The year was 2008. Krystel Arbia, a Milan resident, had just delivered her third son. Desperate to get back in shape, she tried Pilates and yoga, in addition to running and Thai boxing. Nothing worked though; till she read in a magazine about pole dancing as a fitness routine. “It intrigued me, so I tried it. And guess what − it worked beautifully, both as a fitness regime and a fun activity. What made it special was the fact that I was exercising, enjoying myself and also letting go of my daily duties to cherish moments that I now had to myself,” says Arbia.
Soon, the 37-year-old had an epiphany: she could start a pole dance class and see others get fit in a similar fashion. But Italy being a Catholic country, the words ‘pole dance’ had a strong sexual connotation. “I had to fight against the prevalent cultural attitudes,” she recounts, adding that during the initial days of her venture, she was even shunned by some of the mothers of her sons’ classmates.
However, the fitness landscape in Milan is a lot different today. Arbia’s brainchild, the almost seven-year-old Milan Pole Dance Studio (MPDS), has established its presence across the world, including Montreal, Dubai, Singapore and Miami. “At MPDS, we have managed to remove the ‘vulgar elements’ from the routine, thus debunking the perception that pole dance can only be ‘trashy’. Plus, we have been careful to adapt to the varied cultures we coexist in. For instance, we have included belly dancing in the classes being offered in Dubai,” she points out.
So, what makes pole dance fitness stand out from the other fitness disciplines? Arbia, who recently visited India, shares with us seven reasons why one must give it a shot.
1. Mixing Fitness And Fun
With pole dance fitness entailing a series of exercises around the pole, Arbia says that the routine helps define one’s body muscles and have fun at the same time. “It is an acrobatic discipline that has derived from dance. We offer four levels at our studio; each level has its own set of tricks. At the end of a level, you put together a combination of tricks and lift both your feet off the ground,” she explains.
2. A Confident You
One of the biggest takeaways, Arbia reveals, is the surge of confidence. “With a fitter body, you feel beautiful and more confident. I know several shy girls who underwent a body and personality change within a few months of joining our classes,” she says.
3. A Rare Bond
Arbia emphasises that notwithstanding the cultural differences across countries, there’s an underlying commonality that’s not lost on her: the fact that women everywhere want to become fit and confident, and that many do not wish to take the gym route. “Our classes are a tight-knit community. Besides, MPDS helps cement the bond between people through its choreography. This includes events such as bachelorettes or team bonding sessions and workshops for women-dominated companies,” she says.
4. A Better Lifestyle
Pole dance fitness is also ideal for posture correction, for it helps one get rid of the slouch and become more agile. “Unlike in the gym where you lift some kilos, here you lift your whole body. This makes it more effective,” Arbia says.
5. For Women, By Women
In 2010, the Canadian opened her first studio in Milan on International Women’s Day because it’s mainly targeted at women. Why so? Arbia reasons that while the exercises are gender-neutral, the pole is made of brass or stainless steel. “To do the tricks, you need to wear fewer clothes − say, shorts and a sports bra. As you progress, you need the skin of your tummy and thigh to do the moves; you’d slide if you are dressed up. Most of our instructors are women.”
6. Age No Bar
There are no age restrictions. “Our oldest student is 64 years old and she joined MPDS when she was 57.” The class strength is limited in order to ensure greater attention. “We have 11-16 poles per class, and each student gets a pole to herself,” says Arbia.
7. Learning From The Best
The strength of the discipline also lies in its instructors; some are circus artistes, but most are dancers. One of the first instructors Arbia hired was Australian pole dancer Amber Ray. “Amber is a big name in the pole competition circuit. Plus, all 23 instructors at MPDS have been professional athletes. Having won at competitions such as World Pole Sports Championships, our instructors are industry superstars!”
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From HT Brunch, January 29, 2017
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