I can’t remember exactly what possessed me to take my first pole dancing session, but I do recall feeling mortified when the ultra noobs were called to stand in front of the class to warm up with everyone else.
Clad in an old, loose shirt and worn-out bicycle shorts, I wanted the studio floors to open up and swallow me whole when I saw the other girls looking all cute in their colorful sports bras and pole shorts.
The rest of the one-hour class went by as awkwardly as it started, with me trying not be such a klutz but failing miserably. Who would’ve thought that sticking on to the pole would be such a difficult and painful ordeal?
By the end of it, it felt like I had been flayed. “Yup, I’m never doing this again!” I thought to myself, only to return the next week feeling unusually excited.
Pole dancing didn’t start out with women dancing in strip clubs.
“Women who pole dance are strippers.”
It’s the stereotype that’s at the back of a lot of people’s minds, including mine before I got to try it out. But there was a time when the pole was clear of this connotation.
The history of pole dancing is pretty muddled up with several possible originations. But an undeniable influence is what the Indians call “Mallakhamb,”a traditional training method used by men (yes, you read it right) to prepare for wrestling matches. Just like modern-day pole dancing, it builds up the athletes’ strength, dexterity, and flexibility as they swing, twist, and hold positions on the pole. It obviously wasn’t sexual in any way.
It also looks like pole dancing got a lot of its moves from the Chinese, who we all know have got some serious acrobatic skills. Chinese pole (also a predominantly male sport) involves a lot of climbing, sliding, and a bunch of other crazy, death-defying moves that make you want to look away and stare in awe at the same time. It’s an incredible display of athleticism that has nothing to do with shaking it for dollah billz.
How it ended up in dimly-lit strip clubs remains a mystery. But what’s for sure is that it’s making a comeback as a true sport and art form that requires a blend of technique, power, and grace. And as the pole community continues to get bigger with more and more people getting hooked on it, it might just completely rid itself of its bad rep.
Strong is the new sexy.
When you think of pole dancing, what usually comes to mind is a lot of body rolling, some hair flipping, and maybe a bit of hip thrusting. While these moves can be incorporated into a pole routine, there is SO much more to it than just being sexy.
From my experience, a typical pole class is spent learning spins and mastering aerial tricks, accompanied by shouts of (friendly) reminders from the instructors like “Don’t forget to point your toes! Flexed feet do not look pretty!” and “Arch your back, engage your core, and squeeze your thighs even harder!”
So as you hang upside down on the pole, you try to remember all these things, all the while doing your best to hide the burning pain you feel all over your body. You then wake up the next day all bruised up and waddling like a duck, but it’s worth it because you come back to class tougher, both physically and mentally. One of my favorite things an instructor has said is that “The pain never really goes away; you just get stronger to deal with it better.”
It’s easy to pass off pole dancers as a bunch of girly girls in risque outfits who are only in it to look hot. But you’re bound to take every word back once you see them lift themselves up on the pole in one swift motion or do inverts like it’s no big deal. I know I’m always fangirling internally when my teachers make a trick look so darn easy.
I’d be speaking for majority of pole students when I say it’s the feeling of getting stronger every session and making your body do things you never thought it could do in a million years that keeps us coming back to class. Going from zero upper body strength to getting muscles you never knew existed is definitely a perk in pole dancing.
So who are the people who go to pole class?
I had always wondered why there was a 9 to 10 PM pole class in the studio until I realized it was for the students who got off late from work. By day, they’re lawyers, bankers, marketing professionals, and IT engineers who by night would transform into lean, mean, pole dancing machines. They would come in heels, pencil skirts, and blazers, only to swap their work clothes for something more comfortable and pole-friendly.
Then there are the extra early classes on weekdays which I would later on learn are for the busy moms who, by the way, look fitter than most 20-year-olds these days. There are also tailored classes for men designed to train them in acrobatics, flexibility, and endurance.
So to answer the question, you’ll find all kinds of people in the pole studio. But the one thing they all have in common is the drive to keep pushing their minds and bodies beyond limits. In no way does wanting to get in the best shape possible through pole fitness take away from their roles as mothers or from their expertise as professionals. Nor does expressing themselves through pole dancing subtract from the years of hard work they’ve put in to get to where they are in their lives. If anything, it only makes them well-rounded and that much more amazing!
Take a pole dancing class in Manila!
If you’d like to experience first-hand how the pole dancing community is changing its image into a more positive one, take a pole dance class near you! You can try it at Polecats Manila, Pole Dolls, Brewing Point Dance Studio, or Beast House Pole and Aerial Dance Studio!