Pole Dancing: A type of vertical gymnastics using a stationary or spinning steel shaft and usually, footwear with a sharp heel. Said to have been invented by a bored cleaning lady in a fire station one evening, although this has never been verified ...
I'll try anything once, maybe even twice, and I know who I get it from: my 69-year young mother. She greeted me at Sydney airport with her latest "why the hell not?" suggestion: pole dancing. Specifically, a website scribbled on a piece of paper: www.polestars.com.au
Her intention was that I do it, rather than "what?-me-with-my-bad-back?" her, but I secretly signed both of us up for the $A39, 2 hour "taster lesson".
On the big night, we took ourselves into town on the bus, armed with our "Virgin Polestar" e-reservation and high heeled shoes in a discreet bag. Yes, you are required to wear runners for the warm up, then slip into heels for the "pole work". I actually had my knee high black Gestapo boots crammed in there as well, after reading that one could "grip the pole" better with them, or at least, not bang up one's ankles. Ahhh, a chance to wear them after all these years in cleated shoes evangelizing about folding bikes ...
The class venue was at Jackson's on George, in a vacant bar upstairs complete with mirror ball and four gleaming poles. A poster on the wall set the scene: "Afrodisiac: A heady concoction of arousing sexy funk". Our teacher, Sarah, strode in. A tall, young brunette, with legs up to her armpits. No, higher. But not a hint of sleaze, unless straight-laced readers are thinking that (and just why are you reading this anyway?). A former gymnast, she'd been teaching for 2 years and loves it. "I'm actually quite shy," she said, crushing my camera with her stiletto heel.
I threw my pulverized camera in the dustbin and we proceeded to fill in the waiver. Something like: Pole dancing is a physical sport and no responsibility taken if you impale yourself on the said pole ... also, presumeably no guarantees you'll get rich from appreciative onlookers rushing up to slip a $50 bill in your g-string ...
About seven or eight girls straggled in, looking a little sheepish, but smiley and brimming with anticipation. Not one had come on her own - it was all "she dragged me along." A pair of Irish gals said they were doing it on the other side of the world "where their mammy and drinking pals back home would never know."
Copius amounts of apology surrounds this activity. As if "nice girls don't pole dance". Well, after seeing some amazing clips from the "Pole-lympics" in the USA a few years ago, I always thought it would be an ace exercise for a cyclist like me to get my spindly upper body measuring up to my toned and max-quadded lower half. It's like a "vertical gymnastics", something you could practice in the street on say, the "No Standing" signpost while waiting for the bus. Not to mention having a reason to get out of these damn unsexy Shimano cleated bike shoes and into my Helena Christensen high heels and tall black boots ... yeowwww!
The flat-footed warm up in our runners was thankfully brief. I've been to too many dance classes where you spend over half of it doing boring warm ups. If I wanted to do that I'd join a gym. I understand the importance of preparation, but I feel we should encourage people to drive less and ride their bike to the class, or park/get off the bus two stops away and jog there.
Then came the real heel deal. Out came the silver stilettos, black patent boots and see through peek-a-boo shoes ... igniting the Imelda Marcos in all of us. I am glad I hadn't turfed my Gestapo boots to the Salvos.
Sarah introduced 4 basic pole moves. The first was a simple walk around the pole. Not a clomp around the cul-de-sac, mind you, but a gazelle-like sashay with a sexy little change-feet in the middle. I'll have to try this around the parking meter next time I'm being written up for a ticket.
The next move was the Carousel - a wonderful twirl that involved wrapping one's leg around the pole, then following through with the rest of you, rather like twirling honey on a spoon. You're meant to end up squatting gracefully on both feet, but a couple of bruises on both knees show where I instead landed in a screaming heap. It's not as easy as it looks. Once down there, the next move is to swing one's legs past the pole in a wide "V", roll over and do the Marilyn Monroe beach-gal-on-her-stomach kick with both calves. See the video for my dog-paddle-like demonstration.
"I'm not getting down on that floor, who knows what's on it," said my clean-freak mother ... but she did it anyway. Whattamum.
The third move I can't remember the name of, but was essentially massaging the pole with one's spine while massaging one's left thigh. That one was pretty easy, like doing squats.
The fourth and final move was an actual pole climb - but elegantly, not like shinning up a coconut tree - then a slow slide down with knees out and ankles touching. Not exactly how a fire fighter would do it, although he might need to put out a blaze after this sexy descent. It was called, ahem, "The Handcuff". (Correction: I have since found out it is called "Hang Tough". What was I thinking?).
A practice session followed, then a little one-by-one recital, showing what we'd learned, with a certificate issued at the end. The class was worth it just for the certificate alone - imagine having that framed squarely between your PhD in Astrophysics and Master of Theological Studies.
Engineers will enjoy going to the Polestars and xpole.com websites and reading about the various poles one can buy - spinning ones, folding ones, titanium ones ... BYO POLE! exclaimed my mother.
We came home with big grins on our faces, all ready to sign our rent money away for the 6-week course: $A240 - not small change. I could see my mother mentally sizing up the living room of our tiny flat for one of those $A700 precision engineered, spinning titanium poles. Now did I catch her eyeing the No Standing pole out on the street?
"When me and a few friends signed up for the taster class, we were all trashing it, including me," said a fellow Bike Friday friend, Cheryl. "But afterwards, the most rabidly feminist were the most rabidly into it!"
Goes to show that, deep down, Ms Nature has ensured that our tail-feather-fanning, head bobbing, butt-swaying and cooing instincts are alive and well, no matter how we try to squash them with puritanical sensibilities. It's apparently how we all got here, and what still makes the world go round. Plus it's a good workout, right?
Next chapter: Poledancing 102: Enter the pole
More Gal on Poledancing
TWO AMAZING POLE DANCERS on YouTube.com ...
1. TARAKARINA: My mother and I cannot stop watching this clip, largely because our legs will never be this long. Great soundtrack too, thank you TaraKarina
2. MADELINEMODEL: An utter superwoman, this is a more provocative performance, but you will be dumbstruck by her gravity-defying skill. Almost like the camera was turned sideways.
More pole! http://www.galfromdownunder.com/poledancing