16th Oct 2019 in Business
It’s the hottest and most fun exercise trend and Pole Exercise is right now kicking up an aerial phenomenon at the heart of Cathedral Quarter.
Polercise is the studio that runs pole athletics, pole dancing and a series of fun activities that see participants get healthy while enjoying themselves.
Owned by El Fegan, Polercise is based in the Clark’s Dance Studio premises on Donegal Street.
Yet, given the reputation of the US ‘pole dancing’ El was nervous when she first opened a pole exercise studio in 2005.
“Whenever I opened up, I was expecting like banners and protests right outside the door, and stuff,” she said. “However, there was none of that. It was grand.”
Moving to Cathedral Quarter has been a boon for El, enabling her to reach out across the city while keeping Polercise focussed.
Many will already have seen El and her pole stars performing at the Culture Night celebrations, and El’s seen since she first began not only an acceptance of pole fitness, but even a growing number of men wanting to participate.
It’s a long way since El came across pole fitness when on a trip to Australia.
“I saw this article in a magazine and I was really intrigued,” she explained. “I was like ‘Oh, I could do that’.
“I remember going and asking about the classes. And, I don’t think I told my boyfriend at the time, for about three weeks, where I was sneaking off to, into the city to go to these classes.”
From there it became something that El was determined to pursue, even if she didn’t want to speak to her parents about.
“I came home in October 2004, and I set a pole up in my brother’s house, and it didn’t work, because at the time, I was still living with my parents.
“I didn’t tell them that I was sneaking over to his house to practice on my pole in his garage. It was at that time it was becoming prominent in England.
“I would leave the magazines open on that page, lying around the house, for my mom to read or pick up on it.”
Since those early days as a pioneer in pole El can explain, with many examples, the benefits of pole.
“The whole point in coming to pole class is to get stronger, both physically and mentally,” she said. We’ve had girls come in and they’ve told us that it’s changed their lives.
“They develop their body confidence, their self-confidence, and relationships. Some have come from an abusive relationship and they are able to get the strength to just go and move on from there. And that, for me, is probably the best, the biggest thing that we get out of it.”
For some it has become a family passion: “We have mothers and daughters come, and we have people that come with their kids.
“Pole can be adapted to every shape and size.”
El has had the pleasure of seeing her former students open their own studios and to have pole fitness become more mainstream in the health and recreation sector.
It was not however, what she had in mind as a career.
“I always wanted to be a firefighter,” she said. “I applied to the fire service a few times, but it never, ever progressed to a career.”
Those who take part in the Polercise classes come in all shapes and sizes.
“We get small girls who have absolutely no upper body strength, and they’re not able to lift their own body,” she explained. “And then, we’ll get stronger, bigger girls who can just climb up that pole, no bother. It’s just all about being able to lift your own bodyweight, and work from there.
“At Polercise, we welcome all. A pole is, what it is. People bring their own styles.
“We have people who are gymnastic, people who come from absolutely no background and love the sexy side of it, and love putting the hands on. We’re not a school that’s going to go ‘No, you’re not allowed to wear high heels, you’re not allowed to do that’.”
As well as the classes Polercise also offers fun events for parties.
“We offer any kind of themed dance party, like the whole Burlesque, cheerleading, Grease, Dirty Dancing and the like,” she said. “This year is going to be the hustlers, so we’re going to be offering strip tease workshops. We’ve already run a few of those, and they went down a storm.
“All the parties are a bit more fun, as opposed to the classes where you’re in doing a full-on body workout. The parties will come in, we’ll play a few party games, and you’ll have a little champagne reception.”
And, 2019 has seen the men join in, and not just for classes.
“This year has been good for stag parties. We’ve had a couple of stags who have came in to do pole and really had a great time.”
At the same time as El has seen pole fitness take off, she’s also noted the changing face of the Cathedral Quarter.
“When I started here the Cathedral Quarter wasn’t seen as friendly as what it is now. It was also seen by many as the seedier area of Belfast,” she said. “But over these last few years it has been absolutely booming. It has changed, and it has obviously gotten a bit more cultured, as well. With, you know the spectacular graffiti art and all the different nationalities.”
El’s place in the pole fitness world has seen her as a judge in the world sports fitness championships in China, a competition that will take place in Belfast for the first time – and one that showcases the range of people who have become involved.
“We have more than 50 competitors,” she said. “There are six categories from juniors to seniors and veterans, from 11 years of age, up until nearly 70.”
With all that going on El is keen to remember that her success in the Cathedral Quarter should also mean she offers something back.
All businesses in the Cathedral Quarter and their staff are entitled to discounts in classes and special team building or just some ‘corporate’ fun can be arranged.
Intrigued, but not sure whether it’s for you? El explained that everyone starts as a beginner.
“We teach you all the basics and we write everything down, so we’re focusing on technique and just building your strength for those first four weeks. And then, you move onto beginner levels.
“We’ve got some beginner right through to elite level. Come and try it and see if it’s for you.”
To find out more, or to book a session go to polerciseni.com