Reporter Tries Pole Dancing

Illustration by Sahana Maheswaran

What is one thing you have always wanted to try, but have never pushed yourself to finally get up and do? The itch needed to be scratched, but you weren’t entirely sure how to conquer it and so have been left with unkempt bug bites of yearning. A bit dramatic, but think about it — so often we are held back only by ourselves from trying new things and experiencing life in new ways.

In this column series, we hope to uncover some of the activities Rochester has to offer in a way that’s accessible for everyone. I say the best way to know if you like something is to jump in and try it; the second best way is to send someone else to try it for you and report back.

Well, that’s exactly what I did and I’m here to tell you all about it!

Pole Dancing?

Interestingly enough, modern pole dancing had its origins in many different places around the world. Some speculate it originated as a tribal fertility dance in Africa; however, in the 12th century it started popping up in different forms in China, Europe and India. Chinese pole, the Maypole Fertility Dance and Mallakhamb are the forms respectively — and holy moly are they impressive. It is so interesting to see how modern pole has been formed and shaped by these other art forms to create what we know today.

I don’t want to lie to you, I have been infatuated with pole dancing for a while now. Sure, I have touched a pole or two, remarked on the incredible strength that would be needed to do absolutely anything on it and then walked away. Could you imagine being able to do a triple double kick flip 360 spin cycle backbend on one of those like the pros? Well, it's time to stop wishing and start doing.

On Friday, Oct. 10, 2020, I emailed Tangent Pole & Aerial in Rochester in the hopes of making these dreams come true. I received a response right away and we set up a time for the next day for me to drop in to one of their Beginner Aerial and Pole classes. Only requirement: shorts.

Located in the center of Rochester, it was less than a 20-minute drive and before I knew it, I was parked outside. I was a little nervous but more excited. After signing in, we began class. The group was small, only three of us, which I enjoyed because it felt a lot more comfortable and adjustable to skill level.

The movements were difficult at times, but I think that was more reliant on the fact that they were such new movements. After a week or two, the movements should be like second nature. Plus, the good thing about taking the beginner pole and aerial class instead of just the pole class is that in a lot of the movements you get extra support from the silks, which are silk ribbon-type things that hang from the ceiling or top of the pole.

I was able to do a lot of things I didn’t think I would be able to and the instructor was helpful and nice. I was definitely sore the day after, which is one of my favorite feelings (makes me feel like I accomplished something). I would definitely consider going regularly.

About the Studio

The studio I tried out was Tangent Pole & Aerial in Rochester, about 20 minutes away from RIT. The owner, Rachele Maier, told me a bit about the studio and its origins. The studio itself has been open for over 10 years, while Maier has been pole dancing for well over 20 years.

“I had a woman approach me, she was going to open up a studio, she wanted someone to teach ... and I thought instead of working for someone else, might as well open my own,” Maier said.

Things are a bit different now however, due to COVID-19. The studio was shut down from March 2020 through July 2020 due to the nationwide and statewide shutdowns. Extra precautions are being taken at the studio since reopening to ensure that members, parties and drop-ins are safe during their time there. 

Even before COVID-19, poles and matts were wiped down at the beginning and end of every class. Now, extra cleanings of the whole studio are done regularly, pens at the front desk for waivers are sanitized between uses, everyone in each class is properly socially distanced — oh, and masks are required to enter the studio.

“What makes it a little different is that you have to make sure there always has to be one person per pole, masks and increased cleaning. Washing floors, cleaning countertops, sanitizing pens, yeah it's a little different,” Maier said.

Tangent Pole & Aerial has multiple class options for any level. All of these and more can be found on their website. You can also try a drop-in class and see if you like it before committing to multiple classes. While I took a hybrid of pole and aerial, they have options for just pole, pole and chair and solely aerial silks.

If Tangent is too far however, there are a few other options for pole dancing classes. Aerial Arts of Rochester and Roc Pole & Fitness are two other options that also offer beginner through intermediate levels of pole. Every studio is different though in the way they instruct and conduct classes, so see which one you work with best.

In Conclusion

Many people associate pole with this stigma that makes it difficult to take the initiative of trying out a class. If there is anything I learned, pole dancing is an art, it is difficult, but also incredibly fun.

“It is an incredible workout, it works every muscle in your body. I think people think we’re just sexy dancing around a pole ... there is still a stigma in Rochester around pole dancing,” Maier said.

If you have been yearning to give this activity a try, but have been too nervous to take the jump, or have been looking for a new hobby, I urge you to give this a try. Even if you end up disliking it, you’ll have a great workout nonetheless.