I pole danced.
Like, I lifted myself up on a pole, jumped onto a pole, spun around a pole--and it was fun!
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by trying a few classes in the area. I'd read so many fantastic things about what a great workout pole acrobatics and dance are, so I knew right away it had to be on my agenda. Finally, this week, the stars aligned, my Monday night was free, and I headed to Aerial Arts of Rochester to try their Level One Introduction to Pole class.
I arrived about twenty minutes before the advertised start time and I'm glad I did. The class filled up a few minutes after I arrived and several folks were turned away. As I waited for class to start, I chatted with some of the more experienced students who assured me I'd love the workout and become addicted! While I sensed a spirit of camaraderie among the regulars, I also felt completely welcome to the group as a newcomer.
I expected the pole studio to look like a standard aerobics studio just . . . with poles. While it did have a nice wood floor and a wall of mirrors, the dim lighting, music, and decor added a little bit of club atmosphere. That's not really my scene (to put it mildly) so I started to get nervous. Some girls embraced the pole-dancer look in sports bras and booty shorts, while others (like me) wore more standard fitness attire. I also noticed a wide variety of ages and body types in the class.
After the instructor (who was subbing the class) introduced herself and instructed us to find a pole partner. Because of the large number of students in class, we took turns practicing various moves on the poles. I didn't mind this at all because 1)these moves are challenging physically and after a few reps I was glad to take a break and 2) it gave me a chance to meet and learn from a more experienced student.
We did a short warm-up of light stretching then got right to the good stuff. The teacher would demonstrate a movement, break it down slowly, then let us practice on our own while she walked around the studio correcting form and helping people when they had difficulty. Then she'd repeat the process with a new move. At the end of class, we put the moves all together to music.
For all the planning and research about pole workouts I did before trying the class, I really didn't expect it to be so much stinking fun to dance around a pole. It reminded me of being a little kid on a playground, swinging and climbing over a jungle gym. Like, I see now why people get addicted to this. As a dancer I definitely had an advantage in some ways (balance, coordination, body awareness etc.), but other elements of the class (like the hip shaking during the choreography section) definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. We learned how to do a simple step around the pole, a fireman's spin, a pirouette, and a fan kick along with a couple of other things. I didn't fall on my face--hooray--but I did end up on the floor with my legs in a weird pretzel shape around the pole at one point. I couldn't get up and had to ask my pole partner to untangle my legs. We're close now. Also--my upper body is not as strong as I thought. Pole has taught me this.
The instructor was patient, friendly and helpful, making everyone feel successful even if they didn't master all the exercises. It was far more of a self-directed class than I expected. There was a lot of stopping and starting and working on your own (under supervision) with encouragement from other students. This allowed for a lot of time to practice and play with different choreography so I didn't mind at all. I'm sure the higher level classes have a more aerobic component without as much stopping and starting. And even though booty popping and hip shaking isn't quite my thing, I never felt like it was untasteful or overboard.
My only real criticism is that the warm-up seemed a little short--only about three minutes--and not super thorough. Since the exercises we were doing were primarily strength-based it would have been beneficial to add a couple minutes of light cardio to get the blood pumping and prep the muscles.
Despite the short warm up and the reluctant hip-shaking, I totally loved my first pole class! If the studio weren't an hour and half long drive from my house, I'd be back every week. I'm hoping to continue attending when I can and also have plans to try out another type of class at Aerial Arts!
If you're local to Rochester or visiting, you can drop-in to the Level One Pole class at Aerial Arts of Rochester on Monday or Tuesday evenings for $12 or sign up for a multi-week session.
Have you tried pole? Would you come with me to a class?