Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pole dancing: embracing the inner sex kitten

So if you haven’t heard, I pole dance. Well, ‘dance’ seems like a strong word for the clumsy, disjointed motions I pull off each week at class, but one day, I dream, it will indeed look like dance.

Owner of 3Sixty: Corinne
I first tried pole fitness class when Project: Priceless--The Free Wedding Experiment was offered a free group lesson from 3Sixty Pole Fitness for my bachelorette party. I loved it, and thought it was tons of fun, but the reason I decided to sign up was actually because of how hard it is. I played roller derby for a couple of seasons, but gave it up for myriad reasons last January; since then, I’d been looking for my next mountain to conquer. When pole came along, I was thrilled: here was something that, no joke, was harder than getting hit by big angry women on skates. Not to mention, it was a new place to wear all the hotpants I’d bought for derby. When classes started up shortly after our wedding, I decided this definitely fit into our ‘Improve Thyself’ goal, as I would be building muscle, while also touching on the ‘Keep the fires burning’ goal as well…wink, wink. I thought I was prepared for this adventure, but sister, I was not.

Me, looking delighted
Sure, the first couple classes weren’t too bad. It was mostly review from the little bit I’d already learned, so I just kind of breezed through and had the smug satisfaction of being ahead of the class. Two of my friends who’d attended my bachelorette were also in the class, and unlike some of the newer girls, we were already diehard pole fans. I nailed the fireman pole like it was child’s play, and I did the ‘flirt’ like nobody’s business. But somewhere around class 3, things started to get a little tougher, and it wasn’t just the moves. I’d been watching myself in the mirror for three weeks now, and it wasn’t the lifts and spins that were killing me: it was any sort of a move that was supposed to be sexy. Our teacher, Corinne, introduced us to this simple little move where you hold the pole, crouch down with your knees on either side of the pole, then sort of slither back upright, bum first and bust against the pole. When Corinne does it, I think, damn, that's a foxy lady. When I watched myself do it in the mirror, I thought, That poor girl seems to have a serious inner ear problem. I truly looked more like I was falling over and grasping the pole like a drunk. At best, I looked like a very stiff old lady who has trouble unbending at the waist.

This one simple move in particular became my fixation for the rest of the course. How is it possible that I can swing myself around a pole with legs in a figure ‘S’, yet the moment I try to crawl along the ground like Britney Spears in a music video, I look like I’m searching for a contact lens? An undeniable truth came to me: I’d forgotten how to be sexy. Sometime between the raging hormonal mid-teen years, and my current age just reaching thirty, I had forgotten how to dance, sway, swagger, and stretch in any manner that didn’t resemble the motions of an inebriated orang-utan. When I first realized this, watching myself in class as I attempted to do a swing of my hips in a sensual fashion, I actually broke out in a bit of cold sweat. I’m a newlywed, for crying out loud; my entire life is supposed to be about sensuality right now. So what does it mean if I can’t even trace the contours of my body without looking like I’m doing my monthly lump screening?

Classmate Max, looking HAWT.
I was, by the end of class six, just about ready to quit. I figured I would just stop trying, because it was too scary, too hard, and too ridiculous to try looking sexy again. I’d decided I would maybe take up kickboxing, or that MMA sport people are so into—something where I’d still build my core and arms up, but where practicing my ‘stripper get-up’ would be a non-issue. It was around that time that I noticed tweets going up for End Fat Talk Week—a campaign put on by a group called TriDelta, all about women re-educating themselves to stop using ‘fat talk’…things like, “Do I look fat in this?” or “I’m so fat.” Looking through their tweets (@endfattalk and #endfattalk), I realized that my fear of the pole was an extension of my own fat talk. I’d determined from the start that I was in no way the right shape of woman to make this stuff look sexy; I hadn’t directly called myself fat, but I had, I admit, been thinking how short and stout I looked. I’d been chastising myself for being too ‘soft’ to pull off the moves, which was definitely like calling myself fat. How could I ever find my inner Sex Goddess if I had already decreed myself too short and round to be nimble and sensual? This was particularly stupid because I’ve seen pole practitioners of all shapes and sizes, and some of the hottest ones were women well beyond my dress size. It’s funny how these rules of fatness only apply to ourselves.

At our class this week, I tried to give myself more leeway. After warm-up when the music started for the first run-through of our routine, I screwed my eyes shut and decided I’d fake it ‘til I make it: I held that pole at arm’s length and walked on tip-toes like a long-legged gazelle. Those voices we all know so well tried to sneak back into my head, and I shushed them as best I could as I tried my duck-down-butt-up move. Okay, I admit it, my new attempt at confidence did not magically make me look any less like a vertigo victim, but for many of the moves, I could feel a difference: when I silenced my inner critic, my body relaxed and some of the motions did actually have a sensuality to them. By the end of the class, I was thinking, yeah, okay, there is a Sex Goddess in me somewhere. Knowing I’d be blogging this experience, I took some of the photos you see here today, and even shot some video of myself and my classmate Max; and that video showed me something I didn’t know before: I look pretty darn cool on that pole.

I’ve decided to go back for level two. I thoroughly enjoy my experiences at 3Sixty, and I recommend the studio to anyone who is considering embracing their bodies both in terms of strength, but also sensuality. There’s a natural misconception about pole fitness being sleazy or naughty in some way…I think there’s a very acceptable amount of naughtiness to it, and why shouldn’t there be? We hear so much about getting in touch with our inner selves, yet often it seems as if our inner sexuality is discounted in that exploration. I mean, I’m not at all ready for one of those workshops where we all take off our panties and sit in a circle with hand mirrors, but I am, it turns out, ready to spin myself around a pole and stick my chest out a bit.

This does mean that I will continue to be utterly dependent on Brian for 48 hours after each class, when my arms seize up from the hour of prolonged gripping and lifting; there hasn’t been a Friday evening in weeks where I’ve been able to get my own shirt off unaided. It also means that I’ll continue to develop little calluses on the pads of my hands, and bruises on my bony parts. We tried spinning pole last week, so I also expect there’s a high risk of concussion in my future, too. But come hell or high water, I’m telling you now: I am going to make that duck-down-butt-up thing look hot if it’s the last thing I do.

Brian supports my decision to stick with the class. No big surprise.

If you'd like to learn more about pole fitness, head over to 3Sixty's website by clicking here.



Corinne, looking spectacular

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