It’s Tuesday and I am about to go do an intro to Pole Dancing… I mean athletics.
Now the kicker: I am a young straight male.
Conveniently located single digit minutes away from my house, here I am, excited and intrigued, going up long stairs towards the unexpected. At the end, a plain white door, shut, almost daring me to go through.
So I go through.
On the other side, a clean, tasteful studio. Fashionably late of course, I have a chance to observe my “classmates”. Yup, I am the only guy. Isabelle, my gracious host who made all this happen, skips foreplay and lets me know right away that my spare shoes aren’t needed as I will end up in my underwear. Not *just* a teasem but part of the program. Inhibitions aren’t a particularly strong part of my reality so goodbye shoes but I am advised to keep my pants on until after the warmup. So I guess there is foreplay involved.
In a large space in the studio there are some four or five golden poles arranged in three rows parallel to a mirror that spans the whole wall. So we’re facing the mirror and I’m in the back right behind Nadia, the instructor. Hello, Nadia :).
Nadia of course is in her 30s. The only reason I break the cardinal sin of talking about a lady’s age is to contrast that she can easily pass for eight years younger than her claim. Temparement full of vigor. Movements full of poise. My instructor has been a gymnast and a dancer for most of her life, but something drew her to this sport.
And that’s exactly the point I’d like to make. Sexual innuendos aside, pole athletics is a very fun and demanding sport. Most people have a negative association of pole and red light districts that it’s almost taboo to speak of doing it as a sport. But there are those who see past the false stigma. A local story that needs to be told is that of Jazzy Alix. The French miss moved to Montreal in order to pursue her Ph.D. and decided to try something new. In 2012, in addition to her jazz dance pedigree, she started pole work and her hard work paid off; in 2014 she won the Quebec Pole Fitness Championship. It was her first competition. Fast forward to a few weeks ago as she wins the Pole Championship Series in Columbus, Ohio as part of The Arnold Classic. Physique-oriented folk understand this reference. While exotic dance classes are offered, the focus is on vitality and health through challenging movements. Take my experience as an example.
Warmup over, pants off. This isn’t to satisfy some exhibitionist desire but rather because bare skin needs to be in contact with the bar to confidently leverage your body. Physics 101: Static Friction > Kinetic Friction. First impression, my skin against the golden pole feels very uncomfortable. And then the pole spins. It Spins! Ok, this is hard. I took the basic gym pole class so we began with the proper climbing technique. After spending a bit of time on this foundation work, Nadia shows us the next move. Two minutes later I’m upside down. It takes a few tries but I have it, hanging upside down, spinning with one leg holding on to the bar and the other ungraciously trying to look gracious in the air. It’s about this time I notice that I don’t mind the bar against my skin and can’t wait to try the move again. I am smiling, panting a bit and absolutely giddy. This experience is really, really fun. A few more demanding moves later and the class is over, the hour passes in a heartbeat.
Around me, ladies of various ages and fitness levels are all having fun and not shying away from trying these demanding moves. Many are much better than me, the rest at least at my level. To put it in perspective I’ve been a multi-sport athlete for the past 10 years. Naturally I have to inquire of Nadia about the learning curve and training regiment of these women. Surprisingly, a couple of times a week and one month later leads to dramatic increases in strength, ability and energy level. This can only be attributable to great instruction and the way the body promotes such movements.
And my final thoughts?
Well, I enjoy this experience so much that I leave thinking about how I can try this again. I eventually feel so compelled to return that I decide to undertake a month of daily training in pole to bring up my athletic and acrobatic abilities. Even though I see many personal benefits in this experiment, I don’t expect men to flock to the Old Port in search of the “golden poles”. However, for the women reading this, I would like to stress the benefits of looking beyond any preconceived notions you might have about this activity and give it a go. Beyond the fun fitness aspect, there is added empowerment and fulfillment in having increasingly better control over one’s body.
Established in 2011 in the Old Port, Milan Pole Dance Studio offers beginner and advanced classes, as well as dance, conditioning and flexibility classes in an elegantly decorated and chic space. Class prices are very accessible and can go down to as low as $4.50 per class with some memberships. 20% discount for students is also an option. Be that cool friend, try something new and check them out here.