Stilettos, fitness make match
By JOELLE BURNETTE
ROHNERT PARK CORRESPONDENT
Adding Twizzlers, Peppermint Sticks and Hot Tomales to your diet may not sound like the best way to lose weight and strengthen your body. But at iCandy Pole Dance Studio, those aptly named spins around a pole do just that.
Owners of the Rohnert Park business say they want their customers to experience a supportive, fun workout while gaining confidence in themselves.
“When you’re in there, it’s all about being sexy,” said Heather Lustig, who owns the studio with Christie Henderson.
But after the “No boys allowed” sign is hung and the dance studio door is shut, students quickly discover that spinning around a pole is no easy task.
“The first week you’re real sore, but you build up strength,” said Charlie Sleep. When she started taking classes, she was swimming two miles every weekday. Now she replaces a couple of those swims with an iCandy workout.
After learning how to walk around the pole in very high heels and building up core muscles, students move on to the advanced class. That’s where they learn how to blend the different poses into flowing routines that are athletic and graceful as well as sensuous.
Like most women who walk into iCandy’s bubblegum-pink storefront, any timidity quickly fades away and is replaced by the desire to continue the fun activity.
Sleep was terrified the first time she tried a class. The 45-year-old Petaluma Realtor said her disposition changed immediately once the class got underway.
“It helps develop your self-confidence,” she said.
Suzanne Little, 40, from Rohnert Park, said the classes are not just about feeling sexy. They are a fun way to bond and exercise — and to wear racy heels.
Within a month of beginning classes, Sleep started buying platform shoes and now has four pairs.
“These are my pride and joy,” said Sleep, pointing to a pair of black-mirrored stilettoes with red ribbons. She bought them in Las Vegas when the concierge at her posh hotel arranged for a driver to escort her to a shop located behind a gentlemen’s club.
Students who don’t bring their own platforms are provided with a pair. Lustig says the shoes provide a better workout, strengthen the legs and improve balance while also making the women feel sexy. Some students prefer knee-high boots that protect their legs from pole burn.
Lustig took her first class at iCandy two years ago, and said she signed up for six months of classes to guarantee that she had a pole of her own (there are 11 in the dance studio). By early 2011 she was teaching classes, and this summer she bought into the business.
In a recent advanced pole dance class, Lustig did an upbeat routine to the song, “Bad Girl” by Girls Love Shoes, that left her breathless and dripping with sweat.
Mallary Skidmore danced to a slower song, revealing a sultry routine, but not before having earlier practiced dangling upside down several feet above the floor, boots crossed at the ankles, thighs squeezing the polished-silver pole.
Her classmates applauded as she stretched her arms to the side, and Lustig said, “That’s beautiful.”
In her final routine of the evening, Skidmore climbed high up on the pole. Before transitioning her body into the next position, she settled momentarily into what her teacher called a resting spot. She took a deep breath and focused before changing her position.
Aruna Andes, who was teaching the class, had her own turn on the pole starting a dozen feet high on the apparatus. Improvising her routine to John Mayer’s “Gravity,” the students were captivated by her performance revealing strength and skill while producing smooth transitions from one pose to the next during the four minutes. She ended by releasing her handhold and stretching her body parallel to the floor, supported only by the power of her thighs.
Hanging upside down “requires a little fearlessness,” said Andes, 55, but it’s the kind of challenge that attracted her to pole dancing six years ago.
After the first class, she remembers thinking, “Where has this been all my life?” Over time she has learned how to draw strength from her core while maneuvering her body.
“People look at it as a stripper pole, but I see it as a vertical pole,” she said. Turn the pole on its side and you could place it into a ballet dance studio. Both styles of dance require strength and skill, but at iCandy, “It’s a playground.”
There are no pros in the class, as teachers or students. One student is an opera singer. Others work at Agilent, a bank or a local government.
“I love to see your different styles,” said Andes, who works as a personal trainer when not teaching the advanced classes.
After mastering some challenging moves of her own, 25-year-old Andrea Johnson of Santa Rosa said she went with friends to a strip club. She found a less-than-athletic performance and said she was tempted to tell the dancer, “Do something other than spin around a pole.”
“What happens at a strip club does not happen here,” she said, and vice versa.
In addition to pole dancing, iCandy offers hoop fitness, Pilates, Gyrokinesis, burlesque and various workshops. Drop-in, session and membership rates are available. The studio is at 554 Martin Ave., 799-7653, icandysonoma.com.
More iCandy photos by Joelle Burnette: