Escaping poll-induced frenzy by getting on a pole

2014-05-12 13:51

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It was Thursday, the day after elections. Cape Town was wet and laced with the first real cold of winter.

We had dashed around to cover the voting process. I saw Arch Tutu vote at Milnerton High School and it made me sad.

He told the assembled crowd that folk had grown passé about the privilege to vote. For the first time ever, he looked deflated and his words were not accompanied by his trademark cackle.

I wanted to tell him that some of us care deeply but are really confused. I read somewhere: “Trying to pick my favourite politician is like trying to decide which STD is just right for me.”

On Wednesday morning, in a radio interview, Pieter-Dirk Uys opined: “Remember, not all politicians are crooked, some of them are hardworking people too.”

I decided to escape the poll-induced frenzy by getting on a pole instead. It was time to reach for the Pole Project flyer I picked up at a recent Women’s Lifestyle Expo – where Professor Tim Noakes also hosted talks denouncing sugar as the latest culinary prime evil, as he does.

The Pole Project is based in an old warehouse on the slightly seedy side of Roeland Street, that Mother City arterial that dips from the foothills of Table Mountain, past Vredehoek and District Six, to the beautiful ornate buildings of Parliament in the heart of the city. I elected to try a beginner’s class at dusk.

Inside, in a huge room with exposed red bricks and floor to ceiling windows, rows of poles were mounted before a mirror framed by dressing room-style light bulbs. Through the windows, I could see the Viglietti Ferrari garage across the road, and on the other side, the Absa building signage glowed red in a blanket of fog. Rain pelted the glass, but it was warm inside.

Ja, so feeling a bit low, I hoisted myself up against a pole, inner thighs strained around shiny metal attached to ceiling and floor. Now, I don’t have moves like Rihanna or Jagger; and trust me, this was even harder than it sounds.

In front stood Kathy Lee in a leopard-print onesie of sorts, all rippling olive skin and smiles. Born in Singapore, Kathy studied in London and opened The Pole Project in Cape Town in February.

Her speech is peppered with “Ja?” as in “geddit”? A few times she meets my gaze, which I return with a look intended to convey quiet confidence and reassurance, but which probably more resembles uncontained panic.

Kathy first demonstrates – it’s beautiful to watch – then it’s our turn to imitate. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and just about drop to the floor in manner of ROTFL: I was clinging to the pole wide-eyed like a startled primate, desperately fighting gravity like a trooper without a parachute. Hahaaa. This was about as sexy as pet monkey trickery or war!

Next to me, Michelle, who’s been attending three classes a week for a month, was doing this “plank” thing where your body turns perpendicular to the pole; I opt to just perch in the elementary, well, perching position instead.

Kathy’s compassion never falters though and she even praises my attempts to twirl round the pole, legs split uncertainly and knees bent like a wonky propeller.

About 40 minutes into the class, it feels more like a polathon than pole-dancing; my face is glowing and perspiration crawls down my spine.

Afterwards, in the dressing room, my fellow pole-dancerinas encourage me to attend again, saying it gets easier in no time.

There’s a warmth to the atmosphere that has nothing to do with mercury rising; these are cool people, I think to myself.

It was such fun and so absorbing that I even forgot to take a #selfie (permissible on the pole, while not at the poll, mos).

Excellent escapism and my mood felt lighter. While bopping around like a Fantasia hippo on a stick, even the white elephant of Nkandla had left the room.

I reckon I’ll be back for more.

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