You may have spotted Mikee Bentz in Negley or Reservoir park, on City Island or even on the state Capitol grounds.
He’s hard to miss when he breaks out his 10-foot-long portable pole, and suddenly he’s gripping, spinning and flipping on it, all muscle and long, platinum blonde hair.
Maybe you’ve seen him dedicatedly commuting to work on his bike, which Bentz said he does about 350 days out of the year.
Or he may have shampooed, trimmed and highlighted your hair in his salon chair at Metro Mikee’s in downtown Harrisburg.
Now, add one more to the list of places you may see him—at his new aerial arts studio that recently popped up on North Street.
Metropolis opened in November as a place for beginners and experienced students to learn the sport that Bentz has mastered over the last eight years.
“I always call pole dance gymnastics, but sideways,” he said. “Anyone of any fitness level, of any skill level, of any age, of any gender can become great at pole dance and aerial arts.”
Bentz knows that there are some misconceptions around pole dancing and aerial arts, but he quashed them, saying that his studio is focused on athleticism.
“People still call it the stripper pole,” he said. “No one strips at my studio.”
Bentz, a central Pennsylvania native, grew up in a military family, which meant moving around a lot. He already felt different and faced bullying for being a member of the LGBTQ community, so it was even more difficult that he was often the new kid at school.
“I could either be the new kid at each of these schools with no friends because I was too shy, or I could be the new kid who just went out there and made friends,” he said. “So, I fought through a lot of my insecurities.”
He later started experimenting with cosmetology by practicing intricate nail painting designs on friends. Bentz had never cut hair before, but when his cousin asked him for a trim, he gave it a shot. He admitted that he mostly faked shearing sounds, only cutting off the smallest possible amount, but she stood up, declaring it was the best haircut of her life. Soon after, he enrolled in cosmetology school.
In 2016, Bentz opened Metro Mikee’s salon, just up the block from where he later would open Metropolis.
In addition to beauty, over the years Bentz discovered a passion for fitness. He would frequent the gym with friends, making his body stronger through weight lifting.
When Bentz was introduced to pole dance eight years ago, it felt like the perfect fit.
“I could take everything that already made up who I was and just express myself in this new way that I had literally no idea was even a thing,” he said.
In 2015, he bought his signature portable pole and, in his words, “the whole world became my gym.”
While that still may be true, Bentz now has his own space to practice his skills and teach his students at Metropolis.
He offers eight-week courses for beginners looking to try pole dance specifically or aerial arts broadly, which includes learning skills on the pole, aerial hoop and aerial silk fabrics. From there, he has intermediate classes to choose from.
Harrisburg resident Bryanna has many friends involved in aerial arts, and she always wanted to try, she said. So, after stumbling upon Metropolis while walking through the neighborhood, she decided to sign up for a class.
“I was feeling a bit nervous,” said Bryanna, who is in her early 50s. “But Mikee was super warm and welcoming. I was totally excited after the first lesson.”
In just a few months, Bryanna could climb the pole, spin and participate in choreographed dances.
“Even after the second lesson, my friends were super impressed,” she said. “I really have progressed a lot.”
Bentz explained how everyone is welcome at Metropolis. People of all fitness levels and ages can be successful.
His passion for acceptance is something that he says is right in his name.
“I’m Mikee with two E’s and the two E’s stand for the environment and everyone,” he said. “Those are my two greatest causes and commitments. I try to do everything to be as kind to the earth as I can. I also try to utilize unconditional love.”
It’s something that Bentz hasn’t always felt from others, but, through self-exploration and self-care, he said that he is now in a place to share it.
“It’s really being in tune with myself and my own wellness and health journey, and then I can be able to use those tools to help others,” he said.
Beyond physical improvements, Bryanna has found that pole dancing has given her time to relax mentally.
“You get the muscle movement, but it’s graceful,” she said. “It gives you a chance to break away from life and work.”
She plans to continue taking classes and recommended the studio to anyone who is interested in aerial arts.
While Bentz has had a number of dedicated students since he opened, he hopes that more people will give the sport a try. It’s not easy, but anyone can give it a shot, he said.
“Done is better than perfect,” Bentz said. “Just showing up to your first class, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s done. Now, you can move on to classes two through 1,000, and we will see where we go.”
Metropolis is located at 202 North St., Harrisburg. For more information and to sign up for classes, visit www.metropolishbg.com
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