'll spin, and you'll go a little bit slower when you spread,” she said. “So you have to understand physics to understand leverage and lift and slip versus slide. So there’s a lot more that goes into it than just strength training.”

Sunday’s competition was held at the Black Lion Event Center in Sandy. The winner of the preliminary competition will go on to compete at the national championships in New Orleans.