POLE AROUND THE WORLD
LOFT One Studio – Geneva, Switzerland
by Tom Crehan
The mere mention of Switzerland conjures up images of idyllic Alpine landscapes, posh ski resorts, lederhosen-clad yodelers… and of course, chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.
But pole dancing? Well, why not?
Switzerland is a sports loving country: one in four people belong to a sports club of some kind. And though Switzerland is the first country where winter sports were developed on a large scale — and Alpine activities such as skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering are still hugely popular — the Swiss are equally passionate about their football (soccer), avidly follow the exploits of Swiss tennis stars like Roger Federer and Martina Hingis, and engage in an array of traditional sports such as Schwingen (Swiss wrestling), Hornussen (sort of a cross between baseball and golf ) and Steinstossen (think “shot put” but with heavy stones).
So it stands to reason that the adventurous and active Swiss might be willing to give pole fitness a whirl… figuratively and literally. And if Daniela Baumann — founder of LOFT1, Switzerland’s first ever pole fitness studio — has her way, they’ll keep on whirling.
“We’re changing attitudes,” Baumann says. “Our goal is to reach even more women and get them inspired by this sport. I think that today we are on our way.”
If LOFT1’s burgeoning popularity is any indication, the Swiss are jumping into pole fitness they way they would a downhill slalom at St. Moritz… feet first and fast. “I started by opening my first LOFT1 studio five years ago,” Baumann recalls; adding that such was the demand that “after the first, I opened a new studio every 6 months!”
That kind of growth is impressive, and a credit to both the system and attitude Baumann has instilled at LOFT1. She balances a focus on fitness and fun with a commitment to the highest quality technical instruction. That last part should come as no surprise: Baumann had years of high- level professional dance experience before ever clambering up her first pole.
“I was a hip hop and musical dancer for 15 years before I started pole dancing,” Baumann says. “I used to organize the choreography and the show for dance companies on TV.”
And Baumann’s dancing and teaching roots go even further back than that. As a child, she danced both ballet and jazz, and in her late teens she began teaching aerobics, step and bodytoning classes. “Later I started with hip hop, reggeaton and musical dance,”Baumann says, adding,“That is when I began to create my own style.”
A style that would lead her to a successful career as a professional dancer and choreographer known for physical moves and innovative ideas. With numerous TV appearances in Switzerland, Germany and beyond she had reached what some would say was the peak of her profession. But for Baumann it wasn’t enough, and she found herself yearning for something more.
“After 15 years I got tired of hip hop, and I started looking for a new fitness or a dance workout for women.”What she found was pole dancing and she took to it immediately. It not only filled her need for a new form of physical expression, it fueled her entrepreneurial passion as well.
As the Swiss pole dancing industry was still in its nascent stage, Baumann reached out to the best pole dancers she could find in the USA and the UK. She started taking private classes from some of the top names in the world, with an eye towards perfecting her style and ultimately opening her own studio back home.
Drawing on her past dance, choreography and fitness teaching experience, Baumann developed not just a coaching style but her own instructor training concept. Her goal in opening LOFT1 Pole-Studios was not merely to run a pole fitness school, but to create THE studio that pole instructors would flock to as readily as newcomers.
Judging strictly by the numbers, it seems she has succeeded. Today, there are 10 LOFT1 studios worldwide, nine of them in Switzerland and one in Miami. Over 1300 women are currently enrolled in classes. And LOFT1 has cemented its reputation as not just a friendly place for beginners to have fun and get in shape, but as a place for pros to learn and train as well. LOFT1’s position as organizer of Miss Pole Fitness Switzerland and Miss Pole Fitness Germany as well as Baumann’s involvement as both a co-organizer and jury member of the World Pole Dance Sport & Fitness E Championships is further evidence of the high regard in which she is held in pole circles.
But for Baumann it still comes down to the students and she derives great satisfaction from helping the women who come to LOFT1 grow N in confidence and ability. “In the beginning,” Baumann relates, “women are rather shy when they come into our studios. After a short time they E open up and show their self-confidence on the outside.” It’s gratifying, according to Baumann, to watch “the self-esteem of women increase from month to month” as they progress in their classes.
“My motto is: every woman can learn pole fitness,” Baumann states. V And with her pupils gaining strength, toning bodies and dropping weight (15 quick pounds is not an uncommon result)… all while having fun, it’s no wonder that there are plenty of “everywomen” walking through the doors A at LOFT1. Students range in age from 16 to 58 years old and come from a wide variety of industries: bankers to nurses to models.
And, in keeping with the tolerant Swiss tradition, families, husbands and friends are getting more and more involved as well. “We organize studio graduation ceremonies where women can invite their friends and families,” Baumann says. “It’s a chance for them to show what kind of effort is behind this kind of sport.”
Soon it will be more than families, husbands and friends who get a chance to see the grace and beauty of the sport. In November, partly through Baumann’s efforts, Switzerland will host the 2012 World Pole Dance Sport & Fitness Championship. It’s the second time (2010 being the other) that Switzerland has hosted this top international competition, showing how far the sport has come in this country in a few short years.
“Pole fitness has shown me that there are no limits in the sport,” Baumann states with conviction. Her successful track record and unabashed enthusiasm for her chosen calling are making believers out of “neutrals.”
So will pole dancing one day become as emblematic of Switzerland as the Swiss Guard or the Matterhorn? Maybe not, but it won’t be from lack of effort on Baumann’s part.