Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pole Dancing

The art of pole dancing has unfortunately been stigmatized by associations with "gentlemen's clubs" and strip tease performers, but it has become more mainstream in some places. Needing a lift and some fitness activity after a day's work, not being enmeshed in a 'relationship' (my last real one ended effectively just pre-Katrina), and being bored with evenings to fill yet adverturesome, I thought I'd try this out. Pole dancing had been touted as having become mainstream; and since the classes were for women only I felt that I could deal with the situation.

The classes were held in a dance studio, not in one of those 'clubs' (thank God). The pervasiveness of sordidness would have been too much, even during the day. The instructor was a woman of my age, I estimated: very energetic and enthusiastic. Just as well: I need encouragement in exercises. The class was composed of about 15 or 16 women mainly in their 20's or 30's; most of them were fairly fit and all were outgoing. "Tough," tattooed women were not in evidence; most were squarely middle-class, holding jobs or attending college. One of the more vivacious ones was a minister's wife, who had husbandly encouragement. Now that's a liberal attitude! There were two nurses. It was a slumber party-like atmosphere: camraderie, easy-going exchanges, laid-back attitude. I sensed a frisson of unease on the group's part, though; maybe it stemmed from the fact that many people felt (or wished) that they were about to do something naughty. Which, in a way, we were. After all, most people think 'stripper' when they think of pole dancing and wondered if, somehow, they had crossed some invisible line!

The students were dressed in a variety of forms: brief shorts and halters, variations on swimsuit outfits, boy shorts and tees, and even short skirts. We had been instructed to have bare arms and legs to better grasp the pole. We first started up with warm-up exercises that emphasized graceful and sensuous movement, followed by pole work: mounting the pole, swinging, ascending, descending vertically, parallel, and upside-down, and so forth.

In talking with the participants they cited a variety of reasons for taking pole dancing: to "get exercise," to "become more sensual," to "entertain my husband or boy friend," "because I wanted to escape from the bonds of conventionality," "on a lark," or "my husband dared me." Funny thing: many seemed to enjoy the sense of discovering another side of themselves: the secret stripper or dancer within us.

The lessons produced their share of slips and mistakes. Once I lost my grip and fell about four feet on my bottom hard! Ouch! I was able to invert myself, and grasp the pole with my legs, but only with the third session.

Was it fun? Definitely. Was it physical exercise? Yes, definitely, especially for the arms, legs, and shoulders. Did it increase my self-esteem? I think so, although that was not the original intent. Somehow, just developing a skill, however strange it might seem to others, makes one feel quite good about oneself.

The instructor told us about there being an Amateur Night at a nearby club; but warned us about the audience. Now that is another level of adventure that I cannot talk about at work or in school if I were to try it! Anyway, several of us went on a field trip to understand finer points of technique. In fact, the professionals showed very little gymnastic technique.

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