7th Feb 2018
When I first started pole dancing, I was a fifteen year old girl with an eating disorder and a gorgeous best friend who was too scared to go to a class alone. Nervous and giggly, we were welcomed into the most diverse group of people I had ever met: age, weight, gender, fashion, personality- no one seemed to notice any of it. We were all bound together to support each other, because pole was hard.
My first months of pole classes were a roller coaster of emotions. I went from extreme irritation over not being able to coordinate my arms and legs, to triumph when I had built enough strength to invert on my own, to self doubt when I was taught my first routine and realised I was about as sexy as a pug with the legs of a giraffe. I often felt like I would never get the hang of it (which was torture while my friend twirled effortlessly round the pole on her ballet pointed toes), but the support I received from everyone there had me determined to keep at it. Before long I caught up with my friend’s natural abilities, getting stronger and more flexible with every class.
I was ecstatic when we were invited to join the intermediate class. I had learnt to feel excited when I developed new bruises as it reminded me of every new move I conquered, and the ladies in my new class were so inspiring; their strength and skill seemed like that of athletes and I had this immense sense of pride that I was one of them. With each new variation I tried, the original moves became instinctive. I started showing off my new skills to my friends and family and for the first time I felt impressive, like I could do things they couldn’t. A huge part of my mental illness had been about feeling weak, but looking at my pole journey proved that I was dedicated and no one could deny my strength. I continued with pole throughout my recovery, building my confidence all the time and, as I stopped worrying about what I looked like while practising routines, I actually started looking good while practising routines. I grew into my body and my body started to flow.
After a year or so of going to classes religiously, I was hooked. My instructors recognised my dedication and invited me to take on an assistant instructor role, helping the other students learn and improve in classes as well as training with the other staff members, many of whom were paid performers and helped me learn advanced skills that only seemed possible on Instagram. I worried the other students wouldn’t take me seriously; I was only seventeen and suddenly trying to command the classes I was learning with them the week before! But straight away women many years older than me treated me like I had managed to teach them quantum physics and helping them finally master moves they had struggled with for weeks made me swell with pride.
I thought everything would change when I went to university but I was welcomed yet again by a wonderfully diverse group of students. Whether they were cool, weird, loud or shy, they were all as fun and supportive as my friends in my old studio. They encouraged me to get out of my pole comfort zone and alongside the big tricks that made me feel so strong and impressive, I learned how to be smooth and really dance.
I recently performed in front of an audience for the first time for our team’s Christmas showcase. For the first time in my life I was the center of attention in a room full of people judging what felt like my one talent, something that would have had my fifteen year old self running for the hills. But as soon as my music played I felt completely vulnerable, and genuinely sexy.