Pole dancing… it's not just for strippers anymore.
Wendy Reardon—owner of Back Bay's Gypsy Rose Pole Dancing--believes it has more universal, positive power; healing power. She wants people to know that exotic dancing isn't just for sculpted gals looking to make the big bucks, but rather a useful tool for good exercise and self-confidence building in women of all shapes.
"My goal was simply to teach women how to do what I did when I was an exotic dancer," Reardon said in a recent interview. "They can dress up in clean costumes/short dresses/platform boots, etc., and really feel sexy again. I encourage them to do it just for themselves, to step out of their everyday world for a bit. It's daring, yet safe"
Not Just for Acrobats and Daredevils
Exotic dancers will always own the sport (yes, we'll call it that), but just like most strenuous physical activity, pole dancing isn't something that you must want to do professionally (competitively?) in order to give it a whirl.
Besides, while Reardon fully admits that it can be an unusually demanding activity, she also specifies that it doesn't have to be.
"Most come for more of an exciting workout because pole dancing doesn't necessarily feel like exercise," she explained. "Pole swinging alone isn't demanding because it's all momentum. Once your body gets used to the concept of utilizing momentum rather than the biceps, it's very easy and a lot of fun. Pole climbing and inverting require arm strength, but that gets built from swinging," she added, noting that 'inverting' is insider lingo for going upside down.
"To do the crazy acrobatic pole stuff you can see on YouTube does require a lot of upper body strength and athleticism, and you can also learn that at Gypsy Rose too," she said, adding that both chair and floor dancing are also options at her studio.
From Emerson to Erotic Dance to England
Reardon has traveled an unusual path to get to Gypsy Rose, which she opened in Quincy and then relocated to Back Bay in 2007. She graduated from Emerson and went to work as a Production Assistant at Warner Brothers Animation and, later, Hanna-Barbera. After getting laid off from HB she wrote two handfuls of cartoon episodes that eventually made it on TV ("Cow & Chicken" among them).
Somewhere along the way she auditioned for a bikini dancing gig at a Ventura, CA. bar called Snooky's and nabbed it; the initial attraction was the unusual, flexible schedule. But before leaving the area she'd danced regularly at four area nightclubs.
"It's addicting," she admitted, revealing that pure exhilaration keeps many women coming to her classes. "I did it for three years and then, although I could pick up a dollar bill with my butt and my parents were proud, I moved to Reading, England and attended the University of Reading where I earned a Masters in Medieval History."
Of course, she ended up dancing for the Brits while she was over there, making that ever-elusive dough to help pay for school.
Sexy is a State of Mind
But Reardon has flipped the script on the expected story multiple ways: while many women choose exotic dance as a financial side-car during transient periods, she's continued to let it be her primary career (through instruction) even after getting her Masters.
She's also not the gal you'd point to in a crowd and say, "She'd make one hell of a pole dancer!"
"I'm a size 8-9 and regular looking--so I want to show women that you don't have to be a size zero with blond hair and big boobs to look or feel like a real exotic dancer," she said. Women often send her notes that let her know how inspiring her classes can be.
"'Sexy is a State of Mind' is one of my mottos, and it does all start in the mind no matter how old, big, young, or skinny you are. I've had students who are larger but who look amazing when they dance because they let their minds take over, and that's what makes a woman sexy—her mind, not her body," she said, adding that a 67 year old women performed wonderfully in a particularly memorable Gypsy Rose recital which, incidentally, is the only time men are invited to watch.
Papacy and the Pole
Reardon has used her fine education to author a pair of books. In 2007, she published "The Complete Idiots Guide to Exotic & Pole Dancing" through Penguin, which was the second one. The first, out in 2004, was a more scholarly effort: "The Deaths of the Popes: Comprehensive Accounts Including Funerals, Burial Places, and Epitaphs."
"You should see the looks I get when I tell students I'm a published church scholar as well as an exotic dance instructor," she said. "I've even got a letter from the papal nuncio of John Paul II thanking me for a copy of the pope book that I sent him before he died, So, there's a copy floating around the Vatican somewhere.
The letter also says 'The pope bestows upon you God's abundant blessings.' That gives me chills!"
Gypsy Rose is located on the 3rd floor at 364 Boylston, the same building as Back Bay Yoga. There are numerous different instruction packages available as well as birthday/bachelorette party services and gift certificates. Call 617-421-0000 for details.