Saturday, December 1, 2012

Studio Review: SuperShag, Charlestown MA

For my second studio visit in the Boston area, I went to the only place I can easily get to on the commuter rail: SuperShag.

SuperShag is most famous as a ballroom dance studio, and, among the pole community, as the producers of the competition I went to in September but didn't post the review for 'til last weekend. (Oops.) The pole studio part of the company is in Charlestown, and I can walk there from North Station, yay!

It's funny how you can live somewhere so long and there are so many places you'll never see. Like, I walked all over Boston from 1997-2002, but I don't know that I ever even went to Charlestown. The walk over the river was over a rickety complex of pedestrian walkways that was a charming stroll on a gorgeous day like last Saturday was, but I imagine it would suck if it were icy and windy.

I should have taken a picture of the entrance, because I passed it a full 3 times before I found it. OK, the first time was because I was busy playing with my phone and not watching where I was going, but after that it did take me some effort to find it, and I had pretty detailed directions. Not only is it tricky to figure out what building it is, but the entrance is tucked away in a corner that's not super-visible from the street. You'll know it when you see it, though. It's all decorated and colorful.

Most studios are either big and beautiful, or small and stripped down. SuperShag is the rare hybrid--it's small, only one workout room with 8 poles--but done up fancy. The decor was purple and burgundy, which I loved because it's got a bit of a feminine angle but is not pink. Thank you!

I was actually going to SuperShag to take an advanced class. Normally I go to open pole workouts, but I don't know that they offer that. (They do have an "open level" class, but I'm not sure if that's open pole or a guided class that all levels can attend.) Anyways, it's a nice luxury to be in an actual class now and then. ("But Pippi, you're an advanced teacher already, why would you take a class?" Hey--we can ALL learn from each other! You never stop being a student!)

The students and employees I talked to were very nice, though a few seemed perplexed that I was self-taught. I guess it is unusual that a self-instructed poler drops in for an everyday class (workshops are a different matter). I did find at least one person who trained at the same circus school in New York that I did (though at a different time), and a lot of the other students trained in other aerial arts.

I didn't count the students, but I'd say there were 6 or 7 of us. There were 8 poles and I'm pretty sure they weren't all full. (I don't know what their policy is on max students and if there's ever pole sharing.)

My teacher was Patti, and the class structure was something like: warmup, tricks & combos, very tiny amount of improv time, and cool down. There was no routine, which is good by me.

This was a "Level 5" class, which is their top level. The most advanced classes at most places are always a bit of a hodgepodge, and this was no different. As usual, I didn't watch the other people training too carefully (partly to give them privacy/not be creepy, and partly because I am self-absorbed), but I can say I saw advanced things like deadlifts and heard comments about people still making friends with Superman. So yeah, that's a pretty wide spread. OK, now I have to try to remember what moves we worked on, 'cause this was a week ago. A spin combo (involving my least favorite, reverse grab, which I don't really do because I don't do 1-armed spins, but getting into it from a split-grip spin is a relatively controlled way so it's OK), Superman drop (they do it into the outside leg hang, and I prefer a straight drop, but it's good to practice different things), pole splits, Janeiro (I actually got it for like 2 seconds thanks to some help from classmate Juel), and twisted grip handsprings done without swinging (you were allowed to get into position and pop off the ground with your toes though). So again, a pretty wide spread of skills. Pole splits are pretty easy (even I can do them, and I can't do the splits), Janeiro is a really advanced move. Oh, and Patti had seen me complain on Facebook that my open cupids and other bottom-of-feet moves are sloppy since switching to a chrome pole, so she offered to take a look at my cupid after class, which was very thoughtful of her. Her diagnosis was the same as mine, though: correct technique, just slippery feet/pole. (I just don't want to use grip on the bottoms of my feet because I'll end up with cat litter grains and dust bunnies stuck to my tootsies!)

Of note is that the instructor didn't demo anything during class. Not sure if that was a studio policy, an instructor-specific policy, or if she was just under the weather that day. The task of demonstrating went to the more advanced students in class. There were enough advanced students that it worked out.

Class was an hour and 15 minutes, which is a good amount to have a full class and still have time to warm up and take a couple breaks. An hour is good if you're gonna really push yourself, but it's too easy to slack and not get your workout on. (Unlike other dance and aerobics classes, aerial arts involve a lot of standing around figuring stuff out.) Even though I could already do most of the moves to some extent or another, I ended up really exhausted. Maybe I was hitting it harder than I realized, or maybe it was just the stress of being the stranger in the room. I'm glad we had the breaks, because I downed several bottles of water and a protein bar over the course of the class.

I thought the $25 price was fair for an instructed class, especially in a big city, and especially for a class that's over an hour.

Overall it was a good workout and a productive use of training time. Except that, due to the weekend train schedules, I was gone for 6 1/2 hours just for one class. Yeah, I got some good shopping done in the 2 hours I had to wait for the next train, but getting here from the suburbs without a car means making a day of it.

SuperShag Dance Studios
Equipment: 8 chrome X-Poles, 7 50mm and 1 45mm. (We used static, didn't check if they spun)
Amenities: 1 pole room, water cooler, bathroom but no shower
Drop-in price: $25

I forgot to take a pic so I got this one from Yelp


  1. That was really helpful! I don't know if/when I'll ever be in Boston but I enjoy a good studio review to just gain perspective and that was really thorough, so thanks!

    1. Thanks, good to hear! I know people outside the community use these reviews (like non-polers looking for info about a studio), but I'm never sure how people within the community take them.

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