Pole Fitness Proves Popular
So who is this then?
This is 23 year old Ruby Rose Jackson, a pole fitness instructor from Horsham. She runs her own business, Pole Place, from B52's in Piries Place, Horsham.
You mean she's a pole dancer?
Well, sort of. She doesn't exactly do The Macarena up there. As anyone who has ever tried it will testify, using a pole is a great way to keep fit.
Isn't it all a bit seedy?
Due to its use by exotic dancers in strip clubs, pole dancing does come with preconceptions. Ruby said: "It is misunderstood and does have a stigma attached to it, which is a shame. Some associate it with exotic dancing but slowly we are showing the general public that pole dancing is far more than that."
It all started in strip clubs though, didn't it?
Actually, the form of pole fitness Ruby teaches incorporates a range of influences. The Chinese use rubber coated poles to perform daring acrobatic tricks, whilst the Indian sport of Mallakhamb, which involves performing exercises on a pole, has been popular for 800 years. These different elements of pole acrobatics have combined with elements of westernised pole dancing to create the sort of exercises we see today.
How long has Ruby been dancing for?
She tried her hand at ballroom Latin as a young girl, and did a little bit of tap dancing at school too. She then studied contemporary dance at college but claims she "wasn't very good at it." It was only four years ago that Ruby started pole dancing.
Why that and not Zumba?
Ruby said: "I wanted to get back into dancing, and pole dancing was a craze at the time! I googled local clubs and joined a class in Surrey. My instructor was Keem S Martinez, who was male pole sports world champion in 2012. I just loved it and practised three or four times a week on top of the lesson. Naturally, I improved. When Keem moved back to Paris, I just carried on training."
When did she make the jump up to instructor?
Ruby started teaching a short time later, initially balancing classes with a permanent job in admin. When combining the two became too difficult, she decided to be a full time instructor, working at a dancing school in Surrey. Sadly, a bad shoulder injury forced her to take a break from pole dancing for a year. But when she recovered, Ruby looked to set up her own classes in Horsham.
It was indeed, as it meant Ruby had to spend a lot of money on the poles and stands, as well as pay for a venue whilst trying to find clients. She said: "It did take me a while to have the guts to start my own business, but now I have over 35 clients and it is starting to be worth all the effort. I love doing this, as it is my passion, and when you're passionate about something it makes it a lot easier. I look forward to teaching every day and of course it also helps me improve my own skills."
Why did she choose B52's?
Ruby spent some time hunting for the perfect venue, but hiring a hall was difficult because of the time required to set up the apparatus. She said: "Many venues can only be hired by the hour, but I really needed somewhere where I could leave my equipment up for long periods as it takes so long to assemble and dismantle. B52's is ideal because I can leave it all up for most of the week. I need the flexibility of offering lessons at any time from Monday to Thursday, so my clients can choose when they come here."
So it's one-to-one coaching then?
Some clients prefer one-to-one, because it means that they can progress at their own pace. Others prefer to be in a group as they can socialise, meet new people and have a good time. Ruby said: "I never have more than eight people in a class, so you will never share a pole with any more than one other person. I also put people in classes based on ability, so you won't have a total beginner with an experienced dancer. That really helps people with their confidence." What's also surprising is the age range. Far from being just young women, several people in their 60s are taught by Ruby, including a 63-year-old man.
I'm sorry, a man? Are you pulling my leg?
No, not at all! Like I said, 21st century pole dancing isn't about lonely men sticking twenty dollar bills in the
stockings of a scantily-attired young woman. In fact, Ruby teaches several men. She said: "This demonstrates that we are slowly but surely breaking down the stigma attached to pole dancing. Pole fitness involves a lot of resistance training. It's not like doing weights at the gym as you are using your body weight on the pole, which incorporates resistance training with cardio exercise. One of the biggest benefits is upper body and core stamina. It's extremely good for the legs too."
Still, must be a hard sell?
Ruby said: "It goes through phases of popularity. I find that when pole dancing is featured on television there will be a surge of people who want to join my classes."
An even harder sell for men!
Ruby admits that there are many men who say 'No way, you won't get me on a pole!' Yet it is a good alternative to the gym. Ruby said: "It's fantastic for strength training and because you are lifting your own bodyweight it has a similar effect to lifting weights. There's the added bonus of being able to do some pretty impressive tricks."
Is pole dancing difficult?
Far harder even than it looks (I could barely even hang on to the pole for more than a few seconds - not that I'm an Olympian or anything!) but Ruby takes all of her clients through it step by step. She said: "You don't put someone upside down straight away, as they will probably hurt themselves. To begin with, we keep you upright and do basic spins and conditioning exercises until your strength builds up. Then we will incorporate some spins and move towards inverting manoeuvres. Eventually people will try upside down positions. It takes time to get used to using different body parts to keep yourself in position."
So what's next for Ruby?
She would eventually like to move into a more permanent base to allow her to expand into other aerial arts. She said: "I've just started doing classes in rope and silk dancing, which is a form of circus based acrobatics. I hope we can grow that in the future, but of course it's difficult to hang silks from the oak beams here at B52's. It's a
fantastic venue for me at the moment, but that's where I one day hope to get to."
So where can I find out more?
Why, you thinking of joining?
No way, not me! I've got to go watch the rugby with the lads, have a couple of beers. Then I have to put up some shelves with my hammer and stuff like that. You know, man stuff...
Sure. Well, there's a terrific video that Ruby filmed herself which showcases her ability on the pole. You can search 'Ruby Rose Jackson' at watch it on Youtube. You can also visit her website at www.poleplace.co.uk or email email@example.com
PICTURES: TOBY PHILLIPS
INTERVIEW: BEN MORRIS