It's all about over-exaggerating," Nicole advises her students as they practice floor work. She narrates as she demonstrates, lying face down on the wooden floor of the one-room studio. "Roll you head, go forward, and kick one leg up. Bring your head into it like you're pouncing." Transitioning up from the floor, Nicole leans on her knees and rises butt-before-body. She makes it look easy.
Known as Pocelain during her short-lived stage days, Nicole Pearlman was a student at Masterjay Moves a mere six months ago: "I heard about it while searching on the Internet, thought it was an interesting way to get in shape and decided to come in." A natural, Nicole immediately became a dedicated dancer, installing a pole in her house just two weeks after her first session. "You become obsessed. It becomes an addiction," she explains. After Nicole had faithfully attended class for six months, her teacher asked her to be an instructor.
Masterjay Moves, according to its website, is "dedicated to the art of movement through dance and exercise . to promote body awareness and healthy living, with a distinctively entertaining and exhilarating approach." Studio "B," the more family-friendly of Masterjay's two studios, offers a variety of classes ranging from tap dance, salsa and men's lead to yoga and roller skating. On the second floor of 1807 Chestnut St., Jay's Studio "A" is reserved for women's-only Pole Dance, Exotic Dance, Girls Night Out and Bachelorette (BYO optional) parties and, starting November 14, Strip Aerobics.
With an insatiable appetite for alternative exercise, Nicole practices fire hula hooping, plans to try trapeze arts and fire poi and hopes to add burlesque to the studio's repertoire. "We'll cover classic strip tease and burlesque dancing, we'll incorporate the pole and do some modern burlesque and add some lap dancing and chair dancing."
Each class kicks off with a warm up on yoga mats consisting of stretching, ab and arm work and hip moves. Ace of Base plays as Nicole leads her class of four through a series of crunches, hiplifts and scissor kicks. Between ab pops and stretches she instructs her students with ass aflutter to "shake it out." After 15 minutes, yoga mats are ditched in favor of six-inch platforms and the divas test out their balance. They take turns cat-walking across the room under the rotating light of a disco ball, throwing in a personal kick or spin before strutting back.
Next it's time for the pole. While Nicole has no names for her floor poses, she uses an official or personal title for each pole maneuver. Tonight's curriculum consists of "The Fireman," "The Scoop," "The Backwards," "Fan Kick," "Jump n' Lock" and the "Sandwich Spin" (See side bar). The girls excel at different moves, as each requires different areas of strength. The "Jump n' Lock," for instance, is "all in the thighs," Nicole explains as she grips the pole with her legs sticking out in front of her.
A first-timer would focus on one or two moves, but these ladies have some booty-popping under their belts. G-strings. Today's dancers are three Penn sophomores and "Cricket," an amateur dancer at Centerfolds strip club, who oozes a dominatrix sensibility with dark red streaked "working hair" and towering tuxedo platforms. The Penn girls, Lindsey Brandt, Jessica Shanken and Elizabeth Fife, are on their third class. The girls go as a group, getting a workout that's a bit more exhilarating than one at the gym.
While Jessica's ultimate dream is to do the "Snake Charmer," an advanced move in which the dancer swings freely and then throws the rest of her body, wrapping it around the pole, each student comes with her own agenda. "Most of the girls are between 22 to 25, all different shapes and sizes, all types of girls," explains Nicole, "Everybody comes with a different purpose but everybody works out and gains a lot out of the class."
Despite her mother's initial objections, pole fitness student Kayla has been attending classes twice a week for the past month. She's already benefited from them both mentally and physically: "[Before pole dancing] I didn't have any rhythm or upper body strength at all. you get major abs right in your stomach, a lot of strength and better confidence." Kayla's working on her mother, "trying to get her and the other mothers in the neighborhood to try it out."
Lindsey, Jessica and Elizabeth's mothers had less reservations about the girls' new hobby. "All of our moms love it!" they agree, "They think it's funny." The three became adept on the floor during strip aerobics classes this summer in New York and have plans to install a pole in their house next year.
Following floor practice, each class ends with the opportunity for each girl to let loose and try out her new moves to music. They divide themselves between the two gold poles, the pink and coral walls and girls-only regulation contributing to an intimate and comfortable atmosphere where inhibitions are easily shed. As Elizabeth spins into "The Fireman," she claims, "I swear I'm usually a conservative person"