Christina Leronymidou of FitnessMagpie was keen to check out our Pole classes at Gymbox. But how did she get on?
My friends gave me the nickname Fitness Magpie, because, like a magpie that collects sparkly shiny things to adorn her nest, I always race to try out the latest shiny new class in the London fitness scene. However, there are some classes I’m apprehensive about: dance-based classes. You see, when I was little, my parents enrolled me in after-school ballet classes, probably in the hope that ballet would polish this adventurous tomboy with the grazed knees and dishevelled hair into a graceful little lady with a bun and clean fingernails. I got kicked out of about five ballet schools before they got the message! I am not naturally graceful, I have no rhythm and dance classes terrify me.
So how did I find myself in a School of Dance class at Gymbox, you ask? Well, pole-dance is a very interesting type of dance. Not least because it is so multi-faceted! There’s the sexy style, practiced in platform heels and in mood lighting (probably the first that comes to mind), there’s the artistic style, practiced barefoot and reminiscent of vertical ballet or modern dance, and then there’s the more sporty fitness style. Did you know there are international pole competitions and championships?! In fact, the International Pole Dancing Fitness Association has been calling for it to become an Olympic sport! It’s easy to understand why, when you watch the amazing strength and skills that pole practitioners display and the death-defying tricks they perform during their routines! I just had to give it a try!
I walked in to the studio to find our instructor, Kirsty Wone (pictured below), setting up the poles. The first thing I noticed is that the poles don’t necessarily spin. Apparently, static poles are better for learning on, as they help you develop the functional strength needed for the moves. Spinning poles on the other hand need a different type of strength and more control, so they’re trickier to master. We used static poles for our class. The class began with a warm up to music. At this point I started getting a little nervous, as it got a bit dance-y, with hip-circles, wrist-circles and attempts at the splits. But of course this was entirely necessary, as those were the muscles and joints we were going to be using during the class, so I needn’t have worried.
Once we were all warmed up, Kirsty separated the class into beginners and more advanced and she split her time between the two groups. Our beginner crew shared our own pole and were given lots of attention, especially early on in the class. Kirsty expertly demonstrated various moves and observed each person in turn, giving feedback and correcting form. From the very first move, it became obvious that core strength is key, as you need a lot of control to make and maintain the shapes with your body in motion. Grip was a close second for me. It’s surprising how much your hands and wrists come into play. Another thing I didn’t fully appreciate before doing the class was the role of skin contact. It is essential! I would say most of the moves hinge on maintaining friction between skin and pole. Hence the requirement for short-shorts (and crop-tops as you get more advanced!) and – this is very important – no creams, lotions or potions of any kind, otherwise you will be slipping and sliding off the pole no matter how strong you are! Oh, and be prepared for a bit of bruising. It’s worth it though.
Kirsty showed us how to do a lot of fun spinning moves, with names like ‘the fireman’, ‘backwards showgirl’ and ‘spinner’, plus a few linking moves, and then allowed us time to practice and play on the pole while she directed her attention to the more advanced students. Having a play using all the tricks we were shown was the best part of the class for me! It was great fun to put together what I’d learned and to string movements together to create something new. Goodness, it almost sounds like I might have been dancing!
As our beginner crew took turns to practice, those of us resting would watch open-mouthed the advanced side of room do their thing. There was much climbing, inversions and apparent levitation! Impressive flexibility too!Despite my initial trepidation, Pole Tricks was very fun class to do! In many ways, pole was surprising and it made me appreciate different aspects of strength and control. It’s much harder than it looks. I’d encourage everyone to give it a go – boys too!
More about our Pole classes right here.