An adventurer, storyteller and writer with an insatiable curiosity for the fresh, the bizarre, the brilliant. Exploring life in North East England and elsewhere.

Body & Pole Fitness Studio: An empowering world of poetry in motion

Body & Pole Fitness Studio: An empowering world of poetry in motion

For most of us pole dancing initially suggests a form of erotic dance associated with strip clubs rather than a serious form of exercise. Most of us might not even have realised that it is indeed a full-fledged sport with dedicated studios across the globe hosting weekly classes and seminars run by professional dancers. World Championships and a serious bid to break into the Olympics further solidify pole dancing’s evolution into a sport, an evolution that is referred to as ‘pole fitness’ to dissociate it from derogatory connotations. While some circles in society might resist abandoning these associations, pole dancing is not only a rapidly growing sport form amongst women (and increasingly men too), it combines all aspects of the fitness spectrum, including development of core strength, stamina, endurance and flexibility.

I caught up with the inspiring Sarah Guthrie, owner and main instructor at Body and Pole Fitness Studio, and some of her students, to find out what makes pole-dancing such an amazing and addictive form of workout.

Sarah Guthrie preforming an advanced pole move - photo courtesy of Sarah

Sarah Guthrie preforming an advanced pole move - photo courtesy of Sarah

The number of studios, competitions and variety of styles in the North East might be lagging behind the South, but Sarah is setting an impressive example of running a highly successful studio in Hardwick, Stockton and promoting pole dancing for the incredible health and emotional benefits it offers.

“I started pole fitness because I’d heard about the fitness benefits,” says Karen, one of Sarah’s students, “I wanted to tone up and do something different and fun. What I didn’t know at the time was that it would also be extremely uplifting and empowering emotionally too. It’s a mental as well as physical workout and I found a new family with my pole crew.”

Karen achieving a ‘flatline’ pole move

Karen achieving a ‘flatline’ pole move

One of the main benefits of pole fitness is the development of women’s confidence and the sense of empowerment they get from doing it. Sarah explains in more detail, “You can come in feeling crap and you can go out just feeling amazing because you nailed something. It totally lightens your mood. When you first walk into the studio and watch some of the other people and think, ‘bloody hell, I’ll never be able to do that,’ but then you get to that point and it’s such a fantastic sense of achievement because it’s so challenging and people don’t always realise that.”

The challenge in pole fitness is not limited to its physical demands. A great deal of it is mental endurance and bravery. Being upside down can be confusing at times, as Sarah’s students confess, and it takes courage to preform aerial tricks. It can be painful too. Bruising is common because the only way to preform the moves is through skin contact with the pole. Without the same kind of skin conditioning you would encounter in kickboxing it is impossible to progress.

Pole fitness is therefore done best in what might seem like ‘skimpy’ sports wear (a bikini bottom and top), but you simply cannot wear much clothing as you need various skin gripping points on your body to preform tricks.

Sarah spotting a student during a lesson

Sarah spotting a student during a lesson

The complexity and diversity of the moves and routines make it highly addictive as well as the incredible sense of achievement you get when you successfully perform a trick you’ve been working on or make something look smoother and effortless. “Regardless of shape, size or age, if you try to do something you thought you could never do and nail it, it will make feel good about yourself, wouldn’t it?” Sarah asks.

Karen confirms that you sometimes walk out of Sarah’s studio feeling like you’ve got super powers. If you look at some of the photos it’s not hard to believe why and it is this sense of the unbelievable that made Sarah, who previously worked with horses, take it up in 2013. She started learning pole dancing in a studio in Hartlepool and, after being asked to take the class a couple of times and doing her instructor’s qualification, she opened her own studio about two years ago.

However, Body & Pole Fitness is unlike other studios and you can feel it in the supportive atmosphere, camaraderie and great sense of humour. Everyone seems to get on while performing unbelievable feats wearing almost nothing without the slightest hint of body image judgement. “It’s like a family,” Sarah explains, “once you’ve been a couple times, everybody knows you, you talk, everybody’s behind you and wants you to feel good about yourself.” Unlike other studios that Sarah’s been to where it’s mostly just young people, there is no bitchiness at her studio because there are too many different people of various ages, which fosters a genuine environment of acceptance.

A lot of it is also down to Sarah as a person. One of her advanced students describes her as “a great instructor, very helpful, welcoming and also very knowledgeable”. She is also, according to herself, down to earth, swears and has no pretences. “People see me as I am,” she says, “a normal person with a normal life. And I think that’s what attracts people because they can come in and just be themselves and they don’t have to be something they are not.”

Sarah Guthrie during a showcase performance celebrating Body & Pole Fitness’ 1st birthday.

Sarah Guthrie during a showcase performance celebrating Body & Pole Fitness’ 1st birthday.

And perhaps more than anything the success of Sarah’s studio is reflected in what she and her students believe women can achieve in and outside of pole-dancing: a place to build each other up and not drag each other down, a place for women to be confident in themselves, to develop patience, trust and loyalty.

What makes it even more convenient for prospective students and regulars is the fact that the studio offers a range of other alternative fitness classes, including hoop, aerial, silks, yoga, stretch and flex and boxercise. Finally, Sarah shows her dedication to her studio members by arranging photo shoots, social events and workshops run by the best international and local dancers — both pole and other dance types — on a regular basis to ensure her students have a wide sense of what is possible in the dance world.

Photos of one of Sarah’s students during a photo shoot

Photos of one of Sarah’s students during a photo shoot

Pole fitness might not be as commonly accepted in the North East as elsewhere in England but it is steadily gaining popularity because more than improvement in fitness and health, it allows participants to be as graceful as ballet dancers, as breathtaking as gymnasts and as exhilarating as hip hop dancers. It is a rare space where beauty is achieved through incredible effort that often crosses the pain threshold. No matter what you look like or what you think you are capable of, everybody becomes an inspirational story at Sarah’s studio. Students might enter her studio feeling somewhat intimidated at first but eventually everyone becomes a different person with boosted confidence knowing that they overcame what they originally thought was impossible.

Photo courtesy of Sarah

Photo courtesy of Sarah

To find out more about classes and workshops at Body Pole & Fitness Studio, visit their Facebook page here.

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