Finding Fitness and Fun at a Pole Studio on Beach Street
“I forgot to bend my knee, my knee is not bending,” a frustrated Misha Hart, 44, complained as she stood beside one of six shiny brass poles on the mirrored second floor of 8 Beach St., home of the new pole dance studio, City Pole.
Instructor Emily Keith, an advanced pole sport competitor, hustled over, took hold of Hart's right leg and gently lifted it, then let go.
“Pull away and fall backwards,” Keith instructed the first-time student, who now was gripping her 13-foot pole as if for dear life, one arm stretched high, the other just above her head.
At that, Hart, an investment advisor who was taking a group lesson with three friends, all beginners, began to rotate backwards, her knees this time bent just right as she descended slowly and gracefully to the floor.
Cheers and applause rang through the room. Hart high-fived her teacher and beamed. “Ok! Ok!” she shouted.
Such are the small but exhilarating moments of achievement at this new boutique pole studio, where the personal touch is part of what owner Kylee Sallak says makes City Pole's introduction into the sensual workout regimen of pole fitness different from the crowded or competitive studios around the city.
"This sport is inevitably going to make you feel vulnerable in a way that getting on a treadmill or lifting weights is not going to make you feel vulnerable," said Sallak, 32, who taught pole dancing at a midtown studio for three years before starting her own business. "People here can feel safe, they can feel that sense of being a little bit exposed without being scared."
"You let your hair down, you relax, you just let loose," said Rebecca Roarke, 25, who has taken pole dance classes at other studios but had just completed her first one at City Pole. "Sometimes it can be hard to be watched and judged but in this setting I actually felt very comfortable."
Which says something, considering the provocative positions that accompany these strength conditioning exercises.
Sallak is quick to distance those moves from the strip club exhibitionism that inspired them.
"I would never disparage the origins of the sport because those women are powerful. It takes a lot of strength and energy to do this," she said. "However, the pole industry as a whole has taken big steps away from the connotation of the origin of the sport."
And Sallak has taken it further than most, by providing a "rejuvenation" room for private meditation, prayer or, should the impulse arise, socking a punching bag. Then there is the "zen pool" with floating flower petals, where students are encouraged to toss their fears, regrets and painful secrets, handwritten on water soluble paper, and watch them vanish before their eyes.
Getting in touch with feelings is one thing, with the body is another. Pole dancing, Sallak argued, “unlocks the power of the hips, which is where we carry a lot of our sensual energy and power.”
"I don’t want to lose the fact that you do feel sexually empowered” she said. “That's a beautiful part of this, especially in a city where everybody is go go go go. You’re not present, you’re not in touch with your body."
Minutes after completing her class, first-timer Jackie Leveine could not agree more.
"Everybody has an inner sexy in them that they need to bring out," she said, “if they can just tap into it."