Embracing the pole


The pole’s metal reflects the harsh artificial lighting. The techno music provides the beat for the dancers to slide and thrust to. There is a lot of grunting and sweaty brows, but it is not from the down-market clientele of a seedy strip club, it is the dancers themselves. Never fear, this is not some sort of retirement home for elderly or infirm exotic dancers. It is X-Statica Pole Fitness, run by Daniela Bruns, an energetic class where baggy t-shirts and modest shorts are the pole dancer’s uniform. Far from being held in a sordid back-street establishment, it takes place in St Andrews’s local high school, Madras College. Rather than titillation, the most explicit aim of this class is fitness. Could this be a new way to perceive, what we typically term, ‘pole dancing’?

While many graduates worry about what career paths the job market may force them to go down, former St Andrews student Daniela Bruns came up with a new, innovative idea, which embraced the often tabooed subject of pole dancing. A St Andrews alumnus, she offers various classes in Pole Fitness at £80 a term. The particular class I attended for The Saint was part of a ‘Taster’ initiative by Daniela, a one-off introduction at £3 for an hour of exercise.

Before any dance can really begin, Daniela is eager to emphasise the importance of a good warm up. She goes through a series of simple but effective stretches with us, mobilising the whole body. Her knowledge of stretching techniques is amazingly detailed, as she calmly explains why she has chosen these poses, as well as the correct way to hold them. In this respect, the class beats other sport clubs; thanks to its small class size (only up to twelve people are allowed), the intimate setting allowing for much more detailed tuition. Daniela’s reassuring knowledge makes the lesson seem safe from the outset, and removes any lingering sense of trepidation from my mind.

The next track goes on the stereo and the class is taught how to walk around a pole. The choice of music is bizarrely unsexy, a mix of elevator music and those blood pumping, yet strangely sterile, gym tunes. We move on to the next step, rolling hips in a figure of eight while holding onto the pole. Normally, this would signal the start of an increasingly sexual routine, but the music and Daniela’s serious yet fun attitude ensure it is all about the sport.

As the hour passes, more moves are added and I am surprised at how quickly they form a routine, even if my nervous thighs do cling a little too hard to the pole and the occasional limb threatens to knock over a water bottle or two. Daniela analyses each move, walking from pole to pole and offering tips on how to improve your technique.

One thing that dawned on me throughout the hour of tuition is the level of skill professionals must possess; the sheer agility and fitness as they swing from a pole is astonishing. This relates to my only concern with pole fitness; it treads a thin line between sexuality and exercise, and as a result, seems to have a somewhat confused identity, at least to outsiders. One cannot deny its sexual connotations, yet we risk completely ignoring the physical, rather than sexual, prowess by shunning the sport as a whole.Ultimately, my advice is simple: just swing with it.

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