One rainy Boracay afternoon, I ended up hauling myself all the way to the far end of White Beach Station 3, dressed in the requisite tiny pair of shorts to join a group jazz class and pole dancing class at Mandala Spa’s The Vessel. I suppose it was a stroke of good luck that it was raining, because I was the only one who turned up for pole class. The teacher, Ed Aniel, who I assumed is probably used to the sight of a graceless marshmallow like me trying to be slinky and sexy on a pole, just happens to be the pioneer of pole dance in the Philippines. In 2004, he founded Pole Academy Philippines, the first school of its kind in the country.
As in every fitness routine, the class began with a warm-up. For jazz, it was a series of light, dynamic stretches. When we started on the actual routine, Aniel, knowing I was a beginner, decided to stick to the basic moves. Jazz apparently involves a lot of travelling across the dance floor. By the end of the class — during which we did a short jazz routine to Britney Spears’ version of I Love Rock N Roll — I was already fairly winded, though my muscles were by then wide awake for the subsequent pole class.
A short water break later, we were on to pole, which was to me, the main act and cause for most of my concern and fear. Like the jazz class, Aniel stuck to the basics with me. What surprised me was that more than just the spins and the theatrics, the class actually involved a lot of strengthening and toning. As we went through every move, Aniel pointed out which muscles to draw strength from, and constantly reminded me about my core — which apparently goes through the wringer in a pole class.
Apart from the physical workout, another important lesson: confidence. All throughout the one-hour class, Aniel in his infectious exuberance, would encourage me to flip my hair, to move my hips a little more, to smile wider. The pole, I realized, was the place to let go of any shyness.
By the end of the hour, I was beat and my legs were bruised from all the friction, but ultimately I felt that special kind of satisfaction you get from knowing that you pushed yourself further than you ever thought you could go.
To be honest after that class, I can barely remember the jazz moves I learned, or how to work a pole. The muscle memory has long faded, and so have the bruises on my legs. But what continues to stick with me is Aniel’s perky voice telling me not to worry about falling, reassuring me that I could carry my own weight – and me, holding on to the pole, climbing further up in spite of skin burning and muscles aching, discovering he was right, that I could carry myself.
Essentials. Mandala Spa’s fitness classes at The Vessel include pole dancing, jazz dance, as well as Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga, and Pranayama. Classes run from 8:30 am to 6pm or 7pm, with schedules changing weekly. A 10-class pass is P2,500 (US $58); a one-month pass is P4,500; and a three-month pass is P9,000. Visit the Vessel on Facebook for schedule updates.
Take a tour of Mandala Spa
Not shot at the Vessel. But how about this for some fitness inspiration? Pole dancing instructors are changing the face of their sport.
Mandala Spa Resort & Villas, Station 3, Angol Road, Manoc-Manoc, Boracay, Aklan; Tel +6336/ 288 5857; Mobile: +63917 634 8430. Visit The Vessel Community Events Center, Mandala Spa's The Vessel on Facebook.
Published February 2016