As responsible moms and wives, my group of friends had mixed feelings when we decided to try a new type of movement class. Pole dancing has a distinctly slutty reputation.
“I admit, I’m both curious and nervous,” confessed Lynn.
Our husbands, however, loved the idea and were surprisingly helpful in clearing our calendars, offering to run carpools, supervise sleepovers and bake cupcakes.
Driving downtown clad in yoga pants, t-shirts and sports bras, we didn’t feel especially sexy.
“I’m less concerned with how I’ll look trying this out for my husband than I am with looking like an ass in front of you all, ” said Stephanie.
At the S Factor on Hubbard Street, our shapely instructor, Julie, greeted us. She wore a gauzy top over tiny shorts. She led us into a dim studio, lit by red-shaded lamps and spotlights. Mats were scattered around seven gleaming poles. There were no mirrors.
“This class isn’t about doing a move correctly or looking like everyone else,” explained Julie. “This room is a safe place to let go and feel good in your body.”
We started with a set of undulating stretches then progressed to core exercises that were damn tough. Apparently, working on the pole takes both flexibility and strength.
As we moved, Julie urged us to “feel your curves.” We gamely played with our hair or smoothed a knee. Then, during an inner thigh stretch, Julie insisted we “own the cookie jar!” I think we all complied. I felt very womanly.
As we continued on to advanced moves like the sultry “S Walk” and the attention-grabbing “Cat Pounce,” it became clear the S Factor class was special. Here, instead of treating flesh as a problem that needed fixing, women celebrated their bodies. It was freeing and fun; we laughed a lot.
Julie taught us our first pole trick, “The Firefly,” a dizzying spin that ends in a seductive pose. We could all do it! To finish, Julie did a demo dance to show what we could learn in future S Factor classes. She cranked up the music, and wow! She flew from pole to pole, she preened, she circled, she climbed, she slid, she flipped. It was dazzling, powerful, and beautiful – and not one bit sleazy.
Later, we discussed the experience over drinks. There had been some surprises. For one thing, the class wasn’t really about pleasing men.
“It’s something to do for yourself,” said Lisa, “Not to show off.”
Kimberly nodded, “I liked how it was dark and there were no mirrors. It was more self directed.”
Cathleen agreed. “It’s all about having the comfort and confidence to try new things.”
We felt a bit different as we headed back to our cars. The city street looked different too—it was lined with poles. Alison took hold of a stop sign, executed a perfect Firefly, tossed her hair, and stalked across the street.