What to Expect From Your First Pole Dancing Class

Starr
My first attempt at street pole in New Orleans, summer 2013.
My first attempt at street pole in New Orleans, summer 2013.

A lot of my curious girlfriends ask me what pole dancing is like, and I also have some who have tried it but stopped because it made them feel awkward. I often feel like a pole mother hen in these situations, as the one in our circle who has continually kept up a pole practice, often explaining to them that going to your first pole dancing class will most likely be intimidating, especially if it’s a mixed level class. I also encourage them to try again, if they weren’t completely mortified, because it can also be rewarding as long as you go in with an open mind, prepared for a real work out and understanding that it can be an amazing adventure. There are other good break downs about what to expect during your first pole dancing class floating around the web but here’s my take.

Finding a Studio

Finding pole dance classes can sometimes be a trial and error experience but most likely your first class will be a referral from a friend or through a Groupon type service. Go with the flow and see what happens. If you like it, don’t be afraid to continue to explore different places. I’ve found that various pole dancing studios can be good for different things depending on your personal goals. Some have a culture that fosters students to compete while others are more about empowerment, wellness and camaraderie, so it depends.

 

The Uniform

Ignore my sad attempts at foot pointing.
Ignore my sad attempt at foot pointing.

The basic beginner pole dancing uniform is short shorts and a tank top. Your teacher, however, will probably be wearing the community standard along the lines of a sports bra and boy shorts. If it’s a mixed level class, the more advanced students will also be wearing some variant of a bra and panties.

Ease Into it

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You may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first but that is natural. Pole dancing isn’t natural. You’re asking your body to accomplish extremely hard feats of strength while also challenging gravity. It’s not going to happen overnight. People advance at different speeds and some moves may be easier than others based on strength level, body type and flexibility. Keep working at it until you figure out your style and what works for you.

What to Bring

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Pole dancing can be an intense strength training and cardio workout (as a beginner you’ll probably do more spins and dancing on the ground) so bring water, shakes (if that’s your thing) and snacks like fruit and nut bars (I love bananas and Kind Bars). You’ll also potentially need grip. Finding the right grip is also a trial and errorΒ  experience that depends on a variety of things from how much you sweat to the room temperature. My favorite grips are iTac 4, Dry Hands and Tite Grip (I use the latter two the most). All of the above can be found at Amazon.com.

Feeling Awkward

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On top of feeling silly because you may not be able to execute moves fluidly, you may also find yourself uncomfortable with your body or seeing other people’s flesh. Keep in mind that various parts of your skin will serve as points of contact for the pole, which is why polerinas tend to wear skimpy clothing. There are also lots of moves involving flashes of crotch (like the vagina monster, for example). I felt awkward at first but the feeling faded after about a month of classes and after about six months of classes, I too felt completely ok with frolicking in a sports bra and boy shorts (initially I’d just wear cut off t-shirts and soccer shorts). If you are squeamish and can’t get over yourself or the ample bodies on display around you then pole dancing may not be for you.

The Warm Up

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Using the pole as support for working on my headstands.

Pre-pole warm ups are hard core. They are my least favorite part of the class but a necessary evil. Typically you can expect to do a combination of Pilates and yoga-inspired stretches and core conditioning. We also use the pole as a conditioning apparatus (pull ups, invert drills, aerial crunches etc).

Expectations Vs. Reality

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The most common lament I hear from women is that they’re not strong enough.

Newsflash: Everyone starts with a blank slate. You have to crawl before you can walk. You have to jog before you can sprint. You have to spin before you can climb, and you have to build strength and confidence before you can truly become bad ass. Everything in pole is trial, error and gradual. You may have moments where you think you’re doing one thing but discover that what played out in your mind was not actually what you did and that’s why we practice–to get better, to be healthy and most importantly, to have fun. Be patient, don’t beat yourself up and understand that you are awesome simply for being brave enough to take the class.

Safety First

In my experience pole dancing hasn’t been any more or less dangerous than when I did more traditional dancing and sometimes tumbling (where I have sprained ankles, fingers and wrists several times). It’s important that you warm up properly and request a spotter when you are feeling insecure. Never attempt a trick, even if it’s a spin on the ground, if you don’t feel stable. Always ask for the proper points of contact and make sure you stretch and nourish yourself properly after class.

Prepare to be Amazed

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Your body can do some awesome things. This is something you will learn with experience.

Fin.

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Starrene Rhett Rocque is a former member of Dumbledore's Army who now enjoys gallivanting at pole, yoga and dance studios. She also occasionally fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting b-movie heroine.