By Cassie Gaudes
I walked through a gym full of balloon-looking people to get to my destination in the back, Buttercup Pole Dancing. I had signed up earlier in the week for a private lesson and I was a little scared. Haley Kueltzo, a girl from my broadcast class who came along to take photos, was talking about how excited she was to see how this was going to go.
In recent years, pole dancing has become more of a sport with organizations like International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) holding competitions across the world. Buttercup is owned by Sarah Jade, the 2016 Miss Pole Dance America. Pole dancing has become known as a good workout but there is still a slight stigma around it.
I’ve been to twerking classes before, but never pole dancing. Twerking was tricky for me and I was expecting pole dancing to be as well. I am not a confident person and have always secretly admired pole dancers’ confidence. Pole dancers have to be comfortable with dancing, showing off their body and having to stay in shape. I am not comfortable dancing, showing off my body and while people tell me I am skinny, I have no muscle mass.
The studio was dark with a few colored lights. Knowing this was a one-on-one lesson made me more comfortable, but I was still covered up in my tank top and tight shorts. My teacher, Kelly Noblit, was wearing a snakeskin patterned bikini. She asked me if I wanted to wear the heels I brought but I wanted to start a little easier by going barefoot.
Kelly first taught me to walk around the pole. That was easy since it was stepping and dragging my feet. Next, she showed me how to glide around the pole. There was more technique than I thought. I had to step with the correct foot first and I could not stick a landing. I still could not by the end. The whole time I kept thinking about how stupid I must have looked.
After I could glide better, I learned how to spin. The thought of holding onto the pole with my feet off the floor did not sit well with me, but I was not going to back down. I got on the pole on my first try. My form was terrible, yet I had successfully spun around.
Kelly had me put all the moves together now. Remembering which foot to put forward was tricky; it required a lot more thought and concentration than I had previously anticipated.
Pole dancing isn’t just spinning around, looking sexy. It’s actual dancing, just around a pole. You have to remember choreography, timing, form, and everything else a dancer has to remember.
In pole competitions, dancers are graded in five areas: performance, flexibility and extension, difficulty of tricks; smooth and unique transitions, and technique. A New York Times article entitled, “Pole Dancing Without Nudity or G-Strings. Just Express Yourself” that I read while doing research referenced the strength it takes to pole dance and that one dancer quoted spoke about losing nerve endings.
My final dance was my best. At the end, Kelly yelled “Yas girl!” I remembered which foot came first; I gripped the pole with my thighs, and I spun around and landed facing forward. The only time I have ever been more nauseous was after a nine-hour bus ride through the mountains in Laos. I had to sit on the floor for a minute to make sure I wasn’t going to throw-up.
When I got home, I was still nauseous. As I was sitting on my bed waiting for my stomach to settle, I noticed bruises appearing on my knees and legs. I had read on Buttercup’s website about knee pads, but I thought “It’s dancing on a pole. Nothing is going to happen to my knees.” The next morning I could not move my arms past straight out. I still couldn’t by the end of the day.
During and after the class, Kelly told me about her experience in pole dancing. She’s been dancing for 10 years and teaching for four or five. She loves it and talked a lot about the community of pole dancing.
“My favorite part is actually the friendships and the community because you come in and you think you’re going to just workout, next thing you know, you have your best friends,” said Noblit. “You’re spending all your time with these people because you’re obsessed with pole dancing; you’re obsessed with being around them and it’s like you’re in a whole other world.”
The next day, I asked Haley to describe what she saw at the class. “I’d say in the beginning it was a little awkward but once you figured out the moves, you looked so much more confident. You were super open to whatever she said.”
Kelly talked about confidence during my class. “Once you realize what you can do then it just pours over into other aspects of your world,” said Noblit. “You’re like uh, I can do that.”
I learned that pole dancing was all about confidence and that there is a depth to it that some people may not think about. The experience was definitely out of my comfort zone but I walked away feeling more comfortable in my own skin.
Cassie Gaudes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org