"If you're going to exercise, do something you love!"
So what is it?
Pole dancing is a form of dance in which the performer does tricks around a pole. Watching a pole dancer perform is a real treat to see for more than one reason. The tricks performed can range from a simple leg sweep around the floor while swinging around the pole, to advanced-level power-tricks which turn the dancer upside down, holding on by one leg while rotating! Sometimes it even looks like the dancer has somehow defied gravity with her skills.
I first became interested in taking a pole class myself when I was working as a cigarette-girl in San Francisco. I came into a club with my tray ready only to find the club seemed to be completely empty. I walked toward the back to find it packed with people all with their eyes on the stage. I looked over and saw a beautiful woman performing a dance on a pole. I was mesmerized and forgot about selling cigarettes and candy and watched as she climbed almost to the ceiling, flipped herself upside down, and slid back down the pole with nothing holding her on but the strength of her inner thighs.
When her performance was done, she bowed, and walked off stage. I noticed she was tall, slim, but her stomach was rock solid with muscle and her body was toned.
I thought to myself, "Well, if THAT'S the body you get from doing this stuff, sign me up!"
After looking for a studio in my area that taught pole (which was actually really hard to find...I live in a rather conservative area with about 5 churches or so on Main Street alone!)
When I finally found one, I signed myself up. It was called "Kitty Kat's Korner" and is taught by a redhead named Sandra.
The first class was the following Thursday.
We came in, set out our yoga mats, turned down the lights and started the music. Sexy, slow beats like "I Can Feel It in the Air" by Genesis and "Closer" by Kings of Leon. "Start small circles with your hips, reach up your body slowly, feel your hair, massage your neck..." Sandra tells us.
She's getting us in the mood to feel sexy, to feel comfortable with our bodies and flexible in our hips...there's a lot of stretching up ahead.
There is at least 40 minutes of warmup and workout before we even get to the poles. Arms, core, and hips mainly. Believe me, this takes a lot of upper-body and ab muscle.
When our arms are good and worked out and our stomachs have had a good crunching, it's time to take to the poles, but in this class, even standing up is something we re-learn.
She has us lay down in "child's pose" (for those who don't know, that's tucking your knees under you and folding over with your head on the floor. Very relaxing.)
From child's pose, we sit up and do a sexy head roll, swinging our hair through the air. Then, we put our hands on the floor again and do a "kitty cat" where we stick our booties in the air and press our chests to the floor, (it's much sexier than it sounds). Then, we pull our left foot through and place it, in releve (on pointed toes) under us with the knee pointing out. Putting our hands on the floor, we pull in the other foot the same way. Now we can stand up by slowly straightening our knees, keeping our back arched, and flipping our hair.
And that's just standing up! But there's a reason for it. A pole dancer is always fluid, always sexy. Imagine a dancer doing something really beautiful, and then just getting up all clunky, groaning, and walking away. Not very appealing is it?
Time for the Pole!
After all this, we finally get to touch the poles. We first spray down own hands with a little rubbing alcohol and dry them with small hand towels. (Keeps our hands clean from sweat.) Then we wipe down the poles with little towels to clean off any germs and wipe away any sweat or dirt that might make it harder to swing or too slippery.
Sandra teaches us how to walk to the pole first. "Alternate," she says, "Twist as you walk, step out with left foot, while moving your hands to the right. Take small steps! You'll lose balance if you try to make it too big."
We practice walking around the room in this sultry fashion for a few minutes, then, we walk our way to the poles. We are about to learn the "Firefly."
The Firefly is a basic momentum move. Take 4 steps around the pole, swing the outer leg on the 5th, and when it comes around, lift the back foot up to meet it on the other side and the result is a lovely little rotation around the pole with the feet tucked neatly on either side.
(If that sounds confusing, here is a wonderful video by the dancer expert Mai Yee from HowCast showing how to do a Firefly: watch video.)
After practicing the firefly a bit, we learn the Reverse firefly! (I found this to be easier than the forward firefly for some reason, go figure). In this one, we do our firefly, but instead of spinning all the way to the floor, we put our feet to the ground, rose back up, took another step around and swung the outer leg again, this time going backwards and wrapping our knee around the pole to keep the spin.
I love that move and it will probably remain one of my favorites for a while.
Put that confidence to work!
So after practicing these new moves and working on stringing them together, Sandra announces that it's going to be free movement now.
"There's no right or wrong," she tells us, "Do what you feel works for you, whatever makes you feel sexiest!"
She turns on a sexy R&B song I haven't heard before, and tells us to go ahead. I watch the other women as they pose seductively against the wall and then walk slowly to the pole to begin their tricks. I follow suit and it makes me feel sexier and freer than I ever have in my life!
Spinning, head-rolling, and curving our way through the song, we all discover our inner enchantresses in Sandra's studio. (Sorry 50 Shades, you have nothing on this!) By the time the song is over, I've climbed to the middle of the pole and I'm posing with my right leg out and my head leaning back. I've done my first pole dance and I feel great.
Come for the workout, stay for the self-esteem.
I've been going to Sandra's classes every week since the first Thursday I set foot in the studio. For an hour and a half each week, I'm in a space where I think about nothing but how sexy I can be, how good I feel about myself, and how much fun I have with the other women in class.
And I've noticed something, no two women in the class have the same body-type. There are women of all ages and sizes in this class. No one is judging each other, everyone is supportive, everyone has a great time.
I encourage any woman to take a class sometime. I haven't regretted it for a minute.
...Though I should probably get my own pole and lay off the stop signs on my street for practice.