With performers clad in tiny fringe- and sequin-covered costumes, a stage adorned with swaths of silk, a suspended hoop and two shiny, vertical poles, one event tonight could raise a few eyebrows, arms and legs.
As Sacramento's first pole dance and aerial arts showcase, SacPolemento brings together students and instructors of several area pole dancing studios and a local aerial silks organization.
"When you say 'I'm a pole dancer,' people say, 'Oh, you strip.' I say 'I'm an aerial artist, a vertical athlete' and then they become curious," explained Carolyn Hubbard, a coordinator and performer for the event.
Hubbard said there are three disciplines of pole dancing: exotic dancing, fitness and art.
SacPolemento performers concentrate on the art of pole dancing as well as aerial silks and lyra (suspended hoop). Stripping is not a part of the event.
The showcase has been in the works for about five months. Organizers contacted local studios, held auditions, selected performers and secured the 24th Street Theatre at the Sierra 2 Center.
Hubbard said that in the past 10 years national opinion about pole dancing has changed, away from the image of strippers and exotic club dancers.
"We take it out of that path and into more of a gymnastic, Cirque du Soleil-style art performance," she said. "There's a growing awareness that this involves strength, and women feel empowered when they take a class and stick with it. It's kind of indescribable."
Some of the acts are "trick-oriented," others are more lyrical, but all incorporate different styles of dance and movement.
Marie Maher, an organizer and performer, has been pole dancing for five years. She said the empowering element of pole is two-fold.
"For a lot of women, it's a chance to be a woman unapologetically, to be sensual, to have a style," she said. "It's that taboo that comes along with it that people really like."
The other half of the motivation comes with physical fitness, the pride that dancers feel when they successfully complete tricks and "grow and learn things about themselves physically and emotionally."
Maher said men also find pole dancing satisfying because they can tap into a sensual side.
Matt Wright, owner of Aerial Evolution, a Sacramento aerial silks, lyra and fitness organization, is the only male performer in SacPolemento. He said there are "quite a few guys" in the pole dancing and aerial silks community.
Wright began pole dancing about three years ago after watching a YouTube video of Felix Cane, a world champion pole dancer and the first person to lead a solo pole-dancing act with Cirque du Soleil.
"It was so good, it blew my mind." he said. "I got a pole in my house and turned to the community for support."
Maher said pole dancing began growing in popularity in Sacramento about three years ago, and people have continued to learn about it and get involved. More studios opened.
"The past year has seen a big boom in interest and availability for people to come out and try it," she said.
Maher said most people who stick with pole dancing come from an athletic background, but not always.
"For pole, it really is everybody moms, teenagers, students, all different ethnicities and ages," she said. "I know some people who are well over 50, there are guys and girls, but more girls."
Hubbard concurred. "We wear many hats, we have careers, we're mothers, we're wives," she said. "When women are allowed to move and be a woman and be themselves, they're creating moments that say 'this is who I am.' In essence, it connects with who you are."
Instructor Natalie Haskell has been pole dancing for five years and recently came back to it after a break to have a baby about a year ago.
Her SacPolemento routine includes slow movements and spins, a contrast to many of the other rowdy, high-energy performances.
"I've always loved doing slower routines," Haskell said. "People always want me to teach them a trick, but when you put a dance together you need the other parts to hold it together."
The 2 1/2-hour SacPolemento has 23 acts, with pole dancers outnumbering the aerial acts about 2-to-1. Some performers cross between the two.
Maher said the showcase is giving Sacramento a chance to understand the art.
"We know there's a taboo with people," she said. "But it's not usually a negative thing, it's more so a lack of awareness and understanding. But the more we talk about it, the more people accept it and are open about it. You should be open and proud of what you do."
What: A pole dance and aerial arts showcase
When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 28
Where: 24th Street Theatre at the Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., Sacramento
Cost: $10 online, $15 at the door. Proceeds benefit Women Escaping A Violent Environment.
Call The Bee's Morgan Searles, (916) 321-1102. Follow her in Twitter @morgansearles.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the date of the event.