Friday, October 20th 2017

Exclusive interview with Sheila Kelley, creator of S-Factor

She was a star in the movie, Blue Iguana. She guest-starred on ABC’s LOST. She taught her somatic moves to Teri Hatcher and Kate Hudson. Now she dishes to Soul’s Code about “dirty” spiritual dancing in the dark

BY CYNDI INGLE — You may have heard of the X-Factor, a term that economists use to describe an immeasurable and mysterious variable that boosts wealth and productivity — and that has lately been appropriated by Simon Cowell for his talent-search, reality show of the same name.

Ten years ago LA-based TV and dance veteran, Sheila Kelley, created her own factor — a mind-body workout that has now gone mainstream.  Does the “S”  in her S Factor pole dancing practice stand for sex, sensuality or spirituality? Or maybe all three?

Kelley’s practice draws on everything from pilates and yoga to ballet and striptease. Her trainees include Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher, movie star Kate Hudson and even Martha Stewart. (YouTube, left: Martha gives good pole).

My personal connection?

Over a year ago on a visit to San Francisco I tried an introductory pole dancing class and wrote about the experience for Soul’s Code. The class was fun, personally empowering, and led me to think about whether pole dancing has spiritual elements — beyond the obvious — which is that it’s a kick-butt workout which skillfully works one’s mind/body connection.

Curiously the article led to a heated debate between readers, proving that the practice still has the cache amongst some as being affiliated with strippers, sex work or (shudder) “man pleasing” behavior.  The debate sparked discussion on how North American society continues to critique women’s behavior, and whether a spirituality site such as Soul’s Code should even be posting articles on the subject.

Judging those who enjoy the pole

I wanted to explore with Sheila how she deals with those who feel that pole dancing for fitness is still tainted with negative connotations.

As she stresses, “I am focused on placing my attention and energy in positive places. So it is not productive to respond to people who can’t see the positive benefits of using the pole within our movement. Don’t forget to note that distinction. Pole is an element of S Factor which allows women to gain strength and confidence. . .be beautiful. . . fly. That’s a far different thing than what is commonly known as ‘pole dancing’.”


Photo of Sonia Allcock by Lucy Devereux

Pole dancing for fitness and for female bonding is also gaining acceptance outside of the confines of North America.  Sonia Allcock (pictured at right) is an award winning pole dancer and instructor at Sharp-shooters in Wales who shares many of Sheila’s views on pole dancing.

For Sonia, pole dancing is an art, and “something I need to do, it’s a part of me and how I express myself.   And some of us who are physically active will have experienced the high you can get from your workout, a long lasting “feel good” factor.”

Recently dancing (as well as studying Hinduism) has helped Sonia survive rough personal times.

“It’s not all glam and sparkle.  I’ve recently had a few bad experiences and felt very negative.  So, to balance the good with the bad, destruction with creation, I started to realize it was all relative.  I’ve also discovered Lord Shiva, Nataraja.  If you dig deeper into it, you will understand what he teaches us all about dance.”

Reclaiming one’s sensual power

An often overlooked part of spirituality for women can be discovering, reclaiming and understanding the sensual power that we possess.  In Sheila’s experience, she has found that many women don’t understand this process.  And younger women, in particular, seem more attuned to their “power.”


Sheila Kelley

“Even though we move and play with virtually no mirrors, S Factor holds a mirror up, figuratively speaking, for women to see themselves fresh and new.  They get to watch themselves blossom into fully powerful, sensual, women. Like anything unfamiliar, women are afraid because they do not know how to control this power. We give them those tools.”

“Younger women are much more “on cue,” with embracing their sensual power.  Older women who have been living in challenging circumstances, unhealthy relationships, or other such conditions for a longer period of time, have more challenges in not only embracing their sensual power, but also acknowledging it. I have seen layers and layers of damage peeled off some of my students who are blossoming today.”
Sonia’s students agree.  As her student Zara Groves shares, “Pole dancing has made me a lot more confident in being sexy.  It has brought out a whole new side to me, as a performer.  I love the fact that you are all glamorous and graceful, all tied in with pushing your strength and fitness.”

A tool to fight women’s oppression world-wide?

A question remains: can pole dancing do more than give women increased self-confidence and great abs?  Can it actually change the world for the better?

In Sheila’s eyes it already has, and can do much, much more.

“I would love to see S Factor studios influencing women in countries where women are oppressed.  I would love to see women embrace and love themselves and each other the world over.  Once women of the world have a unified respect, love and understanding of the modern feminine powerful woman, I believe the world will heal, as these women pass those qualities down to  generations of sons and daughters.

“A lofty vision? Changing the world to a better place — one woman at a time, one day at a time — for generations, and having fun doing it!”

With the words of Sheila and Sonia reverberating in my consciousness, it may be time to conquer the pole again.

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11 Comments on “Exclusive interview with Sheila Kelley, creator of S-Factor”

  1. Pole dancing has made me feel more appreciative of my body and what it can do. It has given me confidence both physically and mentally, I never ever feel anything but good and excited when I think about pole dancing and perform. It has given me self belief in my own abilities and I feel determination to achieve each time I try something new.

  2. Pole dancing for me is a great way of de-stressing from my hectic work schedule (working as a groom with horses).

    I feel I can let myself go, and express who I am, on the pole. I have found my strengths and weaknesses mentally and physically, this being on the pole and with with my other job. Pole dancing makes me feel more feminine.

  3. Although I find the spiritual connection to pole dancing tenuous at best, I do find the concept of reclaiming female sensuality enlightened . . . as well as the obvious physical benefits it's an interesting attempt to turn something presumably designed for male entertainment into a form of female empowerment . . . treading a fine line between being the object and subject I guess . . . but treading that line can be an interesting experience in and of itself I suppose. Perhaps therein lies the spiritual component??

  4. We *all* need to go to Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

    "No mind," is a religion.

    And far be it for this mind to tell all of the California and other advaita lovers . . . but that way of being is deeply, deeply associated with Catholicism, a practice that Europe and our country abandoned.

    Please name one pedophilliac scandal in the Latin American church.

    Here is my distant Finnish-Canadian cousin, showing the meme of Sheila Kelley's discipline on Dancing with the Stars:

  5. wow, that guy in the above video sure can dance!! :)

  6. soulscode said, "Please name one pedophilliac scandal in the Latin American church."

    Be careful not to equate "failure to report" the immensity of the problem with there being no problem at all.

  7. Kudos to YOU Cindi for forging forward regardless of the negative perspectives of those whom are unable to see BEyond their narrow conditioned sight.

    I LOVE Exercise and the Natural High one can get from Honouring the Physical Vessel which housing the ETERNAL that IS the ALL that is WE.
    I especially LOVE to Dance when I exercise, whether DOing Yoga, Pilates or simple calesthenics, even when out rollerblading incorporating dance into my work out invorgates in a manner that IS BEyond ALL ~~for ME.
    It allows for a naturally flowing expression of SELF through our physical vessel.

    Pole Dancing takes the Art of Dance that extra step to allow one to not only enJOY the natural flow of physical expression but to so DO at a heightened level of appreciation for the BEauty, elegance, sophisticated sensuality that IS what it IS to BE Physical.

    The Gift of BEing an eternal infinite energy frequency within physical form IS the very sensual/sensation experience our physical BEingness allows for..........n'est ce pas :)

    I have never personally tried Pole Dancing, however, having spent years DOing Jazz Ballet, another sensual expression of dance within physical form, as well as providing my services as a Professional Fitness Trainer, experiencing the SELF LOVE one is GIFTed when able to experience the grace, BEauty and sophisticated sensuality of expressing one's SELF without a word spoken, I can honestly say that it IS something I would welcome the experience of and highly recommend to ALL to so DO!

    It IS that we have BEen conditioned to NOT LOVE SELF....that somehow LOVing SELF is to BE judged a negative, self serving, self consumed, narcissistic ACTion of our BEingness when in fact it IS the very opposite.
    It IS in LOVing SELF~not as better than any other, not in comparison or competition, but for the very GIFT of Life that IS our physically manifested form, that we are able to see the BEauty that exists within ALL humans........
    If we can NOT LOVE the very Gift of our own can we possibly KNOW, honour, and celebrate that which IS the very Miracle of Life itSELF?

    I say hop onto yOUR poles, ladies AND gentlemen and enJOY the sensual pleasures of SELF LOVE and shine for ALL to see that it's okay to "LOVE ME" :)

    Thanks again Cindi for braving to walk "the path less traveled" for the BEnefit of ALL of WE :)

    Radiating LOVE
    Rhonda Sheryl Lipstein

  8. Paul Kaihla here . . .

    Pamela Anderson is a Finnish/Swedish cousin, and I actually talked to her about that years ago . . .

    But here is the cross-connect with Cyndi Ingle's interview with Sheila Kelley, star of the Blue Iguana and the character called "Zoe" on Season 6 of LOST.

    This choreography of Evacuate the Dance Floor on Episode 3 of Season 10 of Dancing With the Stars is totally in the spirit and the present:

  9. thanks for your kudos roni! u are an amazing light in the world!

  10. Great to see the videos and hear what different people think of pole-dancing and your article - seeing, reading and reflecting on something that draws out strong opinions makes sure the mind gets a little bit of exercize too.

  11. An A++ article, every words in the article ring of true facts. Nothing beats pole dancing for maximizing one's workout time for a FULL body training.

    As for Sheila's wish to see S Factor Studios influencing women in countries where women are oppressed, she will have to first break the resistance of this so call "oppressed females" before even thinking about trying to get the local authorities' approval for promoting it. Beautifully penned article Cyndi : )

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