Suffolk's in pole position

PUBLISHED: 02:18 20 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:30 20 February 2013

Suffolk's in pole position

Suffolk's in pole position

No longer the preserve of sleazy nightclubs, poledancing is fast gaining a following among women who enjoy the activity for its athleticism and strength-building

No longer the preserve of sleazy nightclubs, poledancing is fast gaining a following among women who enjoy the activity for its athleticism and strength-building

Thursday night at Moreton Hall Health Club is pole dancing night.

This is a weekly class for Charlotte Alexander and a group of fellow expert pole dancers who train under Clare Stringer in her "urban pole" fitness class. The women are dressed in sportswear not a thong, spangly top or high heel in sight and an iPod in the corner pumps out funky street music.

A brisk warm-up is followed by a series of fairly manageable-looking spins and stretches around two 7ft poles in the centre of the room. But any notion that the sport is straightforward is quickly quashed by a Butterfly, a Candy Cane, Flying Angel, and an Upside Down Eagle.

The moves follow smoothly, becoming more complex. A Candy Cane has Charlotte and fellow dancer Sue Smith elegantly scale the pole before launching into a corkscrew-like backwards spin. They appear unflustered, perform in time with each other and smile before slipping gracefully back to ground level. Just watching is enough to make core muscles twitch in sympathy and brows furrow in amazement at their strength.

"Anyone can do it," says Dawn Vickerage, who has been teaching pole dancing since 2006. "Its about technique. As you practise, your upper body strength increases and eventually you become able to do inversions."

Dawn, whose experience in the fitness and dance world includes spells with Spirit of the Dance in the USA and touring as a Tiller girl with Danny LaRue, offers suggestions from the sidelines about choreography or how best to hold a pose. She is taking time out from teaching after having two babies within 21 months of each other, but is determined to be upside down on a pole before too long.

Clare, who at just 24 already has 15 years dancing under her belt and four as a pole dance teacher, agrees. "Obviously if youre already strong youll pick it up more quickly, but I had a class in Sudbury recently with a 16-year-old, her mum in her 40s and grandma in her 70s, and grandma was amazing!"

Charlotte has been another of the quick learners, zipping through the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels in just three years. She is now in the so-called Pole Performers expert class, taking advanced moves and putting them into a choreographed sequence.

Shes the first to admit that starting the classes was a response to a mid-life crisis.

"My 38th year when I started pole dancing was one of the best of my life. I felt I was emerging from the fug of bringing up children and could do something for myself. It makes me feel young and full of energy and fitter than I ever was in my 20s".

What pole dancing clearly is not, is seedy and sexy. The Pole Fitness Association and other groups are trying hard to distance the sport from its notorious associations and are currently petitioning the Olympic Committee to include it in future Olympic Games. They argue that pole dancing or "vertical dancing" should be considered a form of gymnastics.

"To pole dance at a high level you need to be an athlete, a gymnast, an artist. I feel exhausted after a workout," says Clare. "Theres not much sexy about being unable to put my car in second gear because my triceps are so sore, is there?"

A beginners pole dancing course lasts six weeks. For more information, go to

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