Our culture editor gives pole dancing a whirl, and finds a compelling reason to keep at it.
I realized a few weeks ago, while struggling to button an old pair of pants, that I should probably be working out more. So, for the sake of this feature (as well as my waistline), I decided to sign up for a pole dancing class. I’m a fan of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, and perfecting a pole dancing routine sounded fun.
A little Googling led me to Blush, a West Allis studio with classes for women of all ability levels. I signed up for a four-week Saturday morning group session geared toward beginners, and mentally prepared for the first class by blasting “Dancing Queen” on the way there.
The other students had already arrived and fanned out around the room. Like me, they wore long pants to prevent chafing and nervous expressions. Our instructor, Maureen, wore a fitted shirt, a pair of barely-there camo-print boy shorts and a confident smile.
Before launching into the routine we’d be working on, Maureen had us warm up with some stretches, strength training and “sexy pushups.” To do these, we lowered ourselves onto the floor of the studio (sexily), then pushed ourselves backwards (also sexily) while keeping our lower backs arched and our butts out. I’m afraid I looked more like the girl from The Ring, crawling across the floor with a curtain of hair covering my face, than a professional dancer. But I could tell from the tightness in my abs and shoulders that I was at least getting a good workout. After warming up, Maureen slipped into a pair of staggeringly high platform heels – embellished with a skull-and-crossbones print – to teach us how dancers walk in heels. Very carefully, we learned, struggling to mimic the way she swiveled her hips while sashaying from side to side, even without heels. “I’m too old for this,” a woman who looked about 35 muttered. My 29-year-old muscles were telling me the same thing. “Don’t talk to me about being old, honey,” Maureen said, pivoting gracefully on her heels. “I’m 58.” She looked at least 10 years younger. And her legs were far more toned than mine. Suddenly, I was paying very close attention. It began simply enough. We walked to our poles, then launched into a fairly strenuous, but straightforward, dance routine. After that came the first of the spins.
Maureen showed us how to plant one foot and hook the other on the pole before propelling ourselves into a dizzying spin, around and around, until eventually settling on the ground. My first attempt was bad. My second a little better. My third better still – I built up momentum as I spun, until I felt almost like I was flying.
When Maureen finally called for us to step away from our poles, I was surprised to see that a full hour had passed. My shoulders, abs and legs were all sore, and I’d worked up a sweat. I’d also worked up a healthy appreciation for pole dancing.
I doubt I’ll be attempting any of the moves I learned on a dance floor soon (certainly not those pushups!), but I’d recommend Blush to anyone looking for a fun aerobic workout, regardless of whether they’re interested in amping up their sex appeal.
Class: Level 1 – Blush Pole Fitness and Dance
Cost: $70 for four 1-hour classes