By Quincy Malesovas
Although many Melburnians are naturally active and have cycling trails, parks and pathways scattered around the city, others – especially you 9-to-5ers with minimal leisure time – prefer a structured workout every once in a while. Something that is fun and challenging, which builds strength, stamina and confidence, and is led in a supportive environment with just the right amount of help every step of the way.
For all the structure seekers out there, I introduce Pole Fanatics – a hub for pole dancing, plus “pretty much anything that make you fitter, stronger, more flexible and is crazy fun to do!” (as their company website says).
Classes, which are held in a three-room studio in Collingwood, check all of the aforementioned criteria that one would expect from a top-notch fitness program. The sessions are slightly addictive and different than any formal fitness I’ve embraced before it.
I’m talking suspended hoops, silks and of course poles, with nothing but your own strength keeping you on them.
Pole Fanatics is not for the faint of heart, but it’s also not something your Nan would scoff at (despite how it sounds). It’s more acrobatic than it is erotic, and any sex appeal that is present within the classes is promoted in a way that’s uplifting rather than degrading or aimed at the ever-present male gaze.
Courage is formed not just because you must embrace your body and its fight against gravity amidst a room full of strangers, but also because you may be over a metre above ground or hanging upside down by your legs as you do so.
If you have any familiarity with yoga, pilates or dance, you may find this form of fitness relatively easy at first. It requires a great amount of core and upper-body strength that often accompany these forms of movement. But don’t fret if your core strength is lacking– if at first you’re feeling uneasy or too weak, just give it a bit. Aerial fitness is the kind of activity where, when done consistently, you can witness results right in front of your eyes.
All classes begin in the ‘Big Pole Room’, with a group warm-up consisting of stretches, squats and a bit of dancing. Then students go their separate ways, depending on which equipment they are working with for the night.
Levels vary, as there are classes ranging from beginners to advanced. Of these, most are sold in packages of 8 – just enough time to get your technique and routine down pat (and there will be routines a plenty). The teachers at Pole Fanatics embrace the art of performance, even if there is no one to perform for. They will ensure that your toes are pointed, your posture is spot on and your arms are perfectly aligned.
Any exploration into the history of aerial fitness will teach you that it is largely performance-based. In fact, there are several Australian competitions, shops and magazines devoted entirely to the sport. Until the mid-1900s, the activity was not associated with strip clubs at all. Pole dancing was something performed at travelling circus events or carnivals. The style of performance was adopted from techniques used in Europe and Asia.
Now, the ethos of aerial fitness falls somewhere in between its old and new school influences, with the option to exude technical ability but also play a bit of dress-up (whether you draw inspiration from burlesque bars or truck stops).
Even if you aren’t quite ready to walk a stage in stilettos yet, the gals (and guys) in the industry serve as the inspiration. The proof is in the protein pudding that aerial fitness changes bodies and lives. Some proponents argue that pole fitness gave them the body confidence they had sought after for years. Others claim life on the pole or the hoop has corrected their posture or even served as a constructive alternative to unhealthy habits.
In the brief month that I have been practising so far, I have already noticed improvements in my physical and mental strength (not to mention the warmth I feel each week from the tight knit community and the ass-kicking ab warm-ups).
Each class is a whole new experience and opportunity for growth. No matter your age, size, ability or interests, Pole Fanatics has surely got something for you.
You can sample the studio with a free one-class pass from localfitness.com.au. If you’re ready to commit, visit their website or their studio in person for more information about packages and deals.
1/25 Easey St
0422 304 483
Quincy is a self-identified writer/explorer with a penchant for all things culture – sub, pop, alt, you name it. You can read her musings at shugurcan.net.