Body and Pole
Forget images of scantily clad strippers and seedy clubs—pole dancing is hard work
by Anu Yagi
Though “stripper” is to “pole” as “Mc” is to “Nugget,” Furgiuele says she’s not—nor has she ever been—an exotic dancer. Instead, as her résumé indicates, she’s a hardcore adventurer who was drawn to the pole’s athletic challenges five years ago. It fast became her new favorite obsession, and within a year she was teaching other women (and men, too) the tricks of the trade.
“Pole dancing is about self awareness, self expression and pure confidence,” says Furgiuele. “The only people we aim to please are ourselves.”
But, while learning the ins and outs of pole dancing, can—or should—its fitness element be segregated from its obvious sexual overtones?
Over the last decade, erotic performing arts have emerged from society’s seedy underbelly and morphed into an international fitness craze—the once-taboo is now mainstream. And pole dancing is at the center of this blooming sub-genre.
The U.S. Pole Dancing Federation was founded in 2008, and since 2009 has hosted an annual Pole Dancing Championship. Pole and lap dance classes are cropping up at gyms and dance studios everywhere, accommodating young and old alike. Or, if you want to test the waters with your living room curtains drawn, videos like Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease can be found in K-mart bargain bins (I actually own one of Electra’s DVDs, but dust is etched into its still-sealed cellophane).
In honor of this week’s Love & Sex issue, I decided to try out Furgiuele’s introductory class, called “The Nibbler”—90 minutes of “touch-me-feel-me” basic moves and a “take-home” dance routine. Furgiuele holds these semi-private classes (just a couple girls at a time) at Body in Balance, a Pilates and weight training center in Lahaina that’s decked out like an upscale day spa.
Pole skills are akin to a gig with Cirque Du Soleil or a Parisian cabaret. But supposedly, there’s no prerequisite for pole dancing. Athleticism (of which I am utterly devoid) is always something that can be earned. As for the playful, self-exploratory side of the sport, well, most women are capable of moving their bodies sensually, should the opportunity present itself. Unless, as I learned, you’re an asexual anomaly like moi.
On the verge of collapse from the warm-up alone, I vowed to write apology letters to every boy I’ve been involved with—past, present and future. (“Dear John: I know that must have been a terrible experience for you. Terribly boring, if nothing else. I hope…”) But soon, it was time for pole work—and things, to my surprise, improved.
I was most adept at spritzing the pole with an alcohol solution in between turns, which is both hygienic and improves grip. And, I wasn’t so bad at “finding my whee,” which meant getting comfortable with the pole by lolling off it with one arm.
And to Furgiuele’s credit (and my classmates’ kind support), I somehow made it through the entire class without killing myself or anyone else, and by some miracle managed a spin called “the butterfly” (think of a fireman’s descent, but with toes pointed and knees cocked open). At the end of the move, Furgiuele kept telling me to “booty up”—rising from a squat by drawing my body in an “s” shape, my booty (or lack thereof) leading the charge. While I demonstrated the woes of scoliosis, everyone cheered me on anyway.Just like Furgiuele said it might, the next day, my body felt changed. Everything hurt so good. All day long I moaned and groaned, the vestiges of stomach muscles buried in my marshmallow middle making unhappy retort—but I was glad just to know they were still there. And despite all my complaining, even I found pole dancing fun enough to warrant another spin. ■
Wanna hit the pole? Call 808-661-1116 or visit bodybalancemaui.com for class times and more info.