Taking a leap -- from a chair, onto a pole

Brazilia, practicing her moves.

By Danielle Sanzone

There are not many physical activities that require high heels. Pole dancing happens to be one of them. And it's offered bi-weekly at Lorraine Michaels Dance Centre in Albany.

Recently I gave it a try, as part of an exotic dance "sampler" workshop -- a tantalizing buffet that included chair, pole and exotic dance.

So, what was it like?

It was an intimate 1.5 hour class taught by Brazilia. She's been dancing for over 15 years and teaches all sorts of classes from zumba to salsa. She's relatively new to pole dancing -- she's only been teaching it for about a year. And, no, Brazillia isn't her real name. She uses it for the pole dancing classes since she has kids and she's sensitive to the taboos surrounding pole dancing.

As the class started, the lights in the mirrored studio were dimmed to set the mood and we slowly started to stretch with some curve-accentuating moves. We then became acquainted with the chair. Very acquainted. I wouldn't doubt that the metal, fold-ups felt a little violated by the end.

And then it was time to mount the pole. This is a lot harder than movies, TV shows, and strippers make it out to be. Upper body strength is more important than you realize and the coordination between strong upper body moves and lower body coordination is challenging . For one of the moves we climbed on the chair (in heels) and jumped down from the chair into a split. Don't let that scare you -- the instructors won't make you do anything you don't feel ready for.

Getting the hang of it

Early on you're just learning how to hold the pole and put your legs in a position where you can use them to hang on. Later you'll work on grabbing on and lifting yourself higher or doing floor work. Don't expect to learn a lot of hard moves on Day 1 -- I don't think the dance studio's insurance will cover that. But you'll pick up a lot of basics that could be used even without a pole.

There's no right or wrong way to handle the pole. Brazilia says it's really about making yourself feel good and finding moves that you like and that conform to your body. For beginners, they teach how to be comfortable with the pole. You mostly learn how to grasp the pole and get the momentum to go around it.

Pole dancing is much more complex than I would have thought. There's the physical part -- just doing the moves, but it's also mental because you're doing this kind of taboo sport. And then there's the sexual nature of it. People aren't always in tune with their own sexual nature and this class helps you get in touch with that. They try to get you past a lot of the "uncomfortable" stuff by making it more about the athletics and just having fun.

I'm not exactly a novice at this. I've taken a few pole classes, and they've help me lose weight, gain muscle, increase self-esteem and love my own curvy body. The classes have fun dance music, too. (Around the time Michael Jackson passed away I took a class where we pole danced to an entire MJ album.)

I've also found a new appreciation for any professional strippers who wear 4-inch heels for hours while shaking their moneymaker. And yes -- you do need to wear heels. But they don't have to be crazy light-up, 4-inch stripper heels -- a one inch heel will do you fine. They actually make it easier to pivot on your toes than sneakers -- and a lot of the moves involve pivoting on your toes. I'm much more of a flip-flop person, but I can handle the heels for a one hour class. And they make it sexier and more fun.

Who does this?

The pole classes started more than five years ago at the center, much to the opposition of the studio's owner/founder Lorraine McTague. She thought the classes would be "too sleazy," but she soon changed her tune -- to something a little more exotic -- when she noticed the women doing the classes came out with a new body image, a good work out, and new friends.

So who takes a pole dancing class? In the classes I've taken there were all sorts of women, including college students, moms and career women. Even a few men have been allowed into the classes, but only for the couples chair dance workshops.

Over the years, the class has become very popular. When I started, there were only two poles at the site and the classes were offered once a week. Today they have an extra pole, and hold classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Classes are $50 for a 4-week session. Then the workshops are offered about once a month and they are $25 in advance or $30 the day of the event.

If you're nervous, I'd suggest going with a friend. Having someone there that you know gives you just a bit more confidence until you learn that there really is nothing to fear about the pole at all. And, if you can't find anyone to go, you can rest assured there will be many friendly, like-minded people in for the same adventurous and dizzying ride.

Yep, this post originally included video. We took it down because the person in it wasn't comfortable with it.

Find It

Lorraine Michaels Dance Centre
69 Fuller Road
Albany, NY 12205


I think it's awesome that you wrote about this, Danielle! I've taken classes in a different "taboo" type of dance for most of the last decade, and it's had a big, positive impact in my life.

I know there are those who think I'm a tramp for the type of dancing I do (not just classes--I also perform locally occasionally), which is sad. Those people will never know the great friendships, pure joy and bold confidence that you can build by taking dance classes.

Lorraine Michaels is a good place. I have taken many dance classes there, though I have not taken pole dancing. I believe you get a 50% discount if you pay for a class during the Saturday night dance parties.

I took the pole class at the studio a couple times and loved it! For the first class i attended i took a f riend with me then for the second my sister, they didnt like it as much as i did. Everyone was so nice and it was a great workout! Whats the worst that can happen after you try it? Yes you're a little sore but you feel sexy as ever! Throw on your heels and go for it! Trust me you wont be sorry!

OMG,I'm so excited to have found this,I moved to Albany last June,and didn't know if I was staying or not,well,I lived in a hotel til aprill of this year,before I came from 2009 July til March of 2010,I lost 70lbs and got my sexy back,now I have regained the weight and possibly more,so I'd like to do pole classes to start my weight loss and get my sexy back,I'll be making that call soon to start.


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