Twerking it out at pole-fitness studio in Gulfport

Twerking is now a fitness class. That's right, the dance popularized by celebrities such as Nikki Minaj, Amber Rose and Miley Cyrus has inspired "twerk-out" classes nationally.

One Coast fitness studio encourages members to stash their stilettos next to their Fitbits inside their gym bags. When it comes to fitness, this style of dance tones the obliques, quads, lower back and, of course, the glutes.

Terneeshia Smart owner of Aerial Fit Lab, 1223 Suite B Pass Road, Gulfport, has teamed up with Jackson attorney Kimberly Sweeney, known as the "pole attorney," to offer a workshop based on the popular dance.

Aerial Fit Lab is a pole-fitness studio with aerial silk and lyra (Hula-Hoop) lessons and with Sweeney's help offers the "Twerk-shop" when Sweeney, who gained some fame when she appeared on the "Steve Harvey Show" earlier this year, is in town for court cases. The one-hour, high-impact cardio class can burn up to 700 calories.

"I started teaching pole, and I've always danced and wanted to incorporate twerk into a fitness workshop where you can come and burn calories and have fun," said Sweeney, a Mississippi College Law School graduate who practices law during the day and at night runs her own pole studio called Taboo Dance and Fitness in Jackson. "I teach different twerk styles so your body loosens up. You want to be flexible. Your hips are a major part of twerking along with your lower back.

"A lot of people think, 'Oh, I have to have a butt to twerk.' You have just enough equipment; you just have to learn the rhythm of your butt."

Pole Fitness entrepreneur and Navy veteran Terneeshia Smart opened Aerial Fit Lab in Gulfport in February after moving it from its former Long Beach location.

The boutique fitness studio owner said she's had challenges when opening her business because of reservations surrounding the poles.

She said hesitation comes with the intimidation of performing.

"It's something that's new here, and it can be intimidating to some people," Smart said. "It's normal for people to think that we're strippers. But when they come to the studio, look and they actually participate, they have a totally different outlook on this.

"I have more people that want to do fitness. It really is hard, and it really is a challenge and most women like a challenge."

Smart said she was in the military for eight years and practiced pole for the last two years of her military career.

"Those last two years were the best shape I've been in," Smart said.

Pole and aerial fitness are not repetitive workouts in which participants continually engage different muscles.

"That's where the body sculpting comes in," Smart said.

Services at Aerial Fit Lab are open to women of any athletic ability, and women of diverse backgrounds visit Smart's studio.

"Every woman wants to feel sexy, not just for her man, but for herself," Smart said. "That's just something that's in us. This is something you can do privately. It's a sisterhood. I've made so many friends from it. It's a confidence-builder combined with fitness, and that's the benefit."

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