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Mary Ellyn Weissman is the owner and creator of PDC approved pole dance school Empowerment Through Exotic Dance (Also known as Chicago Pole Dance), which was the first pole dancing school in the Chicago area in 2005. She was born in 1960, is married and has two sons who will both be in college in the fall.

The Teacher:

Mary Ellyn sees herself as a teacher rather than a performer or competitor. Her greatest enjoyment comes from sharing her skills with her students and sharing their excitement as they succeed. She also loves being a student and feels strongly that continued growth is possible for everyone and that to be a great teacher, you must also love learning. With this concept in mind she continues to train with various pole and dance instructors around the world in an effort to not only continually grow but to enjoy pole dancing from both a teaching and student perspective.

She uses other resources to further her growth in disciplines of sports and athletics which compliment her pole dancing and instructional skills such as injury prevention, yoga, health, and is certified in group exercise through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) as well as pole dance instructor certified through Pole Fitness Studios. Her background also includes over 20 years of health care experience as a registered nurse.

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Her method of teaching breaks down the elements of each move helping students to learn with ease. She believes in teaching in “different pole dance languages” as each student responds to different methods of instruction. Her class environment encourages students’ learning within a fun, supportive atmosphere.

Having experienced the growth of pole dancing from it’s earliest stages within the US, she also believes that safe pole instruction is an essential aspect of teaching. In the interest of further promoting safe pole dance instruction, in 2008 she developed the first pole instructor certification and training programs in the Midwest USA to be approved for continuing education by the AFAA.

Uniting Pole Dancing:

Mary Ellyn strongly supports the pole dance community working to bring pole dancers together to learn, network and perform. She has worked with and supported several organizations like the USPDF, the PDC, the PFA, the IPF and the IPDFA in their quests to improve pole dance recognition through competitions, regulations and guidelines.

In 2006 and 2007 she hosted the Chicago/US contingent of the Guinness World Record Events lead by Vertical Dance for the most pole dancers performing around the world.

In 2009 she produced her first international event - Dance Wicked For A Week. This event, held in Jamaica, brought together top names in pole dancing and burlesque to offer workshops for women from inexperienced to advanced level dancers with a showcase performance as the highlight of the week. After a successful launch Dance Wicked will be heading into it’s 3rd year running in 2011.

In 2010 Mary Ellyn brought together over 60 dancers for the first official event of the Midwestern United States, which previously had seen little recognition for the pole dancers living in this region, the Great Midwest Pole Jam and Showcase. She now hosts MidwestPoleDancing which is a centralized pole dance resource and networking site for the Midwest and South Central United states.
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She is a charter member and chair of the technical committee for the International Pole Sports Organization, working to further recognize the fitness aspects of pole dancing by bringing pole fitness to the Olympics.

The Students:

From the very beginning her priority has been her students and her enjoyment has been watching them grow and respond to her classes. While keeping their safety in mind, it was equally important that they not only toned up and got fit in a safe environment but also had a safe environment to explore a new and somewhat controversial form of dance which they soon realized helped them to improve their self esteem and confidence. She has found that for some, this growth was a result of improved levels of fitness while for others it was an improved acceptance of whom they were both inside and outside.


Since she began pole dancing Mary Ellyn has been influenced by many people who she had the opportunity to meet, not only other pole dancers, but dancers of other styles, entertainers and business owners as well. Her heroes are moms, wives, doctors, teachers and numerous other professionals as well as women who have overcome histories of abuse, disability and various misfortunes but despite it all have learned to enjoy life and live it fully.

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