UNPOPULAR OPINION: "Pole Fitness" Isn't Sexy, Just Awkward (And Maybe A Cult?)
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for cheesy dance-workouts. Jazzercise, Dancercise, Prancercise -- I love a good -ercise.
I knew about “pole fitness” (AKA “strippercize”) and had wanted to try it for a while, so I started looking around online for places where I might be able to check out a class and maybe find a new dance-workout to obsess about. I came across a place that claims to be the home of “the original pole dance workout.” They also have several other studio locations across the country where you can get pretty much the same thing, kind of like a McDonald’s, but for pole dancing.
Also like McDonald’s, you can even have a birthday party there. The place is pricey but after poking around I found a link to a free two-class pass for first-timers.
No one I knew could come with me to the class that night, so I wandered alone up and down the block where the website said this place would be, until I spotted the tiny, tiny sign above a flight of stairs behind an unmarked building in an alleyway. I was all using GPS like a dumdum, when apparently this is the Platform 9 ¾ of pole dance places, and it only shows up if you believe hard enough. I mean who even reads signs anymore, right?
Inside, I found my way into a dimly-lit room with a small group of other tentative-looking newbs sitting in a circle around the instructor. She began guiding us through a series of “powerful, feminine movements”, and said the phrase “erotic energy” a lot.
“Ride the pony” (“pony”) was also said, but I don’t ever want to talk about that again and I don’t want to describe it because I just will not. She urged us to vocalize and make noises (I did not), slapped herself on the ass and encouraged us to do the same. “These movements are meant to build sexy confidence within you. This is powerful. This will change your life.” The instructor and her tiny shorts continued with what was probably the most LA speech of all time. “Here at_____, we don’t just teach pole dance technique. We teach you how to transform your mind and body, and change the way you see yourself”.
In case there was anyone who didn’t already know they were supposed to be feeling very sexual right now, she turned on “Pony” by Ginuwine and taught us our first pole trick. There was only one pole in the room so everyone had to watch everyone else take as they took their turn. I grabbed the pole, twirled, and wrapped my legs around.
And then I got stuck there, mid-way up the pole. And then I got scared. “Let go, you’re gripping too tightly!” I loosened my white-knuckle grip on the pole and slid slowly to the floor with a loud SQUEEEEEE made by my clammy skin clutching the pole. I was obviously sucking at this, and the instructor was probably just trying to helpful by encouraging us to “Release the Erotic Creature inside you!” but all I heard was BE SEXY THIS IS SEXY IF YOU DO NOT FEEL SEXY AND ATTRACTIVE RIGHT NOW ON THAT POLE YOU ARE A REPRESSED WEIRDO AND NO ONE WILL EVER WANT YOU.
Before the class ended, she elaborated on her personal “pole dance journey.” “When you integrate these movements into your daily life, your Erotic Creature moves you to achieve your goals with confidence. Join us,” she urged. “Start the journey.”
By “start the journey,” I’m pretty sure she meant, “Make sure to stop by the front desk and drop $450 for a monthly membership on your way out.”
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but there are definitely less culty, less expensive ways to get in touch with your inner “Erotic Creature” (WINKWINKWINK am I right?). Pole dance is no joke, and it obviously requires an incredible amount of athleticism and technique. It’s possible that I underestimated this reality and was severely let down by my own embarrassing lack of athletic skill (cue flashback to elementary school P.E. that day they make you try to climb a dumb rope in front of everyone and you realize this is what hell must feel like).
For the record, I was fully prepared to Magic Mike the shit out of that class. I also wouldn’t have turned down a “powerful” life changing experience, had I experienced one, which I didn’t. The more you vehemently insist something is “sexy” or “life changing”, it kind of ceases to be sexy and life changing after a certain point. I’m sure not all pole-dance places operate under the premise of pole-dance-as-introspective-transformative-experience, and if I ever venture once again into the world of sexual-dance-workouts, which is unlikely, I’d like it to be somewhere where mind-blowing spiritual revelation isn’t a compulsory component of he class.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch this Magic Mike clip 50 more times while I get in touch with my Erotic Creature.
I tweet @sofiabarrettiba.