Before I explain why I am absolutely obsessed with pole dancing and why it is now an integral part of my life, let me give you the rundown of what exactly pole dancing is.
Pole Dancing, at its core, is the performance of graceful and intimate dances on a vertical pole which is usually fixed and may or may not spin. It often incorporates free-style or choreographed dance movements including spinning, inverting, and climbing techniques. For as long as pole dance has existed, it has been associated with (if not ‘birthed’ from) strip dancing as a profession, although many also accredit Mallakhamb and Chinese Pole as influence for today’s sport.
I had to talk myself down from the judgemental thoughts as I embarked on my pole journey. Initially the prude in me cowered and hid in the corner, scared of being categorized into what society deems taboo. My best friend, Ariel, who happened to be an instructor at Entangle & Sway, a fitness studio specializing in the art of pole and aerial dancing, had been trying to convince me to go to her studio for over a year. She eventually gifted me an intro package for Christmas as incentive for me to consider going.
Now, you may ask, “Is it just because you were scared of this stigma behind pole dancing that you hesitated?” And the honest truth is, yes, it was a huge factor. However, the bigger reason I was hesitant was because, before then, I had never been loyal to any other fitness routine. Long story short, I thought there was no way someone like me with 10 years worth of extra chubs could feel ‘sexy’ or even have the strength to climb a pole (let alone do a single push up.)
I remember how nervous I was the first time I stepped into the studio. I wore dark leggings and an oversized sweater, completely committed to the idea that I wouldn’t show a single trace of skin on my body. I kept pulling the sweater down over my stomach out of embarrassment, as if that overcompensated for putting myself in a vulnerable state. Ariel told me to dress in whatever comfy workout clothes I was comfortable in and to bring knee pads, water, and a towel to wipe-off sweat. As I approached the metal gate leading into the studio door, I expected to walk into some obnoxious brightly lit space as girls trapezed around in their perfectly modelesque bodies and skin tight outfits.
However, upon entering the studio I was pleasantly surprised. There was an unrecognizable perfume scent in the air; a concoction of lavender and cleanliness that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. It felt almost like a spa. A curtain sectioned off a room lit only by candles which frequently cast silhouettes of students quietly milling in and out. There was a warmth to the soft red glow that inhabited the walls of studio rooms, and the melodic rumble of songs in each room eased me into a comfort previously not thought to be accessible.
I then started attending my first series entitled “Passage to Pole” which I thought for sure meant we had to learn the fundamentals by just throwing ourselves at a metal object surrounded by more advanced dancers. I was surprised to enter a separate studio room with just 3 other girls (all looking just as nervous as I did) and Leslie, the instructor (my ‘Pole Mama’–as they call every ‘Pole baby’s’ first instructor.) We sat on our mats and began the session with some calming breathing exercises and simple stretching. I felt relaxed and warm. We proceeded to learn one to two basic spins and stands as well as some body movement and floor play. We each took turns in pairs while our Pole Mama watched patiently and helped us assume the right form. At the end of class, we took turns in pairs performing to a song of our choice. Our Pole Mama then graced us with a dance of her own. Her performance left me in awe, and I soon began to question if I’d ever be as graceful and sure of my movement as she was.
Every week continued with this same formula until I finished my first series. I had become hooked after seeing the development not just in my body, but my confidence and how I came to view myself. Going to the studio helped me release all the stress and the negative self-perception I held onto. It allowed me to leave all my problems at the door. It was just me, my dance, and the welcoming community of women in all shapes and sizes. It was rejuvenating and every small move I learned and improved on felt like a level up on my psyche. Practices left me feeling competent and open to new things.
It’s been over a year and I’ve taken quite a few series and classes. I’ve met some amazing women who have not only made me accept my best self, but also realize that everyone goes through hardships in their lives. I’m now more receptive to the fact that that everyone needs a place to escape and discover their bodies. It is enough to know who you are, and that you are not alone in your endeavors.
To any girl out there who has been curious about pole, I recommend you give it a try, especially at Entangle and Sway. It’s really allowed me to embrace who I am as a woman and as a human being – all the nooks and crannies, all the shortcomings, and everything that makes me unique.
When I dance, I let go. I let my mind transport to a different place, whether that be a beautiful isolated island or surrounded by people at a crowded club. I choose who I am and where I want to go. I let the music and movement push and pull me into the skills learned each week.
I have no dance ‘background’ and assumed this would hold me back. Instead, pole dancing has brought out a sensual, fluid side of myself that was there all along. There’s no need to need to walk in a full-fledged dancer, you can be at any skill level and still dance beautifully. The key factor to remember is that you are performing for yourself and for a community of women who unapologetically support you.
I haven’t looked back since I started my pole journey at E&S, even after experiencing an unrelated injury unrelated that prevented me from dancing for 7 months. I came back and it was as if nothing had changed. I was still dancing for myself, keeping in the back of my mind how beautiful I can be.
// Come join this community of supportive and inspired women; inquire about class here. 2791 Bush St. Nob Hill; 1559A S Novato Blvd., Novato, CA 94947. Photography by Danielle Rueda; entangleandsway.com.