The Places I’ve Pole Danced, a Love-Hate Story

NYC Pole Dancing Studios

I took my first pole dancing class at Crunch Gym back in 2011 and hated it. Eventually, I got into a conversation with one of my instructors where I expressed my concerns and she directed me to Shockra Studio. It was a life changing experience. From Shockra I discovered Sacred Brooklyn and bounced back and forth between the two. Then, I moved to Chicago, where there weren’t many options, so I ended up at Flirty Girl Fitness but that was a time warp phase and now I’m back in NYC taking classes at Body and Pole. I’ve also been to New York Pole Dancing and I’m going to start at Fly Fitness NYC.

That’s a lot of bouncing around because I like to explore. Maybe one day I’ll commit but at the moment, my relationship with pole studios is complicated–a fact that comes out when people ask me where I go, and I don’t give a direct answer because of various intricacies.

After giving this much thought, the true answer is that while no pole studio is perfect, where you go depends on what you’re looking for. So, here’s my break down of the six pole studios I’ve been to in NYC and my observations about their respective cultures.

1. Crunch Gym

Pole Dancing
Screengrab Via Crunch Gym’s YouTube

Overview: I had a membership at Crunch Gym, so pole dancing there was logical.

Atmosphere: The classes had a lot of space but it didn’t feel that way with all the bodies packed into the room. The gyms had different standards of cleanliness based on management and location but I never ran into major problems. The poles were cleaned frequently (they were only put up for class and then taken down afterward), especially in between sharing. The teachers usually had alcohol or some type of cleaning solution handy but I started bringing a small bottle of my own.

Pros: Crunch offers a variety of non cookie cutter classes in general. The instructors are experienced and cordial.

Cons: The pole dance classes at are generic and crowded (this was a problem for me about their classes in general). The instructors I encountered seemed overwhelmed because the classes were so large. Most of the classes are mixed level, but with more experienced dancers than anything else. I felt unsafe and uncomfortable because I couldn’t do anything other than a fireman spin while the people around me were hitting shoulder mounts and Ayeshas. The teachers couldn’t pay much attention to me (or other newbies) because of class size, especially with many people sharing the pole with two, sometimes three other people. It was sensory overload and I am already a very anxious person and often need to see something more than once so that I can dissect it and over think (as always, sigh) but the teachers only had an hour to cater and demonstrate as best they could. They did walk around and check on everyone but there was only so much time they can spend with one student. I believe that every studio/gym that offers pole dancing should have a class specifically for newbies and that mixed level classes should only be for polerinas who have taken a few level one classes.

Price: I was able to go to as many classes as I wanted since I had a membership. A membership here ranges from $40 – $90. I had the $90 monthly membership because it allowed you to visit any Crunch in the city. Ninety bucks a month is a hell of a lot more inexpensive than what most pole studios charge.

Summary: I recommend this place if you’re ok with chaos or if you learn somewhere else first and use Crunch for practice. But still, you really have to prepare your nerves.

2. Shockra Studio

Shockra Studio
Photo From Shockra’s Website

Overview: Shockra offered a variety of classes like pole dancing, belly dancing, yoga and ballet.

Atmosphere: It’s two studios inside of what could have been or probably used to be apartments. That made if feel cozy, which I liked. Maintenance was fine but I recommend you bring your own towels for cleaning. The students I encountered there were nice and supportive. I really enjoyed the sense of camaraderie there.

Pros: I loved it because every student was guaranteed their own pole and a studio rule was that the classes capped at about eight students. It was small and intimate, which is what I desire in a studio, and the atmosphere was warm and supportive. There was a variety of pole dance classes as well like pole-choreography, belly pole and yoga pole. I also met Aerial Amy, one of the best pole dance teachers I’ve ever had. She’s a stickler for technical details and executing moves properly. The proper execution of moves is extremely, important but I will get to that in my next studio review.

Cons: No upper level classes. When I started, they went up to level three but not anymore, and that’s why I stopped going. These days, they only cater to beginners. I also heard some things about their business practices that irk me. That part is more personal, so I won’t blog about it but I’m willing to verbalize it if we ever meet in person.

Price: It’s about $180 for a six week session.

Summary: Shockra is a great place for beginners. I haven’t tried anything other than the pole classes.

3. Body and Pole

Body and Pole Reviews Yelp
Me Mid-Spin Combo at Body and Pole

Overview: Body and Pole is one of the more popular studios in NYC and it can be an intimidating place. They offer a variety of aerial, pole, yoga, stretch and conditioning classes. A lot of the teachers there are international competitors and champions and you’ll see a lot of people walking around with 6-packs and muscles. I’m warning you so you’ll be prepared because I know that sort of thing can be off-putting to people. However, it’s a cool place. The people I have met there have been nice so don’t let the surface fool you.

Atmosphere: The studio is well maintained, spacious with various rooms, the teachers are excellent and the personnel in general is pleasant. It’s a supportive environment.

Pros: There’s a major emphasis on technique.  They have a diverse selection of classes and various levels up to five and beyond (there’s even a Cirque du Soleil style class). They bring in experts from around the world to conduct workshops and they have parties and events that foster a productive community.

Cons: The only thing I really don’t like is that while classes don’t get ridiculously crowded, you might have to share your pole. I haven’t yet but I’ve only been three times.

Price: Prices vary from about $45 for a single up to $500 plus for packages, depending on how many classes you want. Memberships are expensive and depend on availability.

Summary: This is a great place to go at any level, just for fun, to build vocabulary, and especially if you have major competition goals. Keep in mind that a lot more men come here than I’ve seen anywhere else. If that’s something that bothers you then you might want to find a place that focuses more on women, like S-Factor (but I’ve never taken a class there).

4. New York Pole Dancing (NYPD)

New York Pole Dancing Selfie
Selfie Action With Micaela

Overview: They have two locations, one in White Plains and one in Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve been to the latter a couple of times. They also offer yoga, stretch classes, chair dance classes and conditioning classes.

Atmosphere: It’s a small studio located. in one of those office buildings where you have to go down the hall to go to the bathroom.

Pros: The teachers know their stuff and there’s a nice sense of camaraderie and support here amongst the students. They have a student showcase focused on growth and progress, not necessarily tricks, bells and whistles, and they have parties. They also have pole certification programs that focus on climbing, spinning and inverting.

Cons: The front desk staff is rude. Upon my very first arrival, I wasn’t greeted. In fact, she was on the phone and didn’t acknowledge me until her conversation was over. After she hung up, she then began chatting with people in the studio that I guess she already knew, about something that had nothing to do with the studio. It made me not want to go back but I happen to really like Micaela Mamede, one of their awesome teachers. I experienced similar rudeness the second time I visited. Again, had it not been for my fondness of Mica, I would have been done after that first time. We all have bad days but when you work in customer service, it’s your responsibility to be cordial.

There’s no real changing area. You can go to the small bathroom where upkeep is just ok, bordering on suspect but that could be a building issue and not the studio. There is one changing stall inside the studio suite and it’s really just a coffin-sized area covered by curtains. Unless you get there early, or come dressed already, the situation is a nuisance.

Price: Similar to Body and Pole.

Summary: I see this as a place for people who already have some pole experience as they don’t have a pole 101 class. There’s open pole, and then specific “climb and spin” and “climb and invert” classes. C&S and C&I classes do incorporate dance, FYI.

5. Sacred Brooklyn (UPDATED: Sacred no longer offers pole dancing).

sacred brooklyn

Overview: While Sacred does have pole dancing, hot yoga is more their specialty (they also have pilates, burlesque and capoeria).

Atmosphere: Sacred is a small well-maintained studio that also has a cozy feel and they are involved with the community.

Pros: They provide a free yoga class on Sundays and they also bring in guest teachers for occasional workshops.  I went for a five week workshop called “Melt.” It was a pole dancing class created by Roz the Diva, that focused on being sensual and fluid in movement. Our class performed at a Scared showcase at the end of the series.

Here’s a shadowy snapshot of that performance (my first pole performance ever) that we did to Rihanna’s “Skin.” There is video available but it’s private, so view this murky picture and love it. In case you’re wondering, I’m climbing on the right.

Sacred Brooklyn, Roz the Diva

Oh and, the staff is down as fuck!

Cons: Pole isn’t their specialty. They have mostly beginner classes with one or two level twos (or an open pole) but there’s not much variety and there aren’t many poles. I’ve never experienced an overcrowded class but you do often have to share poles. I’d love it if they added more pole classes.

Price: Single classes are $20, you can by packages and they do offer monthly memberships.

Summary: Come here if you’re a beginner of if you just want to pole without pretense. It’s a fun place.

6. Fly Fitness NYC (7/8/14 EDIT : FLY FITNESS IS NOW CLOSED)

Fly Fitness New York

Overview: It’s a new space that opened mid-December. They offer a variety of aerial, conditioning, yoga and pole dance classes.

Atmosphere: It’s a small space with 18ft poles, Good googa mooga! The staff was very pleasant. I even met the owner, who was informative and congenial.

Pros: I took a free pole conditioning class with Irmingard Mayer. The class was hardcore and she was a good instructor (and after Googling her, I discovered how talented she really is). I liked the class and the space enough to purchase a class package, which I will start redeeming in January. Amy will be teaching there, even more incentive.

Cons: None yet.

Price: On par with Body & Pole and NY Pole Dancing but slightly less.

Summary: I haven’t been enough to have a good grasp but so far so good.

Sarah Massey is Proud of Her 7 Foot Butt

Meet Sarah Massey. Her butt measures at about 7 feet in circumference and she’s perfectly ok with it. I appreciate people who are genuinely confident and content in who they are. That’s the type of vibe I’m getting from Miss Massey. I wish they had shown younger pictures of Massey and got into her upbringing. I wonder how she got so confident. I’m also curious about what her workout goals are they didn’t go into too much detail there. So many questions. I am fascinated.

Beyonce Talks Sexuality, Being Inspired by Parisian Cabaret Dancers

Beyonce, Partition, Crazy Horse

Beyonce´ released the latest vignette in a video series where she explains various elements that went into creating the audio and visuals for her latest album. In “Self-Titled Part 4 -Liberation,” she talks about putting her sexuality on display and coming into herself as a new mom who still wants to feel confident and sexy, and as a woman who still has dreams. So many people have had opinions about her work and her motives that it’s nice to hear where her head was during the creative process.

The video opens with Bey talking about the process for “Partition” (one of my favorite songs). Assuming you’ve heard her album by now, and I really hope you did, a lot of the songs and corresponding visuals are sexually suggestive and racy but not raunchy just for the sake of getting attention. Beyonce´revealed that while she is comfortable with being sexual, it was embarrassing to be so open about it during the recording process but she got over it.

Beyonce - Partition Video

For the video, she recreated a Crazy Horse routine that inspired her years ago. She and Jay-Z went to a Crazy Horse show (in Paris) on the night they got engaged and she was so inspired by the sexiness of the dancers that she wanted to be a part of it, so she enlisted them for the video.

Get into cabaret style entertainment!

Crazy Horse

She also addressed changes she went through once she gave birth to Blue Ivy and working hard to feel normal again postpartum. She doesn’t believe that mom’s should be frumpy and boring and I agree. I’m not a mother but there also seems to be similar belief systems in place when it comes to wives. I’ve seen a lot of women lose themselves to relationships whether it’s marriage or motherhood. They let their bodies go, they give up on their happiness and don’t nurture their own desires, and become people who are constantly saying “I wish I could,” or “Coulda, woulda, shoulda.” I realize that the aforementioned life changes are critical aspects of a woman’s life but I feel it’s also important to maintain elements of your individuality to help foster optimal happiness for all parties involved.

Beyonce´talks about this toward the end of her video when she explains her 195 lb weight gain during pregnancy. She lost 65 lbs following the baby and she felt proud and accomplished, like anyone who loses weight or achieves their optimal physique should.

Beyonce Visual Album

“I wanted to show my body. I wanted to show that you can have a child and you can work hard and you can get your body back. I know finding my sensuality, getting back into my body, being proud of growing up, it was important to me that I expressed that in this music, because i know that there are so many women that feel the same thing after they give birth,” she says. “You can have your child and you can sill have fun and still be sexy, and still have dreams and still live for yourself. I don’t at all have any shame about being sexual and  I’m not embarrassed and I don’t feel like I have to protect that side of me because I do believe that sexuality is a power that we all have.”

Say that again, please!

What she’s saying speaks to me as a 31-year-old. One of the changes I’m experiencing in my 30s is a new found sense of confidence that I didn’t have in my 20s. I heard a lot of women mention this transformation in the past but there’s nothing like experiencing it.

I love her album because it exudes self-confidence, embraces femininity and represents the power of sensuality. I’m still quirky and awkward at times but I’m a work in progress. Again, if you haven’t heard Bey’s new album yet (assuming you’re a fan of pop music) then you should. There’s a lot of good material on there for dance playlists and it’s especially pole dancing gold.

In related news, I may have to make that trip to Paris so I can check out Crazy Horse. However, in the meantime, I guess I could check out some local cabaret and burlesque classes.

Fate of Brazilian MMA’s First Mixed Gender Fight is in Limbo

The idea of a male vs. female MMA fight has come up before still hasn’t come to fruition. It seemed like it would happen last week, when it was announced that Emerson Falcao and Juliana Valesquez would spar on December 20 in Rio de Janeiro. There’s even a promo for it however, mmafighting.com announced that Shooto Brazil isn’t so sure anymore.

I love that Velasquez ain’t scurred but I’m not sure that this is a good idea, so I can see why it’s still in limbo. Men have a strength advantage over women–you know, all that testosterone–so even if they’re matched by height and weight (it looks like they are), Falcao may still have an edge over Velasquez but I digress.

It’s still under review for now but if it happens, I hope Velasquez kicks his ass.

Comedienne Lonnie Love Gets a Pole Dance Lesson From Nicole the Pole

Lonnie Love with Nicole the Pole Williams

I was initially skeptical about this because usually when pole dancing is covered by talk shows and news programs, they hyper-sexualize it, which brings it right back to the stripper association that most people seem to make. However, it wasn’t so bad.

Ellen DeGeneres tapped comedienne Lonnie Love to take a pole dancing class with Nicole “the Pole” Williams at Allure Dance Studio in California and documented her experience. Lonnie Love actually took the experience seriously (for the most part) and she didn’t do so bad.

One of my associates recently asked me if she was too big to pole dance (um…she’s a size 10, like me) so I hope this answers her question. In related news, I cringed when Ellen called it a “stripper pole.” That always makes me cringe because it’s a pole. Pole dancing is the umbrella term for the art form. I have absolutely nothing against strippers but the general public seems to miss that strippers are just a type of pole dancer and there’s actually no such thing as a stripper pole.

Brow Highlighting Abuse…a Hate Story

As a makeup junky I love checking out trends, new and old. However, I just can’t get with this pandemic of over-highlighting! UGH. Have you ever checked out a website or magazine and seen a celebrity that looked like they had a weird hyper-pigmented halo around their eyes or eyebrows (due to brow highlighting, or eye highlighting)? I’m sure you have. It looks a little something like…

Rihanna Highlight

 

Or like…

ChristinaHighlight

 

Or like…

Taraji

I’m no makeup artist so I don’t know why this happens (but professionals should know better). But I’ve noticed that since the YouTube beauty guru boom, more and more every day women are trying their had at the obvious art of highlighting and contouring and failing miserably. It irks me. That is all.

There was absolutely no other reason for this post other then to rant. They say you get what you ask for when you put it out in the universe. So, I’m putting it out there that I really wish this trend would stop. If some professional makeup artists haven’t even figured it out, as clearly evidenced above, then maybe it’s time to STOP IT! Step away from the highlights, selfies and Instagram.

Aggie Ng Channels Voodoo Doll, Wins Polesque

I love it when I hear people’s general misconceptions (mainly them not being able to disassociate the art of pole from the act of stripping) about so-called sleazyness of pole dancing and then I come across performances like Aggie Ng’s winning number at Polesque October 2013 (presented by Aera).

She chose Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” as her audio back drop and transformed into a voodoo doll. Killer concept, dope ass execution!

I too will be a badaaassss pole dancer one day.

A Brief Look at Urban Decay’s Naked 3 Palette

Admittedly, I got caught up in Urban Decay’s naked hype and as a result, I purchased the Naked 2 palette as well as the Naked Basics. I don’t wear much eyeshadow so…I’ve word shades from Naked one a handful of times (one of them being my wedding) and I used the black in the Naked Basics once. So yeah, womp womp, not sure that I’ll be getting into Naked 3 but it does look pretty, and from my previous experiences with Urban Decay palettes (including the Smoked palette, which I love), I’m sure it will be good.

Naked 3 is said to be mostly rosy colors while Naked 1 is warm neutrals and Naked 2 is cooler neutrals. The colors in N range from matte to shimmery to metallic, and they’re all newly introduced to Urban Decay’s makeup collection (some of the previous palettes used an already existing color or two).

I’ll stop here and let you check it out for yourself.

In case you didn’t know, the UD Naked 3 palette will set you back about $52. That’s steep. Again, Urban Decay good quality, highly pigmented product but the price is still something to consider. The knock offs will probably start rolling out soon.

What do you think, is it something you can work with?

Rocsi Diaz Goes Pro Vegetarian in Peta Holiday Campaign

Former 106 and Park host Rocsi Diaz teamed up with Peta to promote the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. In the ad she rocks a bikini made out of Brussels sprouts with a small piece of a wreath added for extra holiday flavor. Check her out:

Rocsi Diaz for Peta

She also did an interview for the campaign explaining how and why she went vegetarian.

“I physically felt cleaner and lighter,” she mentioned as one of her personal perks. “Later on, literally I saw somebody eating a chicken wing, and it grossed me out. … My body was, like, ‘No more. I don’t want it anymore.’”

Watch the full interview:

I’ve been a yo yo vegetarian all my life since age 2 (a saga where I battle yo yo eating in general that I will one day share). I even dabbled with raw food veganism (this was an amazing phase, another story I will one day share). I believe more in the theory that people have diverse and individual dietary needs based on blood type. My experience, since before I began researching various diets and stumbled across blood type eating, has shown me that I’m much better as a vegetarian (I’m blood type A and according to that fact veggies should be my gospel). However, even rampant meat eaters should probably cut their meat consumption tremendously and give the veggies a chance, even if vegetarian for a day. When done correctly, the vegetarian lifestyle has tremendous benefits.