I recently attended an "S Factor" introductory class to prepare to interview "S Factor" founder Sheila Kelley. Sheila, an actress, writer, and teacher, founded S Factor after doing research for her starring role as an exotic dancer in Dancing at the Blue Iguana. Through the process, she discovered her sensual power and as a result, a new confidence in herself. "My life changed and I've dedicated that life to sharing this extraordinary journey with other women," she says.
On Saturday in Los Angeles, 12 slightly nervous women (myself included) entered a dim-lit room with hardwood floors (a little bit like a yoga studio, but with five "stripper" poles). We were greeted by teachers Janelle Giumarra and Kerry Anne Aldridge. Both women told us right away that it was natural to feel a bit nervous, and asked if any of us had taken an S Factor class before. None of us had.
After introducing ourselves to the group, Janelle turned on some hot, thumping music. She then led us through a series of floor exercises -- hip circles, pelvic lifts, and something called leg flirts (use your imagination here). They were all aimed at helping us get deeper into our bodies and appreciate our own sensuality. It was working. I was feeling hot.
As we hip swirled and lovingly caressed our own bodies (yes, even our breasts), there was a wonderful sense of feminine camaraderie in the room -- a sense of group acceptance for being women. "We're all in this together," shouted Janelle over the music. Yes, we were all in this together -- getting over inhibition, getting over shame that for many of us as females had been programmed into us from earlier experiences.
So when were we going to learn some tricks on the pole?
Well, as it turns out, "S Factor" is MUCH more than that. "S Factor is not pole dancing. S Factor has pole dancing in it. S Factor is about learning the feminine language of the body and finding your sexy alter ego ... finding your erotic creature," Sheila told me in an interview after I took the class.
Finding our sexy alter ego is important because, "If you do not take your sexuality back, you will forever run in a gerbil circle going, 'Give me equal rights. Give me equal rights. Give me equal rights.' You know what? Take your body back. Take your vagina back. Take your breasts back. Take your ass back. Live happily in them," said Sheila.
According to Sheila, taking our sexuality back as women is the final frontier of feminism. I have to agree. When we, as a group of women, come together loving our bodies and loving who we are as females -- from the inside out -- something miraculous happens. We claim our power. We claim our space. And everyone seems to be better off for it.
"When you come to class, you start to notice all of the little beautiful details in the women around you, then you start to notice the beautiful little details in yourself," said Janelle.
S Factor classes are offered around the country. If you are new, it is best to take an introductory class. After that, you can sign up for Level One and then move up through the seven levels. Each level is eight weeks, one class per week, with the same group of women in each class. "These girls are tight," said Janelle. "It's an amazing group of support and compassion."
Compassion is key to the group experience of S Factor. Many women are working through some old, rough stuff. One S Factor student-turned-teacher described how her parents used to tell her it was too embarrassing to go to her dance recitals when she was 12 or 13 years old. "That's a pretty awkward time," she said. "But now I'm doing this," she said with a confident smile.
Building confidence is one of the main takeaways for women who venture into the S Factor experience. Even Hollywood stars from Teri Hatcher to Kate Hudson say it has increased their confidence. "[This] is about Empowerment ... it's about finding this place of comfort and confidence in your own body," Teri Hatcher said in a testimonial.
For me, just one class opened me up to more of my feminine sensuality -- and I am loving it! Not only do I feel more in touch with my power, I am having so much fun feeling good about being me -- a beautiful female who has a lot of joy to share.
As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says in her bestselling book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: "When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, an inspiratrice, an intuitive, a maker, a creator, an inventor, and a listener who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer world."
S Factor puts women back in touch with their wild nature. Oh, and what about the pole tricks? Guess you'll have to come to class.
For more information about how you can get started with S Factor, visit www.sfactor.com
To hear what other women have to say about S Factor, click here for testimonials.