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November 11, 2013
Santa Cruz Sentinel
by Karen Kefauver

SANTA CRUZ — Pole dancing is not just for strippers, explained Jeanette Bent, a dancer, teacher and performer who recently opened Aerial Arts Santa Cruz.

“I completely forget that pole dancing came from strip clubs,” said Bent, who placed third in the 2013 U.S. National Pole Championships in Las Vegas in August. “When that association happens, I just get on the pole and show some moves, or send them to YouTube to watch what it’s about. I don’t get upset or angry. I’ve dealt with it before.”

When Bent lifts her lean, muscular frame onto the pole in a mesmerizing display of strength, flexibility and endurance during a choreographed aerobic dance, it quickly becomes clear that pole dancing is indeed a performance art centered on a vertical pole. It became more mainstream within the last decade when gyms started offering pole fitness classes and international competitions emerged.

“It’s a matter of lifting your own body weight and being comfortable going upside down,” said the 29-year-old Santa Cruz native and Harbor High School graduate. “I started off as a dancer and then it was just by accident in 2008 that I got into aerial arts and pole when I was hired as a choreographer for the circus team at Club Med in Cancun.”

After a decade of teaching, performing and choreographing a variety of traditional and aerial dance styles, in New York City, Florida, Mexico, the Bahamas and throughout Europe, Bent returned to Santa Cruz about a year ago. In October, she launched Aerial Arts Santa Cruz on Mission Street, where she and other instructors teach aerial, pole, dance and fitness classes for children and adults.

Jessica DeLancey, 28, met Bent when they were teenagers performing at Motion Pacific dance studio and connected again recently when both were dancing for Diaspora, the Tannery Arts Center dance troupe. “Bent is passionate, enthusiastic, energetic and caring. I admire what she is doing.”

Bent stumbled into dance, so to speak.

“There are no dancers or performers in my family, not even a one,” Bent said, laughing. “My earliest memory of what compelled me to dance was sneaking out of bed to watch the Fly Girls perform on the TV show ‘In Living Color.'”

After earning a college degree and moving to New York City to work for Dance Magazine, Bent realized she would rather dance than write about it.

“At first, I thought I could take or leave performing, but then I get itchy to perform,” she said. “It’s that rush of adrenaline that I love.”


Jeanette Bent

Birthday: June 26, 1984

Family: Son Luke Bent, 2½; husband Eric Bent of Montreal, whom she met at a Club Med while she was teaching dance and he was the executive chef; and two dogs, Buddy and Lily

Education and Hobbies: Bachelor’s degree in journalism (with an emphasis on dance), French and international studies, Cal State Long Beach. ‘I’ve published two books and am wrapping up my third. I’m also returning to painting and sketching.’

Strangest Performance Place: During National Dance Week in Santa Cruz, Bent and a friend used a stop sign on Pacific Avenue to do a pole routine to a Guns N’ Roses song. ‘The reactions were great,’ recalled Bent.

Aerial Arts Santa Cruz student comment: ‘I was afraid of aerial at first, but then I built up a lot of confidence on the apparatus,’ said Lily Sonnenblick, 9. ‘The teacher Jeannette is really awesome. She goes up there and does these amazing moves. I think, “I wish I could do that,” but I can’t. Well, maybe in 2,000 years.’

Websites: www.aerialartssantacruz.com, www.youtube.com/ChoreoJaye

Next Performance: Bent and several of her young students will travel to Los Angeles to compete in the inaugural West Coast Aerial Arts Festival, Nov. 15-17. Visit www.rubykarenproject.com/west-coast-aerial-arts-festival.

Jeannette Bent watches her students practice on aerial hoops at the Aerial Art studio in Santa Cruz on Friday. (Kevin Johnson/Sentinel)

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