Upon hearing the words “pole dancing”, the first image that probably conjures in most minds is exotic dancers. Recently though, spurred primarily upon receiving a birthday Evite to a Pretty Lady Pole Fit party, I came to a different conclusion. And that is, pole dancing isn’t just for strippers anymore.
My hypothesis is strengthened when one considers the composition of the group invited to this aforementioned birthday party. Most were middle-aged moms. None were named “Candy Cane”, “Dusty Road” or anything of that ilk. None, I hope, and as far as I know, showed up in lucite-heeled stilettos. And, all, yield chest sizes proportional to the rest of their bodies.
As for Pretty Lady Pole Fit (www.prettyladypoleparties.com )…it is actually a new, women(18 and over)-only establishment opened in Hybla Valley in the Mount Vernon Plaza located at 7702E Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22306, 703-360-7653. It has a privacy curtain to keep away voyeurs and it is sandwiched between the AT@T Wireless Store and conveniently, for those desiring a shot of liquid courage before their session, the VA ABC Store. Per their website, “Pretty Lady Pole Fit is a women’s studio offering unique pole, chair and exotic dance fitness classes designed to ‘teach the every day [sic] woman the art of seduction’ while providing an exciting workout. Pretty Lady Pole Fit has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. We believe all women are ‘pretty ladies’ inside and out so we design our classes to nurture mind, body, and spirit. Our women-only classes and parties provide a new and innovative way to stay in shape, improve self-esteem, and even spice up your love life.” Their website goes on to state, “Pole and exotic dance fitness is about empowerment. It’s about helping women celebrate their bodies, get in excellent shape, and have fun at the same time.” Certainly, not much skanky about that.
Unfortunately (although, admittedly, at the time, I was kind of thinking, fortunately), I had to decline the invitation to the birthday party as it conflicted with my trip to Hawaii. But I have to confess that it did pique my curiosity as I am generally adventurous and game for trying new things. So upon returning from my trip, I followed up with the birthday girl to get the lowdown. She shared, “I had the idea to take a class a few months ago, mentioned it to the gals and almost all said NO WAY!! So I gave up and then they surprised me for my 40th, as you know!! I really do think even the doubters had fun. It wasn’t presented as sexual or naughty…strictly for fitness and laughing with your girlfriends. It was quite a confidence booster.” She went on to say, “The instructor was perfect for our group…giving high-five’s and going over the moves over and over. We were all sweating by the time it was over and my arms hurt the next day…and I work out almost every day!! The location was clean, well-organized and cheerful and we really did have a lot of fun. It was just over way too quickly.”
Another attendee at this same party offered, “I had a very fun time. It was out of my comfort zone, but the instructor made us feel at ease. It was like any other exercise class I’ve been to with the instructor leading the class and all of us followed her instruction. It was tasteful and you really got a workout.”
Pretty Lady Pole Fit offers classes, workshops and parties that can either be held in the studio or at mobile sites such as at home or for a company event. Unlimited classes cost $100 for 30 days or you can buy a 10-class pass for $100 or a 5-class pass for $60. If you just wish to attend a particular class you can either pay a pre-registered fee which you sign up for in advance online or a drop-in fee which tends to be a little higher. Some of the current class offerings include: Advance Pole, Beginner Pole, Beginner Belly Dancing, Burlesque, Hot Seat and my favorite, because of the double-entendre'---Strip Tease (as their description coquettishly seduces, “Take it off-the weight, we mean”). Pretty Lady Pole Fit also offers more conventional fitness classes such as Zumba, Power Yoga, Pilates, ABSolute ABS, etc. Their website offers a full array of descriptions and prices for all of the classes. Current workshops listed on their website include: “Pole Tricks Workshop” and “Video Vixen Workshop” which teaches actual dance moves from pop artist, Beyonce’s recent video, “Run the World (Girls)”!
Studio or mobile parties include either the Standard Chair Dancing Party which lasts 1.5 hours and costs $200 for either studio or mobile for 1-10 guests (each additional guest over that number costs $5 in the studio and $15 for a mobile party) and $200 for a 1.5 hour studio Pole Party (each additional guest exceeding a headcount of 10 costs $5) and $300 for a mobile Pole Party (each additional guest beyond 10 costs $25). Also, for the really adventurous, Pretty Lady offers 24-hour at-home pole rentals for $50 (plus additional delivery, set up charges) and they also sell platform stages and Platinum Super Poles (described as, humorously to me anyhow, requiring “NO drilling, NO hooks, NO fake smoke detectors to ‘hide’ the holes and hooks.”) It's heartening to find out that there are still people out there potentially concerned about the stigma a pole in the family room might impart!
As to what one wears for pole fitness, Pretty Lady recommends “Comfortable clothing. Gym clothes (leggings, shorts, yoga pants, tank tops and t-shirts). Depending on the class, sneakers, bare feet, dance shoes or high heels with an ankle strap are appropriate.” I also came across some guidelines offered by wikiHow on “How to Learn Pole Dancing”. They further suggest: “Never pole dance wearing oils or lotions as these make the pole slippery and hazardous. You may need to wipe down the pole before you start to remove any grease and give you maximum grip.” They also stated, and this one is funny, (although probably not intended to be), and high on the gross factor, “If you are dancing in a club, use Lysol wipes before your set. You never know where the other dancers have been.”
No longer found exclusively in brothels and gentleman’s clubs, pole fitness really does seem to have become more mainstream. It has evolved as a legitimate exercise activity and has even recently been petitioned for recognition as an Olympic sport! But how exactly did it transform from its original sensual and erotic reputation to a now, seemingly, respectable cardio and strength workout?
Based on what I could uncover, most believe that the history of pole dancing originated with African tribal dancing where women would perform enticing dances around a wooden pole in front of the men they were engaged to in sort of a sneak preview of coming matrimonial attractions. Other sources attribute its origins to the 12th Century May Pole, where women danced around a vertical wooden pole, intended to have phallic overtones, in hopes of boosting fertility. This was later destroyed as a pagan idol and shouldn’t be confused with the chaste, Victorian-era version which used ribbons around a pole. Pole dancing disappeared for many centuries and then reappeared in the 1920’s.
During the height of the Depression, traveling circuses would go town-to-town and showcase sideshows of Vaudevillian women, dubbed Hoochie-Coochie dancers due to their suggestive bump-and-grind hip movements, who would gyrate around tent poles, and slide up and down, while striking and holding various poses. This entertainment was quite crowd-pleasing and propelled pole dancing into Burlesque circles, gaining in popularity in the 1950’s. The earliest recorded U.S. pole dance occurred in 1968 and featured a woman named Belle Jangles performing at a strip club, Mugwumps, in Oregon. She started a craze that then spread to Vancouver, Canada’s red-light district, later catching on throughout Canada and the U.S. In the 1990’s, a Canadian woman named Fawnia Mondey, legitimized it as a sport by competing in pole dance competitions, taught it as a dance and even released the first instructional how-to video. After its distribution, pole dancing started to spread throughout the world.
But as valiantly as pole dancing has fought to eschew its sleazier connotations, it still has its work cut out for it, if evidenced only by some of the related searches…”Be a stripper who knows what she is doing”, “Become a stripper”, “Choose the right strip club to work in”, “How to increase your stripper income”, etc., etc…that come up when one googles “pole dancing”. Maybe my search wasn’t comprehensive enough but I looked for awhile, yet, still failed to find anything remotely along the lines of, “How to win gold in pole dancing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics”. Too bad, as I've always dreamed of being on the front of a Wheatie's box!