Pole position 

New exercise craze finds ways around sordid roots

I am crawling around on studio hardwood, back arched, derriere swaying, a manufactured come-hither look in my eye. Stopping in front of the mirror, I drop to one hip and pose like a 1950s pin-up babe before flipping into a side split, running my hand up and down my thigh, which is clad unbefitting the sensual caress in utilitarian martial arts-style workout pants.

Attire notwithstanding, I proceed with a languid roll back to my hands and knees again. A quick pop up with a toss of my head and I’m back on my feet. Enough of this floor work. It’s time to hit the pole.

I strut toward the brass installation, one eye on the lithe, raven-haired beauty in short leggings, who beckons me to follow her lead. Gripping the pole precisely she sails around it, rock hard abdominals tensing. She flows out of the hypnotic spin, stepping back with a flirty twirl and a coquettish toss of her head full of bouncy dark curls.

It’s my turn. I approach. I falter, rearranging my grip several times so not to succumb to the dreaded "pole burn" before awkwardly pitching myself around the brass staff, the strain of holding myself up unfashionably apparent in my expression and in the tendons that pop out of my neck. I touch down heavily and attempt a paltry dismount.

"You’ve almost got it," says pole dance instructor Shannon Forbes, smiling, leaving me to try, try again as she saunters off to help my adjacent classmates with their various pole-related hang-ups, hang upside-downs and helicopter spin attempts. And I do try again, until my hands tingle and my forearms pulse with overuse and hamper my best intentions. In the days that follow I will barely be able to pick up the cat with my aching muscles.

But then again, no one said pole dancing was going to be easy.

• • •

That difficulty, the acknowledgement of the superior strength and agility required to pull off even the simplest pole moves, and the tight, admirable bodies of the women that do it best, has ushered pole dancing from the dark stage of the strip club into the broad daylight of mainstream women’s fitness. Once the domain of the scantily clad bump-and-grind corps, pole dancing-based workout classes, garnished with striptease stretches and sensual movement dance, are now slotted into the schedule at the local rec centre between racquetball and pre-natal yoga.

As of this past summer two different pole dancing fitness programs have set up shop in Whistler. The aforementioned Shannon Forbes runs her Poleworks classes out of Meadow Park Sports Centre and a franchise of the popular Aradia Fitness system, created by Vancouver duo Christine Boyer and Tracy Gray, is offering pole-dance/sensual movement workout sessions out of Soul Funktion Dance Studio in Function Junction, as well as in Squamish.

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