Susan Skinner shares how the activity has totally transformed her, physically and mentally.

By Susan Skinner as told to Renee Cherry
March 31, 2020

It all started with a magazine article about the physical benefits of pole dancing classes. I'll explain...

After years of paddling competitively as part of an outrigger canoe club, I noticed that it'd been getting harder to get into the canoe. I started searching for a way to regain strength and mobility and, after reading about pole dancing, I thought it might help—at the very least, it would make for an interesting experience. And so I decided to look into taking classes.

I should probably mention that I was 69-years-old, making pole dancing an especially unexpected choice. Still, I found a studio called Body and Pole in New York City and decided to buy a pack of five classes. (Related: 8 Reasons You Need to Try Pole Fitness)

Susan Skinner balancing on a pole and in a lyra hoop
Credit: Biz Jones

Showing up to my first class, I was slightly intimidated. First of all, everybody else was in their twenties. (I've since turned 70, and even if nobody at the studio ever mentions the age gap, I notice it.) But I just went in with a "let's do this thing" mindset.

I was hooked from the start. I burned through that five-pack of classes, then bought two fifteen-packs, then a summer package, and eventually, I became a studio member. Until recently (blame COVID-19), I was attending classes every day and multiple classes on the weekend. Not only do I take pole classes but I also take those that involve silks, hoops, rings, and hammocks and that are focused around inversions, dance, and flexibility.

In December, I performed for the first time as part of a showcase. As someone who hasn't spent much time on a stage (I'm a real estate agent after all), performing was a totally new experience and I loved every second of it. I was able to show off a routine I'd spent hours practicing, I was wearing a great outfit, and the audience was screaming my name. Maybe their response was because of my age, but it felt amazing regardless. (Related: Why You Should Take a Pole Dancing Class)

Not to sound cliché, but the classes have transformed my mind and body. Over the course of a few months, I built up my strength and stability to that point that I can now climb a pole and perform a headstand. The classes also made me more comfortable moving my body in new ways, especially since I had zero dance experience when I started.

And then there are the mental benefits. As a real estate agent, self-assurance is crucial when making a presentation and trying to sell an apartment. Thanks to pole dancing, I've been able to further build my confidence, which has helped me both in real estate and in class. I now feel even more secure speaking in front of people and am better able to work through any fears of rejection, be it when trying to sell an apartment or when climbing the pole.

I've also loved belonging to a new group (in addition to my outrigger canoe club, of course). Over the years, I've learned that you'll likely find an outrigger canoe club near any body of water and, moreover, they'll be more than happy to have you hop in their canoe. I've paddled in races around the world by virtue of meeting people and striking up friendships. There's a similar culture within aerial arts. Everyone's so nurturing and accepting, and if you want to be part of that world, they invite you with open arms. (Related: J. Lo Shared a Behind-the-Scenes Video Showing How She Mastered Pole Dancing for "Hustlers")

To people of any age who, like 69-year-old-me, are curious about pole dancing classes: I can't recommend them enough. Not only will they transform you physically, but they will also boost your confidence, give you opportunities that you wouldn't have otherwise, and make working out fun.