Cool Girl, Cora give pilates on a pole a try, also interviews, co-owner and instructor, Nicole Leto.
Think Pussy Cat Dolls, blue light, smell-less smoke, sexy music, a spotlight sur Vous.
That was ME, almost, in my IM-AG-IN-A-TION, while doing the Pilates on the Pole® class at the Balboa Pilates studio in Newport Beach. In reality, the full lights and blond wood floors of the studio kept me from dipping too much into fantasyland as I strutted around, spiraled down, and squatted next to my very own, newly sanitized, silver pole. Okay, maybe I was Vegas-away from Demi Moore in Striptease, yet, this is the first time in many years of exercise classes that I felt like the slinky Jet girl I once was in my high school’s performance of West Side Story. Boy. Boy. Crazy Boy…Keep coolly cool boy…I was feeling itHOT.
Days ago, when CoolGirls asked me to write about the class for the site, I thought, “Heck ya!” I had heard of pole-dancing exercise classes before. It sounded mega-fun. Though, when I checked out the Youtube clips of gravity defying pole-azons looking very much like lovely hairless chick-panzeesupside down, legs wrapped, upper body perpendicular to poleI did get a bit intimidated.
I warned my friend, after inviting her to attend the class with me, “Don’t look at the Youtube clips!” She did, of course, and being the exercise-adventurer she is, was not fazedjust amazed. Off to the Pilates jungle we went…
Quarters found. Meter fed. We entered the small but inviting studio lobby where the gal at the desk (Named Sierra, I later found.) greeted us warmly as she chatted with a pretty blond who was, perhaps, getting in a few bites of her late breakfast. (Food before class? How un-yoga-like!) I had to avert my eyes away from the apparel hanging on the walls. The most darling and cozy hoody ever caught my gaze. But I was here to workout, not shell out. (Thank you recession!) Thus, I was grateful to bow my head and fill out a release form.
I asked if Nicole Leto was aroundLeto is the part-owner and Pilates instructor whom I emailed earlier and learned she was inside the studio finishing up a private Pilates session. This reminded me that the class I was about to enter was not just pole-dancing but PILATES on the Pole. The distinction, for me, important because, being someone who is prone to “back tweaks” and practices Pilates and yoga to keep a strong core, I assumed the instructor’s concerns for avoiding contraindicative movements (exercise that may cause injury) would be paramount. So, I felt safe. Not nervous at all. Then, before I knew it, Sierra was asking our shoe size and handing me and my friend giant pink and black shoeboxes. Inside? BIG SEXY HIGH-HEELED PLATFORM STRAPPIES. Whoa!
Thought to self: “PILATESonthepole…PILATESonthepole…It’s gonna be OKAY.”
Inside the mirrored studio-room, the class (four students, Leto and Sierra) started with mat work on the floor: abs and core work followed with deep stretches using rubber straps. Simple, enough. Then, we got the shoes on (nice fit!) and stood by our poles.
Here’s where I have to say that Nicole Leto is an excellent teacher. She slowly and clearly lead us through a few basic moves, mostly concentrating on a couple types of spirals in which with a kick, some momentum and conscious foot positioning, we were spinning once, twice, thrice around the pole like femme-fatale fairies. Alright, I didn’t feel so graceful at first, but after a few tries and help from Nicole and Sierra I was getting it; and just watching Leto and the non-newbies orbiting their poles so naturally was encouraging and fun to watch. In fact, my friend and I agreed later that it was hard not to take our eyes off Leto. She’s energetic, sweet, funny, and very helpful, ready to give pointers and let you try a few extra times to get it right. Her dancing figure on the pole was inspirational. I had that feeling you get when you watch dancers on TV do a particularly clever and cool move and you think “I’ve got to try that!” Difference here wasvoila!I did try it!
After practicing our spins, Nicole led us through a routine which was surprisingly easy to follow. In a few minutes we were rocking the routine to musichips swished, bodies spun, and attitude bubbled. Once I got comfortable with the routine, I was able to peel my eyes off Leto to watch myself in the mirror. “Hey,” I thought, “not bad!”
The workout? Hard. The initial engagement was in the arms as we pulled up our body weight with each swing around the pole. The quads and glutes also got extra work as the high heels brought intense contraction with a kick or leg lift, or when we lowered ourselves to chair position for some glorious booty gyrations. Need abdominal work? How about hanging on the pole, knees up? Hello! And although the workout was hard, it was awesome and, for me, not enough! I wanted more. Even before the class was over I was scanning my memory for the nearest playground with a do-able sliding pole. Weee!
Yes, let me tell you, the work out was hard but fun, fun, fun. I was so pooped and exhilarated I couldn’t think straight; I decided to come back another day to do my little interview with Leto.
So, imagine now, a little sore yet still excited about this newfound exercise, I’m back at Balboa Pilates with Leto to get more of her thoughts on Pilates on the Pole vs. pole-dancing and, most importantly, what kind of “street” pole could I use when a dancer’s pole is not within my grasp…
CoolGirls: So, you’ve incorporated Pilates into pole dancing?
Leto: I believe they (Pilates and pole-dancing) compliment each other because they’re both about using the core, lengthening the spine, incorporating the whole body using flexibility and coordinationa mind-body connection.
CG: Are there some things in a pole-dancing class that you think you wouldn’t do in your class?
Leto: No. (In pole-dancing) you need flexibility in the spine in all the movements. Pilates teaches you flexion and extension. So does pole-dancing. The whole use of the core and body, all is incorporated in both; that’s why I think the two compliment each other so well. (In my class), I’m always telling them to pull your belly in and lengthen your spine, the same cues I use in my Pilates class.
CG: Great! So, say if I couldn’t come to a Pilates on a Pole class, where would be a good place to practice my pole-dancing?
Leto: You can come here to practice!
CG: What if I couldn’t come here, are there any other kind of poles you can recommend I use?
Leto: (Laugh) I do recommend getting a pole of your own. It’s a great prop to have at home…for several different reasons. Most of my girls end up getting poles. If not, they come two or three times a week because they can’t get enough. It’s that addicting.
CG: Do you have a pole at home?
Leto: No, because I have seven poles here! But I kind of do want one at home, too, sometimes.
With the similarities and differences of pole-dancing and Pilates on the Pole clarified, and my fantasy of dancing with street lamps thoroughly crushed, Leto did recommend a stage-prop company (platinumstages.com) in Costa Mesa that could hook me up with a pole. Given the cost of the pole and installment fees I estimated that it would probably run less than the expense of a new high-end elliptical machine. (I had looked into ellipticals a couple years ago.) Don’t get me wrong, I was far from investing in exercise equipment or new home furnishings, but it was a bit thrilling to know that the set-at-home vision of me pole-dancing, as imagined and described above, was not, fiscally, beyond reach. Who knows?
Curious to see who was already living the dream, I hung around the studio to meet Leto’s students who were waiting for their advanced Pilates on the Pole class to begin. I have to note that I originally expected to meet supple bodied twenty-somethings who could pass for professional pole-dancers, but met instead some older gals who reminded me of the well-coiffed, well-toned mommy-set whom I see at my daughter’s elementary school during pickup. The three who graciously gathered around me, looking most comfortable in their simple cotton-spandex blend outfits, all agreed that they started Pilates on the Pole to work on their abs and add something fun and different to their usual routine of gym classes and other activities such as mountain-biking and surfing. I was surprised to find that they were not Pilates practitioners first, but only started Pilates workouts (using the Reformer machine) to build strength for the pole-dancing. It soon became apparent while talking to them that perhaps they now measured the benefit of any other exercise by how it would help their performance on the pole. Yes, these women were so into the pole-dancing, two of them had poles installed in their homes and the other was not far behind. Ah…Gotta love it!
It was great talking to these women and getting the sense that Pilates on the Pole for them was not only giving them a great workout, keeping their abs trim and flat, but also a way of expressing their femininity, physical strength, power and sensuality.
When the student with full-wavy blond hair said “I just want to DANCE and express myself” and the other with the slight Southern accent chimed “even though you’re working hard, you don’t think you’re working hard, you’re just having fun” I instantly connected to the feeling I got during my turn at the pole days before, that Jet-girl feeling, that feeling I used to get, long ago, when I used to dance the night away, when I used to hear a friend or club-mate yell “Go Cora, Go fly-girl!” over the blast of whatever was the hot DJ pick of the night. I couldn’t help think that this pole-dancing, for some, evoked that fun, crazy, sexy, and free feeling, that high. If so, it makes all the more sense, the choice of pole-dancing as an exercise, as a “thing-to-do” with passion, because what exercise can do all that for you…and give you great abs at the same time?
Pilates on a Pole
204 Washington St
Newport Beach, CA 92661