Walking into my first pole dancing exercise class was slightly overwhelming. The class before mine (Pole 5) was just wrapping up, so ten graceful bodies were elegantly spinning and contorting six feet off the ground when I walked into the room. I immediately noticed that the shorts I had worn (I was instructed to wear “booty shorts and a comfortable tank top”) were a solid inch longer than everyone else’s and much less spandex-y. I panned the room, pulled my shorts up as high as I could, and tried not to be intimidated by the rippling muscles of everyone in Pole 5.
Feeling slightly inadequate, I sat down in the circle my instructor, Jean Luc Dicard, initiated. They welcomed all of us and had each class member introduce themselves by name, pronoun, and pole dancing experience. Two of us were new to pole dancing and we were greeted with a tiny burst of cheers when we confessed our inexperience.
Friendly classmates aside, pole dancing is aggressively accessible. It is highly GLBT-friendly and all genders, experience levels, and body types are welcome. There were two men, four non-binary people, and five women at the class I attended, which is reasonably reflective of who pole dances. Cis women historically make up the bulk of pole dancers, but GLBT people and men are catching on and also joining in the fun.
Our class began with a little cardio and a little stretching. Once our bodies were warmed up, our instructor started us out with pole walking. We were encourage to play with the length of our stride, the direction of our gazes, and the way we moved our free hand. I saw flickers of the same confidence I felt in the other newbie. We looked good.
Once we were feeling confident, Dicard immediately brought us back down to earth with a couple basic spins. Neither of us newbies performed either spin particularly well before the class ended, but each new leap and spin felt a little better than the last.
Expertease is serious about inclusivity. Owner Jac Fatale emphasized that pole dancing is for everyone. Blind and deaf students have attended Expertease in the past and most of the building (with the exception of one room) is ADA accessible. They have also incorporated a Quiet Corner in the back where people can cuddle up on couches if they need a mental break.
Myss Angie, a local instructor and the founder of Pole and Performing Art, emphasized that her “whole life revolves around creating an inclusive atmosphere and community for us all to learn and grow with one another.” This is apparent in the breadth of the events that she organizes. Pole and Performing Arts is behind competitions, showcases, and even corporate events that foster skills like team building and creativity.
People start pole dancing for different reasons, but the motivation to continue is pretty consistent. Pole dancing is an amazing workout (please note aforementioned rippling muscles), but it also offers dancers something a little more intrinsic: a sense of self-worth that is frequently described as a life saver. Survivors of sexual violence, recovering addicts, and people who struggle with body positivity all mentioned that pole dancing offered them a sense of control over their bodies that was celebratory and empowering. Being able to feel sexy while working out, having performances to look forward to, and being part of a group pursuing the same goal, are all powerful motivators.
After the class, multiple people asked what we thought of pole dancing and when we would be back. Both of us felt like we had barely accomplished anything and yet we agreed that we would be back. Why would we not be? The class was friendly and supportive, the community is organically diverse, and even though I felt pretty pathetic for a lot of the class (Fatale would make me do five “love push-ups” for admitting that), my arms are burning today and I want to get as strong everyone in Pole 5. Did I mention that their muscles rippled? I just need to get some shorter shorts first.
When you decide that you want to try pole dancing, the Twin Cities are your oyster. Expertease (1620 Central Ave. NE #152, Thorp Building, Minneapolis, MN 55413) and Dollhouse (1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413) both offer classes and are in the same neighborhood! You can also catch some performances or check out an event! www.poleandperformingart.com is a good place to start and the Minnsky Theater (in the same building as Dollhouse) frequently showcases Expertease students.