What it’s Really Like to Try a Pole Dancing Class
I’ve never been a good dancer.
Up until about a year ago, I refused to soberly attempt any form of dancing in public. My go-to move all through middle school when I wasn’t doing a no-skills-necessary form of grinding was swaying from side to side casually, shifting the weight from one foot to the other, anything to make me look as casual as possible.
I always looked back and wondered if I would be more graceful if I didn’t quit ballet class after we stopped wearing pretty costumes, or if I partook in hip-hop classes rather than painting lessons. The truth is no matter how many classes I did or didn’t take as a kid, I’d probably still feel mostly incapable of dancing unless it had anything to do with grinding to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback.”
I’d always wanted to try a pole dancing class, but never did. I always gave an excuse to myself, telling myself I didn’t need to drop $25 or that I didn’t have the time or the arm strength to participate.
But, when my editor decided that June was all about wellness, I figured it was the perfect excuse to finally see what all the hype was about.
I spoke with Jules, instructor at Pole Haus in Philadelphia, about my intended journey to try a pole class, and she invited me to the beginner’s class at Pole Haus. Jules has danced her whole life, but took a hiatus and didn’t get back into dancing until a friend dragged her to a pole dancing class. She particularly enjoyed “the freedom to build strength, incorporate your own style, feel great in your skin and empower yourself. It was a no-brainer to stick with it,” said Jules.
When I walked into Pole Haus on that Wednesday evening, it did not feel like a beginner’s class. Fuck, I thought to myself, these girls all looked like they had been here before. I awkwardly placed my bag into the furthest corner of the cubbies, took off my jacket, and picked a pole while everyone else chatted and seemed to know each other. When Jules asked if there were any “pole virgins” (lol) in the class, I was the only one to raise my hand… great.
Thankfully, the first 15 minutes of class was not too different from a yoga or pilates class, aside from a few booty shakes. We breathed in and out, we stretched, and we relaxed. It was nice. I almost forgot I was in a pole dancing class aside from Jules urging us to arch our back and come up from the floor “sexily” when getting up from our stretches.
When it was time to actually hit the pole (or whatever verb strippers use when going to work), Jules and a couple of other girls grabbed their Pleaser heels, which were platformed, lucite, and fucking hot. I really wanted a pair, but figured I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself.
I already felt behind everybody.
One of the things I liked about the class was that there were women of all shapes and sizes surrounding me. They were all different races, wearing a variety of shorts and tank tops or sports bras; some tall and model-esque, others short and super curvy. The one thing they all had in common? That they seemed like they knew much more about pole dancing than I did.
We started by doing a “D” shaped pose against the pole. One hand gripping the pole with the “meaty” part of the hand, our feet about hips width away from the pole, and our bodies curved exaggeratedly to make a nice shape. I could handle this, although I still found myself eyeing the Russian ballerina-looking girl next to me to ensure I was doing it correctly.
What followed was a similar format to any dance class. We assigned moves to counts and progressed slowly, practicing the whole routine each time we added a step. We began by walking around the pole, doing a turn, and walking back so that we were facing the pole. Then, we did four booty shakes in succession and ended with our backs to the pole, posing seductively like a very cliché silhouetted position, kind of like stripper clipart.
As if I couldn’t feel more awkward, I had to share the pole with a cute foreign girl who was probably laughing inside at my amateur-ness. The class was a bit crowded, so a couple of us had to share poles, which isn’t as weird as it sounds; but still pretty awkward considering we were kind of humping it from time to time.
We continued doing a short little “routine,” adding in a swing-around-the-pole maneuver (which was one of the best parts) plus a couple more humping gestures. Jules tries to mix up the routines every week for the beginner’s classes.
“Most routines have the same components: dance, technique, strength, and flexibility. I just go with what the students seem to need and focus in on that skill,” said Jules.
After attempting the swinging-around-the-pole move a couple of times, alternating with my pole partner so we didn’t hit each other in the face, my hand became pretty sore (is pole burn a thing?). I was thankful when we started to cool down, mirroring the yoga-esque practices we did in the beginning of the class.
“It is a total body workout in general,” says Jules. “But if I had to zone in on a particular area, I would say the shoulder joint and core muscles get a lot of attention!”
As a beginner, I felt pretty good about the first class. Sure, I was awkward and slightly horrible at dancing, but with the counts and the directions (Jules came over to help me a couple of times), I was totally fine. In fact, I really wanted to continue attending classes so that I could improve and maybe impress my boyfriend with my newfound stripper skills.
As I packed up my things and thanked Jules for having me, I noticed a beautiful blonde chick in the next class who basically climbed up the entire pole by herself. Meanwhile, I’m having flashbacks of when we had to climb the rope in gym class while this chick is just casually hanging on the top of the pole. Although it made me feel shitty about the fact that there’s no way in hell I could do that, it was actually sort of motivational. Like hey, maybe if I keep going to class for a while and progress, I can be that bad bitch who climbs up the pole in stiletto heels super casually.
Besides the crazy party tricks, Jules explains that there are a lot of benefits to being a regular pole dancer. “The community that is built around this sport is amazing,” says Jules. “Men and women connect and provide an awesome support network for each other. When you dance in front of people without much on, you build trust!”
Besides the community aspect, you also have to be surprisingly fit to pole dance correctly. Basically, every girl that says “Damn, I should just drop out of school and become a stripper,” doesn’t realize what goes into it. “I have seen pole dance transform people’s bodies,” explained Jules. “[In addition to] weight loss, the strength gained is amazing… hello muscles! Flexibility, posture, and general confidence is also improved.”
Sure, I was made a bit more aware of my lack of rhythm and unnaturally undulating hips, but this did not feel like a workout class. This felt hot. This felt like something I wanted to do. I wasn’t jogging on the treadmill, eyeing the mileage to see when I could hit the “stop” button, I was having fun. Cliché, sure, but who doesn’t have fun when they’re twerking on a pole in short shorts? It almost made me want to go back to college and twerk on the pole in a fraternity house. Almost.