In Week 1, the women in Diana Matiaszow's Burlesquercise class are reserved, shy and uncomfortable in their own skin.
A few short weeks later, the ladies have transformed. On cue, they shimmy their hips, shake their bottoms and toss their heads back in mock ecstasy.
They are loud and unabashed.
"It's funny. At the end of the six weeks, I lose total control of the class," Matiaszow says with a laugh.
Burlesquercise is Matiaszow's hybrid approach to fitness that teaches women titillating dance moves mixed with Pilates and cardio work.
Matiaszow, a professional ballroom dance trainer, dance teacher and former competitive Latin dancer, launched the class two years ago inside the Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute, just north of the University of Calgary.
Since then, the class has grown in popularity: several run each week, with approximately 40 women in each. Participants range in age from 20 to 60 and come in all shapes and sizes, she says.
"It's sort of taken off like wildfire for women of all ages."
At the beginning of April, Matiaszow launches Burlesquercise for plus-sized women, a new class for larger ladies. She hopes it will open doors for women who perhaps have been intimidated by fitness classes in the past. (It should be noted that women of all sizes are welcome in any of her classes, not just the plus-sized class.)
Burlesquercise, she stresses, is tamer than strippercise (fitness classes that teach women racier moves while exercising). Instead, it's about tasteful tease and titillation.
The class doesn't stress weight loss, but many women lose weight and inches taking Burlesquercise, Matiaszow adds.
As part of the instruction, she tells her students not to try to be sexy, but rather just be themselves.
"To be sexy and to feel feminine is to be nothing but yourself," but a lot of women don't get that, Matiaszow says.
It's about body acceptance and body transformation, she explains.
In previous classes, some women have admitted not being able to undress in front of their spouses or lovers because of their inhibitions. But by the end of the six weeks, many have discovered their inner sex kittens, Matiaszow says.
"It's amazing to watch."