Friday, 11 May 2012

Down the rabbit hole and up the pole

I am on our local neighbourhood committee (lots of fun! Everyone join your local neighbourhod committee! We are apparently the most deprived ward in East Anglia!), and when it was mentioned by the man who runs the local community centre that they were running pole dancing classes, then my ears pricked up. Because, readers, I have been wanting to try pole dancing for the longest time, and I had googled previously but was put off by the amount of money you had to pay for a course. This one is much more affordable (in line with yoga), I could pay per class, and also the community centre is literally five minutes from my house. So I could be on the sofa in my trackies with a cup of tea and Judge Judy at 6:50pm and with my thighs wrapped round a pole at 7pm if I wanted to. I could not resist. So I am now learning pole dancing and it is huge amounts of fun, I am very glad I started, and so I would like to tell you about it in case you would like to try it too.

Also it is socially less awkward than yoga (not in general, only for me), because with yoga I only like one particular kind and (unbelievably!) partner’s ex is one of the major teachers of this particular kind in Cambridge and is apparently besties with the Guru in India who invented it (I swear I did not know this). So I am restricted, as I am nervous of bumping into her as she does not like me (she once said to me, ‘and did they have whippets and flat caps in that little northern house you grew up in, Susie?’) and I am not dealing with that kind of thing while I am doing a down dog. So, pole dancing it is for the moment, or at least until my nice yoga teacher returns from maternity leave. Here are some questions people have asked me:

1/ What do you do in classes?
Well, I have only had two lessons so I am no expert ;-). I thought we would spend the first month perhaps leaning against the pole a bit or walking round it in a strutting fashion, but no, we were straight up it and spinning round. Basically you do different types of spins, you climb the pole in various ways, grip it between your legs, and dangle off it, and you do a bit of dance around it and on the floor to make up a routine to music. Excitingly, you can have your pole set either to static or spin, so when it is static it is like swinging round a lamppost (for example), and when it is on spin it spins with you and you really get some speed up. This was a shock to me at first but my eyes have uncrossed now and I am better.

2/ Is it difficult?
Yes, it is. If you have a background in gym or dance then I suspect it’s easier (I don’t! – So don’t let that put you off!) but the first lesson is a real killer. You end up covered with bruises all the way down the insides of your thighs. After my first time as well, my arms were so painful I could hardly change gear on the car and I could not – too much information alert – pull my pants up (it’s ok, Partner did all the jokes). My muscles didn’t work. I had to wriggle into my pants in a hula-hooping motion. So, for your first time, don’t schedule any pant action that might be witnessed for the day after, and don’t try to wear skinny jeans. And don’t plan any journeys where you’re going to have to change gear a lot. I mean, the A10 might be alright (straight 50mph behind a tractor until you hit Hunstanton) but no city centres. Second gear made me whimper.

3/ What do you wear?
Well, I wondered whether I should email the teacher before I started about what to wear but I thought, no, then she will think I think I need nipple pasties or something and have got the wrong end of the stick, so I didn’t. Then she sent me an information sheet which said, you will have to wear shorts as you need to be able to grip the pole with the flesh on your thighs and I thought, Christ no, so I wore trackie bottoms, but she was absolutely right (I slid down). Also, you need bare feet and just any kind of tshirt on top – the room I learn in is hot so I wear a vest. So, if you are starting pole dancing, here is what you can do: if you go into Sweaty Betty, they have some tightish shorts which are an adjustable length. They are hugely expensive but how many more pairs of shorts are you ever going to buy? And (says she delicately), you may need to explore bikini line options (for the first time in many years I find myself eyeing up Immac), because, you are not static, you open your legs wide and fling them about and your shorts ride up high, and there are some feminist statements I am not quite up to making. Which brings me to:

4/ How can you, as a feminist, do this. (This was partner’s question).
This is a difficult one. Me and third wave feminism – we have our problems. We are not perfect together. Intellectually I am not necessarily on the reclaiming-stuff-associated-with-sex-work-is-liberating page, I am not. And I want you to make no mistake here: pole fitness is a misnomer. Pole fitness is pole dancing. You are dancing. You wiggle your bottom. You slide down the pole. You thrust your groin forward. Its origins are, shall we say, evident to me. However (and I accept I might be alone on this one), I have sometimes done things in accord with the finest second wave feminist theory and expected to feel liberated. And I have not felt liberated, I have felt a bit crap. So, now I do not engage too much with theory and I just try to be feminist on an individual level: I try to support women. And I can guarantee you that if you try pole dancing, these are the first two thoughts that will come into your head:

1/ God! This is really hard, oh, ok, is this it perhaps, whheeeeeeeee, oh, my arms ache. God!
2/ God! And I thought strippers were just dangling off a pole with no clothes on and it was really easy and I felt a bit sorry for them. Actually what they are is incredibly skilled professionals and now I feel a bit daft.

So basically I think you are doing something which will make you feel a huge amount of professional respect for a group of women who you might not have thought of primarily in that context before. I get why pole dancing is problematic, I do: but as the saying goes, I think, if this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

So there we are, that is pole dancing in a nutshell, and I encourage anyone to try it. Just make sure you get some really short shorts (you really do need to grip with flesh) and don’t worry about the fat on your thighs because no-one else can see it. Perhaps wear those shorts to the Co-op first, get used to them a bit? I’ll be the one in the nipple pasty aisle, rethinking all my earlier stereotypes. I’ll see you there. You bring the biscuits x


Vivianne said...

of course, feminist-wise, also, the type of pole-dancing you are doing is for your own benefit & pleasure, not that of a man. Or is Partner *very* lucky ? :-D

Erica said...

Along the same feministic lines, I have a funny story involving my hubby. We've been married for two weeks (as of tomorrow) and so, while he is at work, I've been busy trying to unpack our things and get them organized in our apartment. It is really daunting, actually. On Wednesday, I was in the bedroom, folding laundry and putting it away, thinking about what to cook for dinner and trying to decide what I was going to unpack the next day. My next thought, however, completely blindsided me. I've spent the last six years getting my college degree (I have my bachelors, working on my masters) so I have always wanted more from life than to be just a housewife. In fact, until I started dating him, I didn't even want to get married at all. I wanted to be independent, self-reliant, and to Hades with men. This was no secret, either. All my friends (and hubby) knew my feelings toward domesticity. However, while folding laundry, thinking about dinner and the house, I thought, "I wouldn't mind quitting my jobs and being a housewife." I almost fell over from shock. So, I go over to by husband later and ask, heatedly, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!"

It was an interesting night.

Rachel said...

Thank you for enlightening us :-)

I am also on our local committee - just as much fun and half of it's in Welsh. No-one's mentioned pole dancing, but someone (not on the committee, but she's good mates with the chair, so she might as well be) did invite me to go to belly dancing classes with her. Husband got very excited about this idea.

Personally, I'd rather try twmpath, which is Welsh for ceilidh, which is Scottish for barn dancing.

Magpie Mimi said...

I laughed so much! I'm on a student committee at my local community college and am the youngest there by about 30 years and they nearly all go belly dancing. I'm rather tempted but it's in the day and I work.

Erica, I too have had thoughts along those lines, including 'shall I have kids now so that I don't have to go to my stinky job?' but that's just me being unhappy in the workplace bumping up the timescale for kids.

I'd love to try pole dancing though