When it comes to pole dancing it’s best to leave your preconceptions at the door, says Tony Earnshaw.

They’re from all walks of life, they’re all shapes and sizes, they range in age from 17 to 50 something and they share a love of fun and fitness.

And they’re all pole dancers.

When it comes to this most active and vigorous form of exercise it’s easy to make assumptions that revolve around strippers, stages, sequins and something slightly seedy.

As far as Sarah-Jayne Bell is concerned, it’s all relevant. But she’s adamant that seedy should be replaced by sassy.

Sarah-Jayne, 31, has been teaching pole dancing for 12 years - ever since she set up a pole in her dining room, much to her parents’ consternation. She was 19.

“My dad said, ‘Aren’t you going to get a proper job?’”

She now runs the only dedicated pole studio in Huddersfield and welcomes devotees of the form from across Kirklees.

She says awareness and acceptability is spreading - a useful thing given the growing calls for pole dancing to be recognised as an Olympic sport.

The International Pole Sports Federation is at the forefront of the decade-long campaign and has drawn up a points system similar to gymnastics. Around the world 25 countries have their own governing bodies as what was once stigmatised as a sleazy strip club activity gains kudos and credence as a sport.

“The Olympics represents a different genre within pole fitness,” says Sarah-Jayne as Amy, Kat, Rebecca and Peter perform exercises behind her with effortless grace.

“We have Pole Theatre with categories of drama, classique, comedy and pole art. Performances last about four minutes.

“The Olympics would be stripped back. It would be very precise and clinical. Competitors would have to nail the required elements to score as highly as possible.

“It would be completely different to one of our girls dressing up as a vampire coming out of a coffin and being on stage telling a story.

“I am a firm ambassador for the sexy side but sometimes the public can’t see the beauty and the artistry and the skill.

“Some members of the public need that badge of acceptability that the Olympics offers.”

With its roots in Mallakhamba, an Indian sport that combines elements of wrestling, yoga and gymnastics on a vertical wooden pole, pole dancing has acquired a split reputation for sexy club techniques and fitness-orientated exercise.

Huddersfield University students launch pole dancing club (Gallery)

“There is no good or bad side to it,” says Sarah-Jayne.

“There are people who push their bodies to the limit and it takes an incredible amount of strength to get to those levels. The basics are exactly that: basics. You won’t start flipping upside down on your first class. But it’s like swimming: you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it.”

She now has 70-plus members and also hosts the Huddersfield University Pole Dancing Academy.

The quartet demonstrating the strength, flexibility, dexterity and choreography during the Examiner’s visit included a stay-at-home mum, two nurses and a natural sciences professional. None of them had prior experience of pole dancing before they joined Sarah-Jayne’s classes at PPD Studios in Marsh. And each of them had issues with body confidence.

“I came for the first time four years ago, I had never done gym,” said Rebecca, 26, from Mirfield.

Student pole dancer Rebecca Pearson 26 at Princess Pole Dancing, Marsh Mills.

“I started because I had no body confidence. Also, it was all ladies. I wanted to lose weight and I’ve lost four inches off my waist. I’ve also lost fat and gained muscle.

“Sometimes the little taboos of pole dancing make it exciting but it’s all about strength as well.”

Another four-year veteran is 29-year-old Kat from Lindley , who championed the social aspect of being among like-minded people.

“My friends and I saw the Facebook group online and thought it would be fun,” she said. “I had zero body confidence and I had an eating disorder. I have gained acceptance in the way that I make my body look now. I want to be strong, not a skinny little stick anymore.”

Peter, 22, from Mirfield, was suffering from body dysmorphia when he took up pole dancing.

“This was about what I could do rather than what I looked like,” he said. “The first pictures that I was comfortable with were pole photos.

“Its just a massively great social environment. Everybody is incredibly supportive of each other.”

Amy, 25, from Huddersfield, exercised as her toddler looked on and occasionally joined in. She became a pole dancer because she was seeking a hobby.

“It was something to do,” she said. “It was about fitness and losing weight because I was getting married. It’s been really positive. I was doing an arm wrestle with my husband the other day and I won both times.”