Seedy image stripped away for fitness’ sake

A NEW craze has swept the globe, and now pole dancing has come to Tyneside.

A new craze has swept the globe, and now pole dancing has come to Tyneside. Reporter KATHERINE WEIR looks at how it has become increasingly popular as a form of exercise.

TWIRLING around a giant pole in towering stilettoes is more commonly associated with seedy strip clubs but pole dancing is fast becoming a hobby for fun-loving girls from all walks of life.

Pole dancing originated in the strip clubs of Canada in the 1980s and now women from all round the world are embracing it as a form of exercise that couples muscular endurance with all-over body toning plus an added touch of sensuality.

Many celebrities have taken up pole dancing, boosting its appeal to the public.

Stars such as Teri Hatcher from Desperate Housewives and Kate Moss, who performs a sexy pole dancing routine in the White Stripes video for ‘I just don’t know what to do with myself’, have taken to the pole. Following on from this newfound interest, pole-dancing studios are beginning to pop up all over the country making it more and more accessible for women to try out this gym alternative.

One company which has brought pole dancing to the North East is Polestars, which has recently started lessons in Newcastle.

The Chronicle went to the taster session at Gateshead Quayside’s Baja Beach Club to see what the fuss was about and to talk to pole dancing expert Ellouise Hempstead. We also spoke to the women who are learning how to do it.

Ellouise Hempstead, from Newcastle, is one of the teachers at Polestars and she believes this style of exercise not only improves fitness but also increases the confidence of the women taking part.

“The most rewarding thing is seeing the students improve their health and their confidence,” said Ellouise.

“One week they’ll realise that they are doing a move that they thought was impossible in their first week and that sense of achievement is great to see.

“Pole dancing is not about achieving a size 0 figure. Our classes are a way of getting women to be proud of what they have.

“There is no specific type of woman who comes to our classes. They range from their early twenties to the 50s and above.

“The classes are very diverse so no-one is conscious of themselves. It’s a completely male-free zone so women can relax and enjoy themselves.”

Increasing confidence is a large aspect of pole dancing as it helps women become more secure with their body shape, as well as with their grasp of the moves involved in the class.

Ellouise got into pole dancing just like her students by starting a beginners’ class and working her way up to teaching the classes.

She’s seen reactions of people to what she does change over time.

“People are now embracing it,” said Ellouise.

“What I teach is not seedy or back street stuff and it is frustrating when people put you in that particular bracket. Women are taking up pole dancing for fitness, not getting themselves ready for the industry.”

Pole dancing may be a giggle with your friends but is it really a valuable form of exercise? And could it be an alternative to the gym?

“It was fantastic,” said class participant Jane O’Neill, 28, from Wallsend. “I’m no stranger to exercise but I felt it gave a really good workout. It was so much fun too.”

Alison Earle, 32, from Newcastle was equally enthusiastic and would recommend it to anyone. “It was really, really good,” she said.

“It was a well-organised class and good fun.”

It seems pole dancing can also boost your energy levels as Chantelle Key, 24, discovered during the taster session.

“I was using muscles I never knew I had,” said mum-of-one Chantelle, from Ashington. “It makes you feel good and the teachers were brilliant.”

A good workout on the pole burns more calories than a good workout at the gym, and this type of exercise also improves upper body strength and all over toning.

If you are interested in taking up pole dancing classes then contact Polestars on 020 7274 4865 or the out of hours number 07835989452.

Alternatively visit www.polestars.net

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Celebrity fans

POLE dancing is extremely popular with celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, singer Fergie from the Black Eye Peas and fashion designer Sadie Frost.

TV presenter Zoe Ball even has a pole fitted in her bedroom to keep fit.

Actress Kate Hudson is also a huge fan, saying she is addicted and might even get her mother Goldie Hawn in on the exercise.

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Pole position

Beginner’s moves to start you off pole dancing:

Hang Tough: This involves learning to take your weight off the floor. Holding the pole in front of you, dominant hand placed above, you pull with your arms and slowly lift you weight off the floor until your feet are in the air and then bend the legs and bring it down.

Round and round: This involves the continuous step of twirling around the pole pivoting on one foot.

Carousel: Involves you hooking the pole with your heel while holding on to the pole and leaning forward to bring your self into a seated position.

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