Anyone can try out this hot new workout regime
There are two reasons why I decided to try pole-dancing lessons. One: I was bored with my monotonous weight lifting routine and wanted to try something new. Two: I wanted to become more of a lady. As a dance-gymnastics-acrobatics hybrid, pole dance is characterised not only by the femininity it evokes, but also by the seemingly superhuman amount of strength it requires. This is largely why pole dancing has exploded in popularity amongst Montrealers: it’s one heck of a workout.
As both an isometric and cardiovascular exercise, there are endless benefits to pole dancing. You can develop core strength; increase your flexibility, sense of balance and coordination skills; and burn more calories than an aerobics class.
Located in Old Montreal on St Jacques Street, Milan Pole Dance Studio is entered through an unassuming doorway that radiates exclusivity. Inside, the ambience is light and upbeat. The almost entirely white studio is coloured by crisp “mood” lighting—pinks, blues, purples. But of course, it is the tall, golden poles that define the space.
There are 16 poles on site, spinning ones to be exact. I learnt that there are actually two types of poles: the other is stationary. You may have watched a few Hollywood movies and wondered, how do women spin around the poles so swiftly and quickly? Well, in all likelihood, they’re working with a spinning pole, which means that it is on a rotating wheel beneath the floorboards. Having said that, the spinning pole is not necessarily better than static. The difference is that they allow dancers to do different tricks.
With zero experience in dance, I was afraid that I wouldn’t fit in. To my surprise, I discovered that everyone had come to pole dancing with different backgrounds and in varying shapes, sizes and ages. For some it was their third class, for others it was their third year.
Whether it’s fitness or dance that you’re interested in, Milan Pole Dance Studio caters to all. You can choose a class that is focused on the contemporary dance aspect, there’s a “gym” class, a conditioning pilates-esque class, a Flexy class (like yoga but with a pole) and, of course, the traditional exotic dance class. I personally chose the fitness oriented ones to replace my previous weight lifting regime. In a sense, there’s still a bar. It’s just vertical instead of horizontal, and my body became my “weights.” Working with your own body weight makes for a very different (and fun) challenge.
Even the three young strapping men in the class (who clearly worked out) weren’t capable of the same moves that some of the other women were doing. Nevertheless, the group cheered them on as they persevered. The supportive and encouraging atmosphere at Milan Studio is clearly a motivation for its students to continue going to classes.
For Isabelle Le, it wasn’t just the paradoxical mix of team spirit and independence (it’s just you and the pole) that magnetised her to pole dance, it was the challenge it offered as a sport.
“What I love about pole dancing is the pride and satisfaction you experience from noticing your own progress,” says Le.
When she received a Christmas voucher for pole dancing five years ago, she had gone to the classes thinking that it would be a laugh. Once an avid tennis player and cyclist with absolutely no dance background, Isabelle is now a teacher at Milan Studio. She was hooked after the first class.
So was I. After my first class I left the studio with a one-month membership. Determined to develop my skills, I went almost every day for the rest of the week. I watched as some girls gripped onto the pole almost solely with the fold in their elbow as they did the splits mid-air. Obviously moves like that take months of practice, but by the end of my second class I had at least learnt how to suspend myself upside down. I was proud of my accomplishment, and this became part of my motivation to continue going.
Milan Pole Dance Studio is located at 50 St Jacques St.
More studios that offer pole dancing in the city are Alternative Fitness at 925 Ste Catherine E., and Pole Fitness Montreal at 178 Jean Talon E.