Archives For pole fitness

The Pole

February 23, 2019 — 12 Comments

An air of calm efficiency encased the stark room. Two trim, attractive women came up the stairs carrying a folded mat. One went to the floor-length windows and lowered off-white roller blinds to shut out the night reflected back into the room by a wall of mirrors – if not the vibrating cacophony of cars driving past with radios blaring this year’s songs vying for bragging rights of Soca Monarch of the Carnival.

The other woman went to a wall upon which were attached eight lengths of 9’ tubular steel. Removing one from the brackets, she carried it to the middle of room, and looking up, manoeuvered it into the fittings strategically placed in the ceiling and began threading it in. The process was repeated four times. More women arrived, helping each other, straightening and tightening the poles until they were vertical and secure. Quiet murmurs accompanied the installation. 

The instructor, a tall slender young woman with hair in a tight bun, a sheen of sweat across her shoulders, watched intently as she gulped water and caught her breath after finishing the previous adult ballet class. She riffled through a straw basket and finding shorts and a crop top, went to change.

Upon her return she sat on the floor, legs outstretched and waited for her class to follow suit. And then the warm-up started. An entirely different set of exercises to those of the previous ballet class, but no less grueling. I noticed she was the only one to do the entire set with her heels hovering above the floor – her stomach muscles taut – as she guided her students. There was no talking just booming music to encourage the seated, sweating women – a mix of ages and ethnicities, all clad in variations of their instructor’s attire.

The warm-up complete, the instructor sprang into action. Her movements athletic as she reached and swung her legs over her head and wrapped one knee around the pole, the other leg stretching to a long, lean balletic point. It was, to use a much vaunted phrase, poetry in motion as the pole became an extension of her body.

Her students watched intently, their respect almost tangible as she went through a flowing series of graceful movements before dismounting with a calm, controlled release.  She divided the class – at least one spotter for each student of pole fitness as they attempted to emulate their teacher’s fluid movements. Some sprang with an alacrity that smacked of youth and confidence, others were more hesitant, their approach less agile, their strength less obvious but all with a palpable determination. Perseverance, interspersed with moments of laughter, floated around the music-filled room as poles were sprayed, swabbed, climbed and swung around until each tensed stomach was heaving with effort.

Each new exercise was demonstrated with a grace and ease, instruction clearly given, and as students attempted the task set, a gentle adjustment was given, a leg crooked more firmly around the pole, a quiet word of encouragement and when a seemingly impossible feat was achieved spontaneous applause gave added incentive.

But apart from the determination swinging around the poles, it was the complete lack of body consciousness that was astounding. Every student’s body was a machine to be manipulated into a rhythmic alliance with the pole. Eroticism associated with pole dancing was non-existent. It was a class of women intent on mimicking the actions of their instructor with no element of embarrassment with regard a hand touching a tush, or a breast brushed as adjustments were made, help given by the spotter whose turn on the pole would be next. The easy understanding and acceptance of each person’s different abilities.

It reminded of a play I saw in London a few years ago. Written by Dave Simpson, The Naked Truth told the story of a pole dancing class begun in a church hall. Ordinary people of all shapes, sizes and ages wanting to try something different – for a variety of different reasons. It was funny, but also elevating on many levels, with the finale being a show put on for the village to raise funds for breast cancer – a pathos highlighted when one of the students died from the disease.

There is something about the freedom given to a group of women, and men, whose learned lack of self-consciousness allows for a greater sharing emotions, of thoughts and fears buried deep which are given the freedom to surface. Perhaps the lack of physical restraints allows a greater freedom with regard the sharing of sometimes intimate details.

Pole fitness will surely be given a boost with the new Jennifer Lopez movie, Hustlers, in which she plays a pole-dancing stripper. But for those everyday people intent on learning a new skill, of challenging their body to new feats, of opening their mind to new experiences, pole fitness is is a growing expression of movement and mind.

And in Port of Spain, Trinidad, a pole-fitness teacher of balletic grace is able to to draw the shyest student into the pole’s encompassing circle to learn a skill that appears to defy gravity.

As the class ended, mats were folded as satisfied smiles and encouraging laughter floated around Harlow Studios. Each woman went home exhausted, a little fitter and perhaps a little freer in mind as well as body.

The world outside drew everyone back into its orb as another car raced past – a soca tune a reminder that Carnival is around the corner.

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The Day That Was!

June 14, 2017 — 1 Comment

The monsoon season has made itself felt on and off all day and the frog song and cricket chorale are in full voice. They are the sounds of my childhood and transport me back to Africa and Asia. Tonight though I am in Trinidad. I am revelling in the symphony that surrounds me, interspersed with the occasional car being driven as if it is the circuit at Le Mans and not a narrow road meandering through Cascade, Port of Spain,

It has been a long day. It started at 5:30 with a warm little body snuggling up to me. My granddaughter likes her morning snuggles. We have reached an accord. I will cuddle but will not budge from bed until 6, when her little tummy sounds the alarm for breakfast. Who needs reveille? My other granddaughter meanwhile was glued to the iPad watching Jessie, a fairly innocuous program about a Texan nanny, a butler, and various children of different ethnicities all living in a penthouse in New York. I have yet to figure out where the parents are.

Which brings me to my granddaughter’s mother. My daughter, Kate. She is in London finessing the art of pole fitness in preparation for teaching it, along with classical ballet and Pilates – once her residency status is confirmed. Hopefully a rubber stamp as she is married to a Trinidadian. I am therefore helping out with the children so my son-in-law can earn a daily crust.

But I was telling you about my long day.

Not only am I responsible for two little beings. Getting them to school and nursery, along with packed lunches, water bottles, homework for one and any other seemingly extraneous necessity by 8 each morning, I am also playing Gigi to two dogs, a cat and a goldfish. I managed to kill the other goldfish, though in my defense little Johnny did not look well when I arrived.

Now I love animals and am a firm believer in children growing up with them. Responsibility and respect is taught, not to mention the sheer joy of pets. I was prepared for two grandchildren, one dog, one cat and two goldfish. The puppy was an unintended addition. Kate is a soft touch for waifs and strays – and days before my arrival they found an orphan pot hound on a trash heap at Cedros, in the south of the island. He was injured, riddled with worms and starving. She would not be my daughter had she left him to die.

The puppy, of indeterminate parenthood, is sweet natured. Their elderly Staffordshire is a dear and loving dog with humans and, strangely, the family cat, but any other dog, or gecko, or balloon, or kite is an anathema to his doggy psyche. This being the case, two days of a newly energetic and irritating puppy was enough to make him snap. Fortunately Buddy did not go for the jugular but rather a firm bite to the belly, puncturing the puppy’s little abdomen.

A tearful daughter on the phone before I left Houston, and she left Port of Spain, and I  found myself calming her down with the words, “I’ll take him. He can come and live in Houston with Bonnie.” I should add here that Bonnie is a deaf kitten I rescued from certain drowning off the Boardwalk in St Croix.

In order to keep the peace, and the vet’s bills to a minimum, we – my long-suffering son-in-law, the children and I – have had to come up with a system of separation. One dog in, one dog out. One dog in the loo, one in the kitchen. Meal times are tricky. Both dogs love cat food and loiter with intent if they have managed to avoid capture and / or expulsion, whenever the cat, Jax, tries to eat his kibble. Meanwhile Lilly swims in solitary circles waiting for fish fodder.

By 7 am this morning, I had brokered a peace treaty between feuding granddaughters, cleaned up the cat’s vomit and the puppy’s poo from the welcome mat. I did mention it is the monsoon season and this puppy from the rubbish dump, in a matter of weeks, has rejected rough living and will not perform his ablutions in the rain.

The school run was accomplished with little fuss, both girls loving their respective places of learning and, as I waited for the gate securing me from the perils of Port of Spain to click shut, I decided I had earned a cup of coffee on the verandah.

It is my favourite spot in my daughter’s house – it’s where I’m sitting now – and as I sank into a chair with my steaming café au lait and the last of the brownies, I patted myself on the proverbial shoulder at a morning managed.

I phoned a friend. Our conversation was though abruptly cut off and the reason for the vomitting cat became clear. The other half of the ingested fledgling was clenched, vise-like, between the puppy’s needle-sharp teeth. Refusing to play ‘pull ‘with poor mangled creature, I tossed a squeaky toy and distracted Clyde long enough to retrieve the remains.

Twelve hours after this last incident, I am enjoying a large bourbon and water, listening to the timbre of the tropics and thinking how lucky I am. Between bodily functions and dead birds, we have painted plant pots, played pairs, flipped omelettes for supper and read The Little Mermaid.

It has been a long day, but messy details aside, a truly lovely day!