This is potentially painful, certainly hysterically funny and obviously embarrassing. She squeals and a tall blonde, lithe, lady in pink micro shorts leaps up and smacks her hard on the rump so precipitating the rest of the ripple and reversing the potential inertia.
Now why am I applying Newtonian physics (inappropriately – apologies to the physicists out there) to pole-dancing is a good question. Why I am standing in shorts and bare feet in a pole-dancing workshop on a Sunday afternoon at all is potentially a good question too.
Pole dancing is associated with sex. It comes pumped up and platinum-blonded from the sleaze pits of strip clubs. It involves gyrating around a sweaty, central pole in such a manner as to offer up various bits of body at different angles to whomever. It is not cute. It is lewd, crude and not in any way bashful. It is, when push comes to shove, a blatant parody of the notion of romantic love.
However, recently it has been hijacked by the endless pursuers of the body perfect as a dynamic method of body shaping. It combines simple dance moves with gymnastics requiring strength and agility. Thus we can neutralise its nasty odour of dank bars and prostitution by claiming it as ‘sport’.
As an educated, well brought up, culturally sensitive and gender aware woman, going to a pole dancing class for ‘fitness ‘ is rather like a vegan working in a abattoir for the overtime. There is conflict in my heart as well there should be but I did see ‘Flashdance’ when I was an impressionable teenager so there is no escape.
The room is chilly and bright and two poles have been stuck into the two make shift podiums There are nine women grouped in the darkest corner all looking sheepish and uncomfortable so the scene, what with the rough scaffolding, rather resembles a public hanging. The two instructors clap hands and start chivvying us out of our middle class angst. Daisy the one in pink shorts is very posh. She is a dance teacher who works as a pole-dancer at the weekends. ‘Its really rather jolly fun’ apparently. Tina is blonde, in charge and, surprising all of us, rather plumb. It is with immense relief that we watch her initiating the moves. She is entirely relaxed and graceful even with her white belly foaming over her trouser tops. We all loosen up a bit in out raggedy shorts and t-shirts.
We begin with a group stretch that morphs into the infamous ‘body ripple’, the base of any pole dancers craft. None of us can do it and walk at the same time. The woman next to me gets the giggles and falls over. Then there is the ‘walking and touching yourself’ exercise that would make me howl with laughter only I catch myself in the mirror and am struck dumb with mortification.
A mousy woman next to me tells me that she took belly-dancing classes. In order to give the dancers the right facial expression of seductive, winkyness, her teacher told them to imagine someone they really fancied in the audience.
Good god! I thought. If I saw someone I really liked watching me in a pole-dancing club I would be tragically relieved of my liking for them. I would throw my bra shrieking ‘what the hell are you doing in a strip club?!’’
But then we get to play on the poles.
I can only compare it to getting into a playground and finding the climbing frame free. (both as a child and occasionally as a drunken adult). We learn to do the ‘Fire girl’, step, step, whip around and around wheee… and the ‘Catherine Wheel’ step, step and whip around but this time leg follows at 90% (don’t worry if you can’t picture it..believe me its better that way.) There is the ‘under arm slip’, the ‘double knee lift with bum slap’ and the ‘back bend’; and all the time that ‘body ripple’ proving we are all very silly after all. We put them all together and I am having so much fun that when time is called by Daisy I am devastated.
The teachers spend a couple of minutes showing us a few advanced moves that involve being upside down and ..well..lets say you should pay for it if you want to see it.. the woman has trained hard enough, called ’the Black Widow and ‘the Eagle’. I ask if there is a move called ‘the Beaver’ but quietly as I am impressed by their agility and don’t want to ruin the moment with post feminist irony.
I have bruises everywhere and a strange feeling of adrenalin tinged with wickedness as I leave. It is not an unpleasant sensation. Someone has written a letter to the gym saying that the pole dancing has lowered the tone. I do a quick under arm slip and double knee lift with bum slap and leg it for the door.