About Colleen: "Colleen Jolly is an AAFA-certified personal trainer, entrepreneur and pole dance enthusiast who has competed and performed throughout the US. She graduated from Georgetown University; is active in leadership roles and Board positions in arts and association non-profit organizations; and is an award-winning artist, writer, and speaker on visual communications and general business topics all around the world. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org"
Here Colleen answers questions for us about pole dancing fitness and how it is approached at Pole Pressure Capitol Hill.
Who is Pole Pressure Capitol Hill appropriate for? Does someone need a certain basic fitness level to attend a class?
Colleen: Our classes are appropriate for men and women of all fitness levels and ages. We recommend people who have never taken a pole dance/pole fitness/pole (all terms can be used interchangeably at our studio) class before start at our level 1 class or our pole all levels class (class descriptions are below) before they advance. Some people who have a background in gymnastics, cheerleading or other styles of dance may advance faster than those that have no other fitness background. Don’t worry if you have no specific fitness background before starting though—you will build all the strength you starting at level 1. No one expects you to hang up side by your toenail the first day!
Tell us a little about your demographic. Do you find that pole dancing appeals to those with a specific fitness background?
Colleen: We tend to have mostly female students although there are a few men who enjoy classes. Ages at our studio range from 18-40s, while in the overall pole community there is a competitive pole dancer winning awards in her mid-60s, so no one is ever to old to try. We see a range of fitness backgrounds, with folks coming to pole for very different reasons. Some want to get in shape, some want to continue intense training from being collegiate athletes, others are fascinated by the sexy stereotypes associated with pole and want to see for themselves what it’s really about.
Lead us through a typical class. What kind of workout can one expect to receive? Does it challenge strength, cardio or both?
Colleen (pictured opposite): It’s really “D, all of the above.” The workout is definitely strength-based, using your own body weight. It can also integrate cardio as you learn routines that combine dance movements off the pole with on the pole holds, inversions and spins. All that movin’ around can definitely get your heart pumping!
We start class with a light cardio-based warm-up and do some basic stretching. For the content of the class, we teach a 30 second to 1 min combination of holds, inversions, spins or other dance movement as appropriate to the level of the class. We spend one song at the end of class “dancing it out,” encouraging students to use the material they learned in class and whatever other movement they prefer to simply dance. This encourages the development of creativity and musicality, putting movement to song to tell a story and helps students build confidence as they dance in a room full of other people.
What is one thing that pole dancing does really well that other fitness programs have difficulty matching?
Colleen: Pole dancing is constantly stimulating and full of endless positive reinforcement as students learn new moves or new combinations of movement. Many students have found focusing on learning a new move more motivational to keep coming to class than recognizing after a few weeks of training they can lift more weights than before or run one more lap—this is more creative and every move engages more than one muscle group. This engages both their bodies and their brains, making class fun—everyone is always working on something. There are lots of great fitness communities out there; I’d like to think that we are one of the most supportive that welcomes people from all fitness backgrounds and ability levels in a judgment free zone. Maybe one day pole dancing will be an Olympic sport and kids will train for it when they’re young like gymnastics or other team sports, but until then, everyone, even those with intense fitness backgrounds are still a beginner to pole when they start. That beginner spirit helps make it easier for people to adapt to the individual challenges they face and believe they can accomplish anything.
In an earlier conversation, you mentioned that Pole Pressure Capitol Hill classes have levels based on one's mastery of the techniques. Please tell us about these levels and, on average, how long it takes someone to progress.
Colleen: We have three basic levels for students to progress through before they get to our most advanced level. Each level incorporates strength training, flexibility training and dance movement both on and off the pole.
Pole Level 1: This is beginner pole class that will help you get comfortable moving around the pole. You will learn the basics of pole dancing including two-handed spins and dance choreography integrating the pole. Pole level 1 will not lift more than one foot off of the ground at a time while holding on to the pole but may incorporate yoga movements like headstands to help students become comfortable with inversions.
Pole Level 2: In this class you begin to learn more advanced and one-handed spin moves to integrate into your dance choreography. You will also start climbing the pole with different climbing variations and learning basic pole-based inversions.
Pole Level 3: Inversions are advanced in this class and you will learn different methods for inverting on the pole. Combinations of dance movement, pole holds and spins will become more complex and longer.
*We currently offer a combination class for Pole Levels 2 and 3 that provides a wide range of material for intermediate students to learn.
Pole Trix: In our most advanced class, you will learn aerial inversions and longer combinations of more complicated strength and flexibility based moves that are completely off the ground.
Pole All Levels: Everything goes in this class. You will learn a piece of choreography that you can advance and increase the difficulty depending on your level. This class is appropriate for beginners and the advanced poler.
We also offer a conditioning class called “Firm and Flexy” to help work on your strength and flexibility using the pole. This class is also appropriate for beginners up through advanced students, with modifications for moves depending on your level and ability.
Finally, we offer open gym time called “Open Pole” when people can come and practice with an instructor present to answer questions and assist or just let you do your own thing!
Students progress individually, we have no set timeline for progression. Most people, attending classes regularly may move from spins to learning basic inversions within 4-8 months.
What benefits can one expect with a sustained commitment to pole dancing classes?
Colleen: The biggest benefit, really so much more important than getting physically fit (which you will absolutely get fitter and stronger doing pole regularly), is that pole dancing builds confidence, body awareness and reinforces positive body messaging. We have a saying—you aren’t allowed to say you “can’t” do something; you must always finish that sentence with “yet.” Combined with the constant motivation to learn new moves, students learn to appreciate their own body’s amazing abilities and get comfortable around other people. Typical dress in class starts with a tank top and capri-style yoga pants and as you advance in levels you need more exposed skin as you maneuver around the pole using different body parts like your arm pit or your hip to hold yourself and so you shed clothing, participating in class often in only a sports bra and short-shorts. While this sounds scary at first, it becomes very empowering to learn to love your body for what it can do rather than focusing on how it doesn’t fit into the airbrushed norms of today’s marketing.
Personally speaking, what do you love most about pole dancing?
Colleen: I started pole dancing three years ago and I was absolutely terrible in my first class. I couldn’t do anything the teacher taught—I definitely had two left feet and had very little core or arm strength. But I stayed and watched the next class. There were “normal” people like me who in just a few months were able to hold themselves upside down and do amazing feats, the likes of which I’d only seen at Cirque du Soliel shows. I was completely inspired. So I kept going back and found an amazing, supportive community. Along the way, I lost three pants sizes and am in the best shape of my life. I’m stronger and more flexible than I’ve ever been and more confident and happy with my body and in my abilities to succeed at new and sometimes scary things. I opened Pole Pressure Capitol Hill so I could help other people not just get fit but also to have fun doing it, sharing with them the incredible hobby/sport/art/life that is pole dancing.