Friday, July 5, 2013

Studio Review: Gypsy Rose Exotic & Pole Dancing, Boston

There's an unassuming storefront on Boylston St, right off the Public Gardens, with an unassuming door and an unassuming foyer and a flag out front that unmistakably says "Gypsy Rose Pole Dance." I know it's been there for years, because I remember seeing it years ago, back when I lived in New York but used to come to Boston frequently to visit friends. Truth be told, Gypsy Rose wasn't at the top of my list of places to check out. I'm a tech-savvy girl and I Google things and their website is something of a hot mess. You can see for yourself, but let's just say it has a lot of personality (and a class called "Poultry in Motion"...?). It seemed to be mostly focused on bachelorette parties and otherwise on what we call "stripper style" pole, and those are not really my focus. But, I'm open-minded, so I thought it was finally time I give Gypsy Rose a try!

I struggled quite a bit with their mindbody site, but on the 3rd or 4th try was able to book a class called "Open Pole," although it was described not as an open workout but more of a small group class for non-beginners where rep is decided based on who's in class and what they want to learn. I figured I'd either get there and the company would be as much of a jumble as the website, or it would be some more serious polers who just needed a website redesign.

Coincidentally, the night before my class I got together with a poling buddy. She suggested going out to a bar and I protested that I had to wake up early the next morning to get to a pole class. She's a serious poler/aerialist, so when she asked what studio, I said "Oh, you've probably never heard of it--Gypsy Rose?" She laughed out loud. Turns out she used to teach there. Her input was simply "Wendy is crazy!" But she smiled when she said it and didn't seem to mean it in a bad way.

So I was ready for anything when I arrived for class on Sunday morning. Except the studio not being open; I wasn't quite ready for that. There was a sign up that said Gypsy Rose clients should take the elevator to the 3rd floor (there was a yoga studio on the 2nd), but the elevator wouldn't go to 3--like someone hadn't turned the key to unlock the floor. I tried to take the stairs, but the 3rd floor door was locked. I asked a friendly lady in the yoga studio on my way back down, and she said "They're probably not there yet."

So I sat on the floor in the foyer and watched all the yoga people come in and asked a few people if they were Wendy and they all said no. About half an hour in I was reading a boring business book when a passer-by asked, "Are you waiting for me?" Wendy apologized for being late, explaining that she'd had a 14-hour day the day/night before and had overslept. She came in with a student--I'm guessing they carpooled. (Not unheard of, as bad boy pole icon Philip Deal does occasionally pick me up from Salem to go to North Shore Pole Fitness. That shows how committed these instructors are to their students!)

Wendy was exactly like I expected from the website and the descriptions. She talked a million miles a minute, cracking jokes and just generally being a boisterous person. Since she talked so much, I can tell you a lot about her: Wendy is a proud ex-stripper, 42 years old, specializes in teaching beginners, likes to teach mostly spins, has been in this location for 6 years and in business for 10 making hers the first pole studio in New England, her studio is haunted... She asked a lot about me, too, and seemed intimidated when she found out how much experience I had, but I assured her that I was just there to have fun and she promised me she could deliver on that. :)

True to the website, this studio has a LOT of character. There is a door knocker shaped like big brass balls (yeah, like that). There are various sticks and other implements of torture in the corner that Wendy claims to use for punishment. And there is a costume closet.
Dressing up in outfits is not really my thing, but in restrospect I should have tried it to get the "full experience." Would have made for some nice photos! Oh, and they have thigh-high stripper boots which would have been nice to play in. I've never owned a pair because I am too cheap.

After getting changed, we went right into class, and Wendy checked with us that we could stay late because we had started late, and my classmate Sara and I said sure.

Then class started. As if the experience wasn't already so different from other pole studios, instead of starting with a warm-up, we started by sitting against the wall. Wendy put on some music, and she freestyled a song for us. She danced a whole stripper-style song right in front of us. I gotta say, girlfriend has some moves! She didn't do anything advanced, but what she did was spot-on and sexy. I know a lot of sexy-style pole dancers from the studio world who could really learn a thing or two from watching Wendy.

Then we got onto the poles. Warning: there is no warm-up in this class; as with many hour-long aerial classes I've taken you're expected to warm yourself up beforehand so as not to cut into instruction time. That's a good thing to know before you get there. Also, it was horribly muggy outside and the AC in the studio was blasting. This would have made it hard if we were doing more aerial-style pole (cold poles + cold bodies = impossible to stick to the pole), but since we were sticking with spins, it was fine. Doing spins on static pole when it's too grippy leads to pole burn.

Wendy had me run through every spin I knew, and even though I don't know a million spins for static pole, I was winded pretty fast--but she'd learned what she needed to. She correctly divined that I don't do a reverse grab spin. I have a good excuse: I categorically reject swinging on one arm because I think it's too hard on the shoulders. BUT, as long as I stay on my good shoulder it's fine in moderation, so I took the opportunity to have an expert spinner clean up my technique.

I always say this but it bears repeating: we can all learn from each other. Even though I'm an advanced poler and Wendy doesn't do advanced moves, she was able to help me with my spin.

My classmate, Sara, was doing as well as I was with the spin and had a solid aerial invert, which is something you don't always expect to see in an "exotic" style class.

Wendy used a variety of teaching techniques, such as drawing on the floor in chalk and holding her hand out for us to try to kick as we flung around. I get the impression that she teaches a limited number of moves, but the ones she does teach she has her pedagogy worked out to a T.

We spent pretty much the whole class working on this one spin, and then segueing another spin onto the end of it. I start to feel kinked up if I do a move/routine on just one side for a long time, but in this case I just can't do a reverse grab spin on my other side because of shoulder issues, so I went ahead and worked through it.

As it was getting to be the end of class, Wendy told us we could just work on whatever we wanted. She had another student coming in afterwards though, so after awhile she offered to move us to the other studio so we could keep practicing. I hadn't even known there was another studio! It was smaller, with just 3 poles (the main studio had 5 or so and was more spacious). I would have loved to stay and play, but I was suffering from some overtraining-induced pain from the day before because I can't take my own advice apparently (see Are you overtraining?), so I bailed. It was nice of her to let us stay and use the studio for free after class was over, though!

I was a kinda bummed that I got out too late to go shopping before I caught my train home. But even though I was doing pretty simple moves and wasn't aware of getting a workout, I left exhausted and starving, so I guess I was working pretty hard after all!

In summary, I've been to several different studios in my pole career, and Gypsy Rose was different from any of them. It's almost like a response from the universe to last week's post about authenticity. Yes, most of the pole community has moved on from its stripper roots, turning towards competition and aerial athleticism. But not everyone. There is still a faction. There is still someone like Wendy who considers her years in the adult industry a bragging right, who wants you to dress up in costumes and turn the lights down and laugh and just have fun.

Gypsy Rose is going through some major business changes. They've been bought out or something, or otherwise have a team of investors advising. They'll be moving to a new studio in Allston, and adding more fitness-based classes. I wonder how things will change. Will this tiny enclave of true stripper-style pole lose its character as it makes room for Zumba and corporate sponsors? Probably not if Wendy has anything to say about it.

Gypsy Rose Exotic & Pole Dancing, Boston
Equipment: 1 pole room with 5 or more 50mm stainless steel (?) static poles, 1 pole room with 3 of the same. Not sure of make--I think my friend had mentioned they were X-Poles, but they don't have a spin mode.
Amenities: COSTUME CLOSET!! Bathroom in hallway, lounge/reception area, implements of torture.
Drop-in price: $25

NOTE: The studio will be moving to a new location and making major changes, so all of the above could be out of date by the time you go.

Photos of studio by me!

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