In some ways Tantra Fitness is just another gym—fit-looking bodies milling about, some of whom are practicing impressive feats of strength.
In other ways—namely the women prancing around in itty bitty underwear and high heels, and the numerous ground-to-ceiling poles—it’s a foreign-looking gym to me.
A glimpse of the ladies at Tantra...
But after spending half-an-hour observing the athletes, and eventually becoming immune to the thongs and poles, it becomes clear the similarities between Tantra Fitness and the gyms I know—including the ripped hands and bruises in weird places—are greater than their differences.
Instead of chalk, pole dancers use a product called The Ultimate Gripping Solution. Hmmmm, maybe this would work for pull-ups, too!
A few things you didn't know about pole dancing...
IT'S NOT A HOUSE FOR STRIPPERS
Contrary to popular opinion, pole dancing didn’t begin as a naked, or even erotic, activity.
It began in the 1920s; traveling circuses and sideshows used pole dancing as a way to entertain. Their poles were in the middle of their tents—their primary function was to hold the tent up. Later in the century, pole dancing moved to bars, and eventually strip clubs, where it started to combine itself with burlesque dancing.
By the late 1960s and 1970s, pole dancing was becoming a prominent feature in strip clubs.
THERE ARE AVERAGE JOE POLE DANCERS
Kitty Suen is your Average Joe pole dancer. Three years ago, she hired a pole dancing instructor for her bachelorette party and found herself more intrigued than she thought she would be. So she joined Tantra Fitness in Vancouver and started pole dancing as both a recreational activity and a new form of fitness.
Suen said there are a couple strippers she has met at the club, but for the most part the facility is full of fitness and dance enthusiasts—of people who use pole dancing as a fun way to express an artistic side and to work on being sexy and graceful, and also as a serious form of fitness.
Suen at Tantra
POLE DANCING AS FITNESS
Suen said pole dancing is most taxing on the arms—lots of pulling strength required—and the core. However, cardiovascular endurance and stamina also come into play, especially when you do your 3-minute choreographed routines, which are usually a mixture of pole work and floor work.
“It looks easy but there’s a lot of upper body and core strength involved,” Suen reiterated.
She aded that she felt her strength and endurance improve when she started three years ago. And with these welcomed fitness gains, she also had to get used to ripped hands an bruises between her legs and her boobs and arms.
“You sometimes look like you were abused,” she laughed.
Tantra fitness offers one-on-one coaching, group classes—beginner, intermediate and advanced—as well as open pole times when athletes come in to work on their strength and skills, and practice their routines.
A regular pole session for many pole dancers looks like this:
•Warm-up (often including some running and stretching)
•Strength work (involving things like climbing up and down the pole, as well as various types of pole pull-ups)
•Skill work (involving spin moves and pole tricks)
•Choreographed routine practice (routines are performed to music)
POLE DANCING AS A SPORT
There are pole dancing competitions–both individual and team competitions. There’s even an International Pole Championships.
Here's a routine from the 2015 event:
Competing in pole dancing involves performing an intricate three-minute-and-thirty-second choreographed routine. Like gymnastics, diving and figure skating, pole skills all have different names and associated difficulty ratings, and athletes are judged on both execution and difficulty. Dancers are not allowed to perform nude, nor are they allowed to wear erotic lingerie.
The first skill Suen learned was the “tilt-a whirl”—a simple and elegant spin around the pole. Apparently this will be the first skill I learn when I begin my own pole classes next week! (Stay tuned to see if a clumsy girl can learn to be graceful).