As a woman in my late 30s, I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to fitness and physical activity. Strength refers to mental fortitude just as much as it does to what size dumbbell you’re throwing around. Progress is measured by what you can do, or feats you have overcome, rather than what your abs look like. And, perhaps the most satisfying unveiling of them all is that there is boundless beauty, sexiness, sensuality and empowerment in taking care of your body and mind. Especially when you rock a workout that allows it not only to be acknowledged, but also embraced.
The minute my girlfriends and I scheduled a private pole-dancing class with Jennifer Kennedy at JMK Entertainment, I began to count down the minutes. I also began to count the ways I would possibly injure myself by hanging from a pole with nothing more than the back of my knee and a prayer. Walking through the doors of the oversized loft space, tucked away in an unassuming Pawtucket corner, the 20 or so floor-to-ceiling shiny poles greeted us in a way that a person meets their partner on a blind date – you don’t really know much about each other, but you’re about to become very familiar within the next hour.
Jennifer introduced herself to us and on her passion for movement. A native Englander finding her way to America in 1976 via the Caribbean, she has jived as a dance instructor for over 30 years, adding pole dancing to her repertoire nine years ago. At almost 60 (and looking decades younger with a rock solid body that rivals the fittest of the fit), Jennifer has found her fountain of youth in the art of dance – especially dance that lands you directly in front of (and on top of) a pole in her studio.
Apprehensively, we all took our places. Taking us through a stretching routine, Jennifer loosened our limbs and warmed our worries. And then we began. Starting with the basic hand holds (who knew there were so many ways to grab onto a pole), we worked our way through beginner moves. Each move tested our cores, leg grip ability and upper-body strength. As we swung around by the back of our knees and ankles, flailed our legs high into kicks, slinked to the ground and all around, and got the moves down, we incorporated a dance routine, as though we were performing on a stage that we hoped no one was watching. As I continued to face the challenges of the routine and the pole, I realized that with some time and work, this could easily move from clumsy and jagged to sensual and satisfying, all while giving you one hell of a workout.
In the second half of class, Jennifer presented us with goodies – inverted moves. The ones that you needed to trust your partner to hold you up when you needed holding up and to let you fall when you needed to fall. You also needed to not bruise yourself in 32 places as you gracefully flung your legs over your head. We worked on a move called the elevator, which used a tight, close grip of the arms and a swift kick up of both legs, wrapping them around the pole while slowly slithering your body down to the ground. Without breaking your head.
As I watched Jennifer demonstrate her techniques, I was struck by how flexible, beautiful, graceful and strong she looked. I could see how much hard work she had put into her dance and pole career to portray such beauty. And I could see the light that shone out of her from fully immersing herself in an empowering and ass-kicking lifestyle she loves.
Pole dancing is tough. And not so sexy the first time you try it. But I’m confident that with practice and persistence, you can easily become more fluid and with that fluidity and confidence, your whole inside will shine. Any fitness routine that combines sport, sexy, art and strength is one that I’ll gladly add into my week of carpool, homework, meetings and house chores. If there is one last thing I’ve learned in my late 30s, it’s that you should try everything at least once.
461 Main Street, A1 Pawtucket