Flirty Fitness (Manhattan Times)
December 30, 2009Imagine it’s a dark and wintry night. You push open a festively painted door that says “Candela Studio.” You enter a brightly lit room punctuated with six shiny floor-to-ceiling stainless steel poles. You claim your pole, chatting with the other women, who are all wearing tight shorts on their fabulously toned bodies. The overhead lights go out, leaving only an arabesque of red lights running along the lower edge of the mirrored wall. The music begins, your eyes adjust to the sultry light, and you ease in to the most graceful yet difficult set of warm up moves you’ve ever experienced. Let’s just say the hips are involved. Let’s just say that if a snake had arms she would do the kind of push ups you find yourself doing. And let’s just say that what follows afterward is simultaneously challenging, fun, and a little comical.
That was my experience at my first Pole Dancing class, which attracted me because it promised to be a girly, flirty alternative to my usual somewhat grunty workouts. As I swung my body around the pole, I tried to be loose and relaxed while not losing my grip and allowing myself to be flung into space by centrifugal force. So far, so good. Then the other gals proceeded to take off like airplanes, jumping, hopping and spinning around their poles with both legs off the ground, climbing up the pole monkey style, sliding down gracefully right side up and upside down, doing splits and other impossible pointy-toe things, and holding their bodies perpendicular to the pole using just their abs!
With Cirque du Soleil swirling around me, I gamely tried to pull myself up the pole using what I’ve always thought of as my amazing upper body strength. Fail. Back to plan A: swinging around and around the pole, in a sweeping motion that’s elementary but all about letting go. A kind of delirium set in. I remembered spinning as a kid, getting dizzy on purpose. Wheeeee! “Don’t be discouraged,” the instructor reassured me. “It just takes practice.”
Perhaps the Inner Diva Strip Tease class, which stays pretty much on the ground, would be a better fit. I returned the next week, this time with two buddies. Again, the red light. Again, the bare legs. Again, a surprisingly strenuous workout but with a new twist. We were actually encouraged to touch our own bodies, stroking our thighs, playing with our hair, caressing our hips as our glutes contracted in places they never contracted in public before, making round, female shapes circling in the air and we crawled and slithered across the floor. Everything was done slowly, slowly, as we played with our “costumes” –button-down shirts over tank tops--increasing the sensuality and the difficulty. Despite the low-key, low-light atmosphere, I felt a little self-conscious at first, my gracefulness needle hovering somewhere between Frankenstein and R2D2. But when Janis Joplin’s bluesy “Summertime” filled the air, my bones turned to hot melted butter, surprising everyone, including me! Wheeee, again.
Without a doubt, both these dance forms have more in common than their sensual nature. Both work muscles you may not have used for a while--or ever--in quite this way. They are expressive, artistic, creative and unique forms of dancing that tighten and tone you while increasing flexibility and endurance. But you’re so absorbed in the movement and challenge that it doesn’t feel like “work.” As one of the pole dancers said to me, “We have lots of bruises, but you forget about the pain when you’re doing it because it’s such a thrill, it's so much fun.” It lets you get fit and feel sexy and flirty at the same time.
Joesiann Cortez and her husband Jose Cortez are the co-owners of Candela Studio, which opened last spring. She says, “Those who have attended our classes share a general theme of "sister-hood" or "familia." You don't just feel like you're going to a dance studio, you feel like you're going to have fun with your friends. The women feel especially comfortable. Classes are combined with dancing and sharing. It's a place to let loose and ultimately feel great about yourself.”
Candela Studio, 560 West 180th St., #304. Visit www.CandelaStudioNYC.com, call (646) 678-5617, or email info@CandelaStudioNYC.com for class schedule or info about their January Pole Dancing/Strip Tease Workshop (4 Pole Dancing classes, 4 Strip Tease Classes, 4 practice classes and a Ladies Night for participants to perform for their female friends and family.)