Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bobbi's Pole Studio: The new XBX of fitness



PHOTO GALLERY: Bobbi's Pole Studio End of Term recital

MOVIE CLIP: Poledancing - the perfect workout for the modern urban cyclista

In just a couple of years since my mother and daughter excursion into this femme fatale fitness fad, it seems poledancing has become the new 5BX - or rather X(XX?)BX of exercise for women of all ages, stages and sizes.

I landed back downunder to discover that the local PoleStars franchise, where I did my introductory course, was up for sale. However, an outfit called Bobbi's Pole Studio was going great guns, with reportedly 1000 students. When I asked Bobbi, an utterly magnificent speciman of the XX chromosome, why she was leading the pack, she replied, "I've been doing poledancing all my life."

Her studio, discreetly housed on the 4th floor of an old diva of a building, has zero street presence, perhaps to deter any riff raff. When you mount the stairs, you arrive on a floor bathed in pink lights and shiny fabrics and permanently erected spinning brass poles - and this is where Bobbi's differs from other poledance classes offered in gymnasiums. Not for Bobbi's the "I'm just doing this for exercise, really", sweatpants and tennis shoe shuffle, although you're more than welcome to be as unsexy as you want - there's probably a wig of hair curlers and a cigarette to droop from your lower lip in the costume department. The business was proudly born and bred of professional strippers and exotic dancers - a fact which, sight unseen, possibly deters and attracts applicants in equal numbers. When you actually summon up the courage to check it out, you could well be sold like 1000 others.

First, there are the pictures of the fittest specimans of the female form I'd laid eyes on since The Greatest Circus on Earth. The only difference between these women and those scantily clad pro trapeze artists, acrobats, gymnasts and belly dancers seems to be ... a pair of 6-inch heels and a pole that runs from floor to ceiling rather than east to west. Your first thought is, shit, I want to be fit like that.

Next, you meet the instructors. Candice, aka Miss Pole Dance Australia, is an acutely funny and intelligent Brit who captivates you from her first witty one-liner. You need to be supremely secure of mind and body to do this work, and it's no surprise the teachers exhibit an almost charismatic confidence. Your next thought is shit, I want to be gutsy like that.



Third, it's the perfect complement to road cycling. Cycling is a sport that does nothing for your upper body while your quads balloon like Charlene Atlas. This becomes shockingly obvious the first time you attempt to shin up the pole and end up sliding down in a crumpled heap like a pair of worn out knee high socks. Your final thought is, shit, I need to do this right now before I become a pear with twigs for arms.

Although I'm the owner of an imposing chrome dancepole (thanks to my 70-year-young mother, "ya can't play golf without golf clubs, and ya can't do poledancing without at pole"), it hasn't done me much good propping up the roof of my flat in Sydney when I'm on the road. A refresher course is a way to justify the 500 bucks I dropped on it in a pink lurex moment!

I signed up for the mini-term - a 4-week course for $120 - even though the receptionist, who even has her own exotic wear label 007 Heaven - was concerned I might find it too easy. Not at all - second to learning how to hang upside down like a limpet on the south face of Patagonia is simply learning how to perfect basic moves with a modicum of grace. It helps if you're already a dancer and can do the splits, but guess what - you can even learn that ...

"I couldn't do the splits when I first started," said Candice. "I just practiced three times a week and by the ninth month I had it." Wow! Push back that furniture right now and lemme at it!

The photo gallery shows the end of term recital, a stroke of marketing brilliance. Unlike PoleStars, where our class had its own "recital" of 6 classmates that basically no one turned up to, all levels converged on the studio to strut their stuff. This means that you get to see what you are eventually aiming for - nothing motivates like seeing a bunch of ordinary girls doing some amazing advanced moves.

The audience of guys (yes guys!) and dolls - family, friends and colleagues if you dare, are told to wait out in reception with bated breath while the classes warm up and do a run-through, before they are let in and sit on the stage in rows to watch and cheerlead.

There was even a barefoot guy in the class doing all the moves. I recall that Polestars didn't allow guys to do the class, or charged them a hefty fee. Why so fearful? The animal kingdom as been fluffing its feathers, plumping it's chest and strutting its stuff forever. We're just all animals. It's no big deal.

Very satisfying was seeing a couple of very large women doing the class dressed to kill. Truly inspiring.

And older women? There weren't any near the age of my mother (70) this time, and at 46, I'll bet I was one of the oldies. Had they ever had a "seniors class"?

"We tried to make a separate class for older students, thinking that was the thoughtful and respectful thing to do, but they were offended!" said Bobbi, "So now it's everyone in together - guys and gals." As it should be!

Afterwards, it was time for the audience to have a crack at the pole. Apparently men are very eager to throw themselves at it after seeing their paramours perform - a sort of competitive alpha male thing. Candice said they usually end up doubled over in agony unless they are shown how to make the correct um, approach.



Finally, two floors down I discovered a shop called Misty Rose - selling all kinds of costumery for pole and exotic dancing. I won't go into all the various looks but there was even an airline stewardess number with peaked cap and winged badge.

"Er, mile high club," said the assistant.

I was fascinated by a pair of lucite 6" heels that truly appealed to my sense of kitsch - the platform contained a roiling blue liquid sea with three tiny rubber ducks bobbing up and down on the waves. And in the heel - a single bobbing rubber duck. I wondered if I could justify buying them and using them as doorstops or paperweights ... these shoes were also the choice of pacifier for Sierra, the owner's 10-month old cherub (see the video clip), who rolled about on the rug performing pole moves in perfect time to Justin Timberlake ...

More Gal on Poledancing multimedia

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