Keen to challenge my preconceptions, I went along to a taster class. No longer the domain of seedy bars and strip clubs, this form of dance has become the latest fitness craze.
There were six of us in the class, three to a pole, in a brightly lit gym studio. The first task was to strut sexily around the pole. Although not a physically difficult task, getting over our English reserve was more of a challenge. Some dry ice and dimmed lighting would have helped.
Failing any special effects, we cringed our way around the pole one by one. The instructor, Michal, from Israel, seemed amused by our embarrassment and steamed ahead regardless.
Soon we were expanding our repertoire. After wiggling our way up and down the pole, we were on to spinning and sliding. ‘Just jump on the pole and let yourself slide down it,’ Michal instructed us.
Like any form of dance done well, the movements should look effortless. In my case, they looked a bit hard. Unaccustomed to exercising my upper body, I was doubtful whether my arms could support my body weight. Fortunately, the pole woke up some dormant muscles and I managed a laboured descent.
As well as sliding down the pole into a heap on the floor, something technical was done to make the top half of the pole spin independently. This meant I could launch myself on and whizz around at quite a pace. Clinging on to a rapidly spinning pole proved to be the perfect cure for any residual feelings of awkwardness.
The necessity to share a pole meant the class went quickly without building up much of a sweat but Michal’s demonstration at the end showed what an intense workout pole dancing can be at a more advanced level.
The routine was elegant and incredibly gymnastic. Cursing my earlier thoughts, I watched in awe as Michal seemed to suspend herself using just her elbow or knee. There’s not much downtime when you’re holding yourself on a pole. Frequently upside-down, the teacher demonstrated impressive control and agility. As she moved seamlessly from spins to the splits, I saw that pole dancing requires flexibility, endurance and strength.
Afterwards, the elation from the class was palpable. I might not have been a budding Demi Moore but the great thing about a class that’s so different and fun is you forget you’re exercising.
Just make it a little darker next time.
The class I attended was run by the London Academy of Performance and Dance.
Tel: 020 8520 1985
Image by litonali courtesy of Flickr