There are always a few poles moves you’ve attempted and thought to yourself that it would be a physical impossibility to actually accomplish them, let alone make them look graceful. You see them flawlessly executed by professionals in competition, as well as the student right next to you in the studio, but how did they get there? Can I do that one day?
This is the challenge and excitement of pole, whether it is for fitness or artistic expression. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, be they muscle strength, flexibility, or elegance in our performance. To me, the true art of pole dance comes from each dancer’s unique style, from the repertoire of moves, their combos and choreography, to the choice of music, costumes, makeup and theatrical presentation.
I’ve made it a hobby, and perhaps at some point a profession, to travel to different studios to learn from different instructors. No two studios are the same. Pole fitness is not sterile and standardized like cardio and resistance machines at a gym. Pole fitness is more stylistic. The ambiance of a pole studio creates the experience, much like a yoga studio. Sure, you can do yoga in the exercise room at the gym, with generic flow and a simple series of moves, or you can practice in a studio with dim lights, incense, and soothing pan flute music coming from speakers hidden behind an intricately carved statue. The same is true of pole fitness… well, perhaps a little different.
Golds Gym, eat your heart out. Tina’s studio, Pole Fitness Northwest, is where women go to get fit. Pink fitness balls, free weights and hand towels compliment a room full of static brass poles. Pink and black foam tiles decorate the studio floor, providing comfort and safety. The first thing we learn in pole fitness is to not only trust the apparatus but our capabilities as women athletes as well.
Tina is self-taught and has an intuitive feel for the pole. She’s developed a signature series of warm ups and spins to open each class session. Emphasis is on fitness, and several core and upper body strengthening moves are practiced before pole training, especially in beginner classes.
In intermediate class, students focus on tricks, inverts, climbing and more advanced spins. Tina has a few tricks and tips to get you into those moves you’ve been trying for months, and will personally spot and assist each one of us as we try moves for the first time. We work on a variety of spins and tricks each class so we don’t overuse certain body parts and get injured. Each class we progress and one day we will just spring up into that one move we thought we could never achieve.
Yup, that’s me hanging sideways from the pole with an ayisha grip. (My legs are not touching!) Thanks to Tina, I managed a knee hold for the first time, a position I thought my body was clearly not capable of balancing in, just by getting into it from a move I already had mastered. After a quick explanation about how my arms should create forces on the pole, I popped right up into a regular grip handspring as if I had been doing it for years. Who knows what I will be able to accomplish in a few months from now. Perhaps the move in the photo will become an iron x, one of the toughest positions to hold on the pole. I’m excited.