POLE dancing classes for children as young as five are being launched by a dance instructor in Headington.

Nicola Ghalmi runs the Dance Inspires studio off London Road and is launching classes for children aged five to nine, and aged ten to 15.

As she announced the classes Ms Ghalmi, 30, a former Oxford Brookes marketing student, insisted there would be no "sexual connotation".

She said: "Some people might not agree with this, but for me pole dancing and pole fitness is one and the same thing.

"When I say 'pole dance' I think competition and that doesn't mean there is a sexual connotation.

"None of the girls I have taught have ever ended up in a nightclub or a strip club - it's a life choice."

Ms Ghalmi, who lives in Wheatley with her partner Driss, 41, said the studio ran a variety of different classes but its "core product" was pole dancing and pole fitness.

She added: "The classes will start on Sunday and there has been quite a lot of interest online already.

"Some people might not agree with this but a lot of clients I am aiming for are already pole dancers anyway."

Ms Ghalmi began competing regularly in pole dancing competitions about five years ago, including Miss Pole Dance UK.

She added: "A lot of pole dancing routines came out of China and the circus, not strip clubs.

"The dances are based on strength and fluidity but that does not mean sexy.

"This is not about corrupting kids' innocence - when they see a pole they just want to swing round it - and children aged five to nine will be working on balance, co-ordination and strengthening bones and muscles."

Ms Ghalmi added competitive routines could last four to five minutes and helped to improve fitness.

Instructors are fully qualified in children’s fitness, insured and DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checked.

Elisha Peart, 33, from Barton, who run Oxford's Messy Jam dance group, which competed in TV's Britain's Got Talent, said she did not think there was anything wrong with the sessions.

She added: "As soon as you say 'pole' all people think of is stripper heels but it's the wrong assumption - pole fitness can be great for building your upper body strength."

Vicky Rainbow, 40, from Littlemore, who runs dance group workshops, added: "I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with this but these classes should teach the children to focus on their fitness, not what they look like."

Liberal Democrat city councillor for Headington Ruth Wilkinson said the dance studio was well established and popular and added that she couldn't see any reason for the studio not running the classes.

For further information visit danceinspires.co.uk

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