On January 2, a brand-new 5,000 square-foot fitness center will open in Chelsea. It’ll have two huge group practice studios, a smaller classroom, locker rooms, and poles. Lots and lots of poles.
The space is the new home of Body & Pole, which outgrew its tiny one-room studio in Murray Hill in less than two years. While some might say pole fitness (yes, that’s its name) had its moment in the ’90s, the studio’s exploding business suggests otherwise.
Lian Tal, Body & Pole’s owner, describes the demand as “out-of-control,” citing daily packed classes and wait lists for the signature Pole Dance class. During our interview, she had to take a call where she politely told a customer that the next two Pole Virgin (beginner) classes had wait lists.
So who are the New Yorkers who would rather swing from a pole than hit the treadmill?
Tal says they’re mainly women (but also men), most of whom are between 25 and 35 and are “students, professionals, just regular people.”
Who they’re not, says Tal emphatically, is strippers. “We’re a fitness and dance studio with an edge,” explains Tal. Not career training for exotic dancers. She doesn’t allow instructors to teach in heels, either.
And by “this,” Tal means “fitness.”
While many women come for the fun, they stay for the intense workout, which develops strength in the upper body, core, and legs. (There’s no way you can do the challenging hands-free pole inversions without it.)
And, come January, Body & Pole will add more fitness classes to its schedule, like aerial dance, acrobatics, and yoga. (Their roster includes star instructors like Isaac Pena.)
Having good teachers and a fitness focus converts curious pole-fitness dabblers into clients who become hooked, says Tal.
“I compare it to spinning because it’s a similar kind of addiction,” she says. “People really get into it. And soon, they live, breathe, and eat pole.” —Lisa Elaine Held
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