My inner (pole) dancer

I definitely couldn’t make a career out of it, but pole dancing is really fun.

I can honestly say I never thought I’d type out those words, but last month I decided to put my investigative skills to the test and try out a pole dancing exercise class. After one 90-minute session, I fell in love with this unique way to exercise.

Let me preface this by saying I’m probably one the least coordinated and least athletic people on the planet. I can’t dance to save my life and I have the flexibility of an uncooked strand of spaghetti. Most people with my lack of athletic abilities would stay very far away from anything that involves a pole or dancing, but I think I just like embarrassing myself and trying new things too much to walk away from an opportunity like this.

I’d heard about pole dancing lessons before, and I’ve wanted to take a class for a while now. I just didn’t have the guts to actually go until last month. I figured if I was going to cross “pole dance” off my bucket list I was going to need to put myself on a deadline to accomplish it.

Originally, I planned on physically preparing myself for the class. I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t want to be the only person in the class that couldn’t pull herself more than an inch up the pole. Unfortunately, going to the gym either didn’t fit into my schedule or I found my bed to be way too comfy. My arm, leg and ab strength remained at an all-time low, so I just told myself I’d wing it.

Fast forward two weeks and it was time for me to head over to the studio. I had done some Google research and discovered Express MiE in Tempe. It looked clean, friendly and had a customer rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, which was more than good enough for me.

I was told to wear comfy workout clothes and what- ever shoes I wanted because we would be barefoot during the class (which was great for me because my only pair of sneakers has a giant hole in the toe, and I didn’t particularly want to show up with a wad of duct tape attached to my foot).

Finding the studio was a bit challenging. It was tucked behind a Trader Joe’s in the corner of a strip mall, and the side windows were completely blacked out. (I thought that was totally reasonable though, I wouldn’t want some creepy dude peering in on my pole dancing class.)

When I finally arrived, all of the instructors I met were friendly and offered me a quick tour of the facility. The studio has two “pole rooms” and one larger room for typical dance classes. The thing that surprised me the most, though, was that the rooms used for pole dancing did not contain a single mirror and were dimly lit by small, red lamps. The dark rooms provided an aura of calmness, mak- ing me feel even more comfortable with my choice to take the class.

Laura Czarzasty, the owner of Express MiE, says they avoid mirrors and keep the rooms dark so women feel more comfortable. She told me the classes were designed so that women at any level of flexibility or athleticism could participate. I was so unbelievably relieved I wouldn’t have to watch myself awkwardly slide around a pole, or be expected to spontaneously go into the splits. Suddenly, I was a lot more excited for the class to start.

I was going to be taking a “Teaser” class. Basically, it’s a 90-minute session that samples meditation, stretches, pole dancing and wall dancing. In my particular class, I was joined by a friend and five other women who were all at least 10 years older than I am. Again, I felt relieved I wasn’t shoved into a class with 10 super-fit twentysomethings who could (literally) dance circles around me.

We all sat in a circle on individual plushy yoga mats the studio provided. Minutes later our instructor, Jasmine, entered the room. She was easily one of the most friendly people I’ve ever encountered and her enthusiasm for her job made me consider (for like, two seconds) becoming an instructor myself.

We began with simple meditation: sit with your legs crossed, eyes closed, inhale, exhale. My mom’s a yoga instructor, so I’m pretty familiar with calming breathing techniques and the positive mantras they tell you to make you feel more confident. I did feel a lot more comfortable af- terwards, so I think it does make an impact on your mental state.

We continued on and did some upper-body stretches called “heart circles.” They’re designed to warm up your chest, back and arm muscles. It was basically normal stretches set to music, but they helped release some ten- sion in my shoulders, so I didn’t complain.

Before we hopped on the pole, we did some fun little leg kicks while lying on our backs and practiced our “Drag n’ Step” walks. The goal is to look as sexy as possible while walking across the room. I don’t know how I looked when I was doing this, but I actually felt a tiny bit like a Victoria’s Secret model.

Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for: the pole dance. For someone with actual dance training, this would probably be an extremely easy routine, but for me, it was pretty difficult. I feel like I nailed the first half though. All you had to do was walk once around the pole, wrap your right leg around it, bend down, come back up and walk around the pole again.

After that, things got tricky. The last step of the dance was the “Polerina,” a quick spin around the pole with one leg extended behind to catch you. I tried as hard as I could, but I could not get over my fear of falling so my Polerina was only sub-par.

After a few tries on the pole each, we moved on to my personal favorite of the night: the wall dance. The dance consisted of a Drag n’ Step walk, booty shaking (not twerk- ing, there actually is a difference), T-shirt teasing and sliding up against a wall (hence the “wall” dance) and plenty of leg kicks. I had a lot of fun just letting go and giving the dance my all (even if I did look silly doing it).

At the end of the class, we each got pretty pink flowers and a quick demo of what we could learn if we stuck through all nine weeks of the course. It’s amazing what you can learn to do, and how much strength you can gain, in those nine weeks.

I’ve never been a big fan of gyms or the most consistent with my workout routine, but pole dancing opened my eyes to a whole new world of exercise. Women of all shapes and sizes can get fit and feel empowered while having fun. I would recommend a pole dancing class to any woman who wants to try something new and feel good about themselves. 

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