I know this is a running blog and all, but it occurred to me that I mention very little about my other favourite fitness: the dance of the pole. Or pole dancing as most normal people call it. So as well as running, over the next few weeks I’ll do some posts on pole to shed some light on this sport.
My love affair with pole dancing began in March 2007 when I was a fresh-faced young professional finally earning my own money. I had been a student for what felt like forever, and now with (a little) money to burn I was loving being able to spend it on what I wanted.
One of the girls in my office decided that we should all do an 8-week beginner pole course – what better thing to spend my new money on than a frivolous new activity? So we all trooped to the studio filled with anticipation, excitement and a little fear. ‘You know you’re probably going to meet some strippers’ one friend said to me – which wiped the smile off my face. To be honest I wasn’t too sure how I felt about that. At 24, I was very naive and over the next few years the whole world would open up before me.
However, I reckon my initial attitude is what a lot of people feel towards the pole trend: curiosity, mixed with apprehension about entering the dark side. In 2007 it was just getting popular in Sydney, and it wasn’t yet the main-stream activity it is now.
In our very first class we learned two moves: the Kate Moss and the Vanessa spin, and by the end of the class I knew I was in love. The swing around the pole, the way you needed strength and grace (I’d work on the latter over the next few years), and the feeling that it was still a bit of a sub-culture made it all the more fun. However, I tended to keep this new love affair secret from most people because I was worried about their reaction.
As the weeks turned into month I started ticking landmarks off. I remember the first time I went upside down, the first time I went upside down whilst spinning, and the first time I did a headroll without whipping my eye with my hair (although it was a while before I was able to make the headroll look any good).
The school I went to in Sydney has a structure of 8 week terms, during which you learn a routine to be performed on the eighth week to any friends and family you wanted to invite. It was a very safe crowd, and the atmosphere was definitely more towards supporting family in a local theatre production than… whatever you might think it would be like.
Somewhere in between doing my first spin and probably my third week 8 performance, I realized that my hobby shouldn’t be kept hidden like an unwelcome lover. I had found a particular form of exercise that helped me view my body in a completely different way. Yeah, I know, I always talk ‘My Body’ as if it’s some kind of magical vessel that no one else has. But I don’t think I really appreciated what it could actually do until I started pole. I saw how it worked with me and not against, I learned how to trust my strength and my instincts, and I started to hold my head up higher when I walked because I owned it.
With all this new-found confidence, I became more open about pole. It was funny how people reacted. My Dad was supportive in an I understand-I-think-but-please-god-let’s-not-talk-about-it-too-much kind of way (thanks Dad – it was the right kind of support from a Dad!). I got the impression that my wider family also preferred not to talk about it, which is fine. It’s not for everyone. And I kind of hope that my grandmother doesn’t know. Some people are immediately dismissive or critical without even knowing anything about it, and some people go and sign up for a class now they know someone who does it.
Most people are impressed, and really interested. Funnily enough, there’s a definite ‘type’ who went to the classes at Sydney: professional women, or quieter women, who enjoyed the idea that they had a darker side to them, that they were expressing themselves in ways that would shock the people they knew. I think that I fell into this category back in 2007, I enjoyed the feeling that people felt they had underestimated me.
And now, what category am I in? I’m in the old folks category: I know how hard I’ll have to work to learn the moves I want to do, and with everything else going on, I’m kind of choosing to chill out a bit. Which is kind of a bummer, but I still have my wish list….
So that’s the first pole post! Hope you enjoyed it.