By Amy Stubbs
It's a funny thing to admit but I've always admired pole dancers - I mean people that can lift their own body weight effortlessly and maneuver it gracefully around a metal rod only a couple inches in diameter. I think we'll all agree that It's far better to watch than someone benching 220lbs grunting all the while. When I heard about pole dance fitness classes, I knew it was something I had to try.
Brass Vixens, the largest and first pole-dancing studio in Toronto, is more a dance space than a gym. Walking in to one of their two locations is a lot like walking in to your own home, if your home happens to be pink and black, and full of poles and mirrors. But the atmosphere is comfortable and the waiting room is welcoming. Bubbly girls arrive early to talk to one another about their day, and the classes they have taken prior. Those that sound as if they have known each other for ages, really just met at a class last week. The staff behind the counter is a rotation of the teaching roster, and are always involved in the conversation.
Now offering more than 330 classes a month, there is a wide array of options to take besides pole, if upper body strength is not your forte. I personally could not remember the last time I had been to a proper workout class and even then it was yoga, so was delighted to see there were many offerings for a beginner.
Vertical Barre and #FlexyVixens are a lot like yoga, just with a lot more hair flipping and pelvic thrusting (ok, that happens in yoga classes these days too). Classes like Chair Dance and Hip Hop Hotness ask the students to learn choreography to an eight count, plus a lot more slurs and bedroom talk than the ballet teacher of your youth. Different classes work various body parts. Pole Dancing does in fact require arm strength, but Hoop Burn will work your core and Aerial Fitness gives a full body workout. The schedule is expanding allowing for new additions, like the recently added CheerVixens and trendy classes such as Twerkout for the Miley fans in the crowd, or those that secretly admire the bum control displayed in Nicki Minaj's Anaconda. There really is something to match every fitness level and desired sass. That flexibility is really the meaning of "Brass Vixens."
The "brass" part is easy, referencing the material used to make the poles, which are the central focus walking in to either the Yonge Street or Queen Street West spaces. Vixens however has a number of meanings for Shannon Crane, Brass Vixen’s owner and lead instructor. “Somebody said once when they came in to the studio, they’d been to other pole dance studios and they danced like pixies, but in my studio the girls dance like vixens” Crane recalls. She sounds like a proud mama as she references the students as “my girls.”
Pole dancing lessons to many women will likely have them thinking of the events of a bachelorette party. Though seven days a week they offer drop in classes, Brass Vixens does cater to the bridal party crowd. Pole dancing and many of the other dance programs are available for personal parties. After all, it can’t just be coincidence that both studios share buildings with love boutiques.
There is no typical student at Brass Vixens. The girls and the occasional guy enrolled in classes range from perky young college students to bankers and soccer moms. They come for different reasons, with different motivations in mind. Jessica Mozo and her friend found recent inspiration at pop royalty’s Toronto date over the summer. “We saw Beyoncé’s concert On The Run and we were so inspired by her chair dance that we knew we had to get on that level.” Though Mozo doesn’t think she has the booty to rival the idolized superstar, she was feeling great about her progress and was picking up the moves with ease after just one class. “You walk out of here with so much confidence, and your hair flippin’ on your way out.” Whatever reason brings them; I haven't seen one person leaving that door without a smile on their face.
Members at a more advanced level do perform in a troupe, that I’m sure is bound to be a wild and entertaining group to strive towards joining.
The one hour classes are conducted in such a way that you almost always don’t even realize that you’re working out. When I try to work out in the comfort of my own home, I give up after 15 minutes feeling exhausted, defeated and with something more entertaining distracting me. At Brass Vixens I don’t look at the clock until the hour is almost up. After my first class I walked out feeling sexy and powerful, with an extra dose of confidence in my step. It wasn’t until three classes in and a couple of days had passed that I could feel the burning in my muscles that reminded me I had in fact been working out, not just having fun with a dozen or so of my newest friends.
The $79 unlimited month-long introductory offer allows new students to partake in a wealth of classes throughout the week and sample whatever piques your curiosity. But if you want a spot you better book fast. Classes open up for registration three days before, and if you aren’t quick on the draw you will wind up wait listed hoping for a no show. The best bet if you like a class is to make a recurring reservation using their app.
The overwhelming reception recently to classes has allowed Brass Vixens to open the Yonge and Wellesley location in February. Crane already has her eyes and heart set on a third location in the city’s East end for sometime next year.
After four weeks taking a range of the classes on tap at Brass Vixens, I notice a difference in the depth of my split, my co-ordination, ability to remember choreography, and even my physique; just to name a few things that I’m willing to share. Call me a fitness convert, I’m hooked and have signed up for my next batch of classes.
Brass Vixens has a take away for each and every body that walks through their door; be it a change in body, a boost in confidence levels, or a sexy routine to show off in the boudoir. “Women come in and I don’t know anything about them. They’ll say physically they were feeling so down and coming in to classes, they just feel sexier, and happier and more confident about their bodies,” says Crane. With laughter she adds, “If you remember one thing from me, let it be the butt bounce.”