CHERYL Cliffe was just three months pregnant when the father of her baby walked out on her.
CHERYL Cliffe was just three months pregnant when the father of her baby walked out on her.He came back, only to dump her again when their son was five-and-a-half-months-old, which left her confidence on the floor.
"He had been chatting up the nurses in the hospital as I was giving birth," she said. "And while I had been really happy while I was pregnant, I suffered from post natal depression after I'd had my son.
Cheryl was a 23-year-old single mum whose life and self-esteem were at an all-time low.
But her life began to turn around when she went to the Peterborough Festival and noticed some ladies standing near a pole . . .
"I saw a stall for the Pole Fun Roadshow girls at the Peterborough Festival," she said. "And I remembered seeing Teri Hatcher on the Jay Leno Show a few years back, saying how she poledanced to keep fit, and I thought then that it looked really cool.
"I thought 'why not?' and I went along to Pole Fun Roadshow classes at their studio in Fletton."
The Pole Fun Roadshow and Studio has since closed, and Cheryl has opened her pole dancing studio, and wants to help other women get as much from it as she has.
"I have never been fat, but pole dancing has really helped me to tone up," she said. "And poledancing has really helped me with my confidence.
"All women feel vulnerable after they've had a child, and you really need your partner at that time. For them to walk out on you at that point leaves you feeling completely worthless.
"I didn't have a boyfriend for a long time after that – I was too scared to let someone into my life. But poledancing gave me more confidence – in my body and in myself – and within two months of taking pole dancing up I met someone, and I live with him now!
"Now I feel as though I can talk to anyone, and do anything - and, of course, pole dancing does help with sexual confidence.
"Before I was so shy that I wouldn't even walk around in my underwear, and that does have an affect on relationships. Now I just feel so much happier in myself."
Cheryl's Dancefit studio is tucked away in The Courtyard Retail Park, in Norfolk Street, which is just off Lincoln Road – a short walk from the city centre.
She runs classes for all levels, from absolute beginners through to advanced pole dancers. "I really want these classes to be for everyone," she said.
"It doesn't matter what size you are – if you can hold your own body weight you can pole dance. And age doesn't matter either – my mum is in her 60s and I told her I'd teach her.
"In fact, the reason I do this is because of my older ladies. Confidence can be a problem with a lot of women, and as you get older you start to wonder if your husband is looking at younger women, things like that.
"Pole dancing helps those women take control of their bodies and the physical side of their lives again, and it also boosts confidence in other ways. It makes you less self-conscious, it helps you to get in shape – I can't say enough about it.""Obviously, everyone is nervous before they come, everyone wonders if the other people in the class are going to be 18 and a size eight, and I do have women who book to come and then don't show up through nerves.
"But it's really not like that – it is a completely supportive environment. And there are only ever 10 people in a class, meaning everyone gets a fair amount of time on the pole."
Cheryl decided to start her own studio after a bloke at work asked her whether she went to the gym. "I said 'no', and he said 'What do you do for exercise then, sit at home and do nothing?'
"I told him that no, actually, I poledanced, and he couldn't believe it - he went on and on about it all the time to everyone, and then some of the women at work asked me if I'd teach them. And so I did."
Cheryl, of Gordon Avenue, Woodston, Peterborough, holds exercise to music and instructors' qualifications from Vertical Dance in Chelmsford. "But you can't get a qualification in teaching pole dancing," she said. "Because it isn't classed as exercise."
She has now given up her job in the lingerie section at Matalan, and wants to turn Peterborough into a city of poledancers.
But is she being sexist by not offering classes to men?
"I have had a lot of enquiries, actually," she laughed. "And it's something I'm thinking about. If they want to learn – why not?"
Poledancing does, of course, have an undenaibly sexy element, and most poledancers are found not in the supportive environment of women-only classes but dancing for paying punters in lapdancing clubs.
"I do think what the girls in the city's table dancing club, Angels, do is amazing," said Cheryl. "Poledancing is incredibly demanding, and for them to do that – and smile and perform and take their clothes of at the same time – takes a lot of skill.
"And if that's how women want to make their money then I don't have a problem with that at all."However, Cheryl is not keen on training young girls to dance for that purpose. "If I had an 18-year-old ask me to train her to do that, then I would - but I would spell it out to her that those girls don't make money from pole dancing, but from the private dances they give men," she said.
"And I definitely won't teach anyone under 18. One woman wanted her 14-year-old daughter to come to classes, and I said no because there is a sexual element to what we do here – some of the moves are sexual – and it definitely does improve your sexual confidence.
"And that's not something I want to encourage or develop in a young girl.
"But as long as you're over 18, that's fine. If you'd like to have a chat before you sing up for classes, that's fine. I have got so much from poledancing, and I would like other women to benefit from it."
Beginners' classes start every couple of weeks, and the course costs 75. For more information see www.poleprincess.org.uk, or e-mail enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.