I can't keep up with modern exercise trends. First, I pretzeled my way through the Downward-facing Dog and the Feathered Peacock pose with at-home yoga videos. Then I hyperventilated and sprained my way through Pilates. Hey, it worked for Daisy Fuentes! So when my editor informed me that this year's exercise craze was pole dancing, I just raised an eyebrow. The thought was intriguing. Who wouldn't want to twist and grind like Natalie Portman in Closer, minus the bad wig? I don't have her fabulous hips or her flat abs or her . . . well, anything. But I was willing to try.
Despite the Hollywood craze, I could find only one place in town currently offering pole dance classes. I grated my sweaty hands together nervously as I walked into Reza Fitness Resort, located in the Core Fitness suite at 7500 East Pinnacle Peak Road in Scottsdale, where I was greeted by fitness instructor Natasha, a slim, short brunette with shiny pink lipstick and a bubbly personality. Crap.
Luckily, few of her clients ever look like that. "It's mostly women between 30 and 50 trying to get their sexuality back and gain more confidence," Natasha explained. Classes are usually small, ranging between five and 15 women of all shapes, sizes and ages. Clothing is kept simple, with most women donning sweats or Lycra exercise gear. Even the younger girls wouldn't come in lingerie, said Natasha. "I do notice, though, that after a few weeks of the program, the outfits get a little sexier and lower cut."
Fitness pole dancing
For more information, contact Reza Fitness Resort (part of Core Fitness), 7500 East Pinnacle Peak Road, Suite A109, in Scottsdale. Call 480-205-5805 or visit >>web link.
The class begins with a traditional gym warm-up consisting of lunges and stretching to relax the muscles. I was guided to the next step: a series of floor exercises on a yoga map. "Here comes the damn downward dog," my inner monologue rambled. But the floor exercises were actually geared toward opening up a sexual dialogue between the body and the mind. Natasha had me lie flat on my back with my legs up in the air, rubbing them gently together as my hips sensually rocked back and forth, a move she dubbed "The Cricket."
I was certain that Natasha was a pro. Who else uses a one-word name? And her smoky eyes could easily seduce men into putting their salaries into her G-string rather than their kids' college funds. When I finally questioned the origin of her "special talents," the young instructor laughed nervously and denied having ever been a stripper. She was teaching Pilates, she explained, when she was given the opportunity to learn this hot new trend. "I trained with dance instructors, and I fell in love with it right away," she said. As Natasha spoke, her fringed lashes fell to hide her eyes, and she stammered like a naive Catholic schoolgirl being questioned about her first kiss.
You can't fake that kind of innocence.
Before long, Natasha had me rolling over on my side in a girlish pinup pose and doing the "Booty Up," in which you get up from a squatting position by turning one knee out, then the opposite knee out, and finally slink upright, tossing your hair in the process. In case you haven't figured it out yet by trying this at home, it's a total crotch shot. After the warm-ups (which sure felt like a real workout to my flabby, out-of-shape body), it was on to the shiny brass pole.
The first two moves can be practiced at home against a wall. For the more difficult combinations, you'll need to take a class or install a pole in your home. Check out Reza's online supplier at www.lilmynx.com or visit the new Hustler Hollywood store near the northwest corner of McClintock Drive and Broadway Road in Tempe.
Place two hands together at chest height on the pole. Move your legs back a couple of steps, keeping them together. Place most of your weight forward on the pole. If you're doing it right, you should be leaning forward on the pole, bent slightly at the waist, with your ass in the air. Now go up on your tiptoes and click your heels a couple of times, squeezing your butt cheeks together. This one looks hella hot if you're in those plastic stilettos!
The Lazy Stripper
Stand with your back against the pole, spine centered. Extend your right arm up completely and grab the pole, while extending your left arm downward and touching the pole. Now scoot your butt down the pole six inches or so, until you feel the burn in your abs. This is the starting position. Slide down all the way to the floor and extend your legs out in front of you. Now you should be sitting with your back against the pole. This is where it gets a little hairy! Roll sideways, away from the pole and onto your stomach. Lounge sexily for a minute. Roll over onto your back and strike a pinup pose.
Place your right hand on the pole and walk in a clockwise circle a few times to get comfortable. When you're ready, walk a fast circle around the pole and hook it with your outside leg. Immediately bring your inside foot up underneath it, using your forward motion to propel you around the circle a few times. While trying this one, I realized gravity is not my friend. I was too scared to take both feet off the ground, especially since my pitiful biceps would barely hold a grocery sack, much less my own weight. You'll probably fall on your ass a few times before getting it right, but according to Natasha, that's perfectly normal. "My first time I thought I was going to be really good because I had danced my whole life," she said. "I wasn't. I was so afraid I was going to fall. It took me two weeks, practicing every day, to get the spins down."
Climbing the Pole
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When I heard about this one, I laughed so hard I nearly peed in my striped Capris. Not because of the double entendre, but because my trying this move would be tantamount to a scrawny 10-year-old trying to scurry up a buttered rope. According to Natasha, those clear, sparkly plastic stripper shoes you buy at Triangles in Scottsdale will cause your feet to stick to the pole, allowing you to climb all the way to the top and slide down. And if you purchase entire outfits made of the stuff . . .
"Physically, it's not like going and doing a spin class," Natasha said at the beginning of our session. True, but I won't kid you and say it's simple, either. The truth is that for an exercise class that burns anywhere from 300 to 600 calories per session, it's a damn fun experience. Students are encouraged to go at their own pace and start small with sexy walks and fluid body movements.
Confidence is paramount in this class, says Natasha. If you trip in your Barbie heels, get up gracefully. If you're bruised after a few spins, know that it will get better. "Just pretend that you're the sexy goddess that every guy wants, and have fun." After her little post-class pep talk, I walked out of Reza Fitness Resort with my chin up and a little extra bounce in my booty, knowing that even though I'm no Natalie Portman, I can still be sexy in my own geeky, neurotic way.