x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pole dancing classes in Dubai boost muscle tone

Relatively new to Dubai, these classes offer fun, full-body workouts.

Melanie Swan, centre, takes a pole fitness class in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
Melanie Swan, centre, takes a pole fitness class in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

In coming years, it could become an Olympic sport, but for now pole fitness is just an insanely good, fun workout that combines strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training.

It may look like a piece of cake to slide down a pole fireman style, but it really isn't as easy as it seems, especially to do it with control and grace.

In fact, "the fireman", a move in which the arms bear the entire body's weight, is a key part of pole fitness, which combines skills from Pilates, yoga and gymnastics. Such classes have long been offered at gyms around the world but are only now taking off at studios in Dubai. The latest class, held in the Latino Soul studio in Tecom, is offered by Up Dance, a Brazilian centre that has opened its first studio in Dubai.

I tried a pole fitness class at Fitness First in London's Canary Wharf around six years ago and was useless, barely able to hold my body weight. Coming back to it now, much more fit, strong and flexible from many hours of yoga, I find it an enjoyable experience.

Up Dance Dubai's 90-minute, ladies-only class begins with a 30-minute warm-up. It focuses on the core and abs, using moves such as the "boat pose" in yoga, lower-back-strengthening exercises such as "swimming" in Pilates, and press-ups to get the shoulders warmed up and build strength. The shoulders, it quickly becomes clear, are the most-used muscles.

Led by the professional performance artists Karen Cruz and Mario Mira, the class is split into two: those more experienced and the beginners. Each participant's name is put on the board with a list of moves for the day, those they've covered before (which they simply repeat and perfect), and the new ones.

This tailored-style class gives the students a sense of achievement for what they've learnt so far as well as a goal to work towards.

With a maximum of 12 in a class, there is no doubt that there will be time to build up a sweat and perfect the moves.

Cruz is pregnant but continues to do some of the exercises to stay active, and the benefits have been obvious. "I was advised by my doctor to keep doing gentle pole and teaching because it was something that my body was used to doing before the pregnancy," she says. "I believe it has helped me minimise the common pregnancy symptoms. I am six-and-a-half months along and I don't have legs cramps, back pain, or any pain or swelling."

She says the main thing about the class is to have fun while working out. "People don't always want to go to the gym. This is hard work but you're exercising without feeling it."

Whether students are using the pole for stability while bending backwards into a pose yogis would know as the "crab" or using inner thigh strength to sit aloft the pole, it is clear that several muscle groups are being used.

"It is a mix of sport and art," says Cruz, a Brazilian who came to Dubai five years ago.

Wendy Weckstrom from the US has a full-time job, runs the family home, goes to yoga three times a week, paddle boards twice a week and still manages two classes of pole fitness a week. The former gymnast has a pole in her home, and tried to teach herself the basics.

"I like the fitness and muscle tone it gives me," she says. "It's surprising how quickly you get strong and it's muscles you have never used before. I can see a difference even in two months. My friends say I've lost weight, but I feel I'm just more toned."


Classes are held at Icon Tower in Tecom, studio 106, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8.15pm to 9.45pm and Saturdays from 7pm to 8.30pm. A trial class costs Dh100; packages are available. For more information, call 056 774 8868, email updancedubai@gmail.com or find Up Dance Dubai on Facebook

For other classes in Dubai, go to:

www.jamesandalex.com which has classes in Media City, Concord Tower, 04 447 0773, info@jamesandalex.com

www.cellodubai.com for classes in JBR at Al Fattan Tower

Move Ya studio in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Fortune Executive Tower, Cluster T, opposite Metro station, #1502. Call 04 435 6885 or 055 518 0508 or search for them on Facebook