Monday, 24 November 2014

Stripper Gymnasts on Poles

I recently found out that my talented young colleague, Ann Marie, does pole dancing. I was curious. I invited her to write a post on my blog about what got her into pole dancing and what it means to her.

So here is Ann Marie in her own words: 

In July this year on The Voice Australia, Joel Madden called three backup dancers “stripper gymnasts on poles”. The prudes of the Twitter world agreed, and the three pole dancers responded with a bulk order of “Stripper Gymnast” tank tops. I own one. 

See the awesome pole dance performance: 

How did I enter the world of stripper gymnastics aka pole dancing? It didn’t start with a strip club or a legitimate gymnastics background. I can’t remember the exact video I watched, but here’s one that should evoke the same sort of awe-inspiring, life-changing decision

I chose this performance because Natasha Wang, 2013 winner of the International Pole Dance Championship, had no dance or gymnastics background before starting pole dancing. Therefore strongly supporting the point that all pole dancers have been standing solidly by: pole dancing can be mutually exclusive of stripping, and anyone can start. Even if you only have one arm. Really. 

To me, pole dancing is like any other sport. You’re not that good in the beginning. It’s difficult and it hurts. But even with once a week practice, suddenly you find yourself doing things that you never thought was possible. 

Let’s take running, a very popular competitive sport and also very popular with anyone wanting to shed a few pounds. My first run was 500m and I think I almost died. A month later, I was jogging 5km non-stop. At my first pole class, a spin was a huge achievement. A month later, I was learning how to go upside down. 

I wasn’t very serious about it to begin with. But that’s another great thing about pole dancingyou don’t have to be. It’s like Zumba class, but you can take really impressive photos of yourself. But the best thing about this sport in my opinion, is that even if you’re not a serious poler you can still see what difference it does to your strength, flexibility and coolness factor. When I say “not a serious poler”, I mean one hour a week and that’s it. Suddenly you’re learning how to go upside down, and suddenly a trick that used to be hard is now easy. That’s awesome. 

On my Instagram (@annmazarie), you can see how I’ve progressed since the very first Fireman Spin. To be fair, I got a little more serious about pole dancing along the way and added a few more hours to my practice time. I wish I had some videos from when I was a beginner, so I could show people how far I’ve actually come but I didn’t have Instagram back then.

It does get harder. The beginner moves can be learnt in a week or two, while intermediate moves may take up to a month. Nailing an advanced move can take 2 months to a year, depending on the strength gain required. It’s different with everyone.

A beginner move (Level 2 or 3) – 2 or 3 classes to get this one

An intermediate move (Level 5 or 6) – actually took me 2-3 months to get this consistently

An advanced move (Level 8 or 9) – around 4 months since learning it, 90% consistency

Common Concerns About Stripper Gymnastics

1. But I can’t even do a push up on my knees/leg lifts/pull up/etc. 
My biggest pet peeve question about pole. This is why you start at Level 1. What you see me doing now is at the very least a year away. P.S. I still can’t do a pull up. 

2. Does it help me lose weight?
Another annoying question. Maybe. You’ll definitely tone up and gain definition. You lose some body fat if you eat well. Who cares about your weight anyway, as long as you look good. Naked.

3. I’m a man, and men pole dancing is gay. 
Pole dancing does not have to be “sexy”, and actually, men pole dancing is very sexy (to female pole dancers). Men have the upper hand with strength moves, and us females are very jealous. In fact, if you’re a single straight male, pole class would be an awesome way to meet lots of girls (like what yoga class used to be). The number of guys in pole classes has made a little jump in the past 2 years, as more girls drag their boyfriends to classes. 

4. But it looks so hard. 
Life is hard.

5. I’d like to do those awesome things I saw in the video. How do I start?
My favourite question! Pole studios have been popping up all over the place – four in Singapore in the last three months. Sign up for a beginner class or a trial (usually free). 

Pole Studios in Singapore

Jargon, explained:
• Spinning pole – the pole spins while you hang on
• Static pole – the pole doesn’t spin
• Pole diameters – range from 50mm to 38mm (My personal preference is 42-45mm, and I find that most people agree)
• Chrome, brass, X-Poles, Lupit poles – the make and finishing of the pole; explanations require a whole new blog post 

Milan Pole Dance Studio Singapore
11A Bukit Pasoh Road
The only studio that doesn’t have courses. Start with their Pole Dance Basic class. You can pay for just one class or get a trial pack, which is 3 classes for $60. Their poles are 42mm Lupit poles (good for small hands) and isusually spinning. 
Best for trying out a class and for busy people who can’t commit to an 8-week course.

261 Waterloo Street, #02-29 Waterloo Centre
Free trials once or twice a month on Wednesdays. This studio, like most others, does 8 week courses from Level 1-9. Their poles are 45mm chrome (good for toughening up your grip) and the tricks are taught on static. They largely focus on getting the tricks, with less emphasis on dance moves. 
Best for learning tricks.

Bobbi’s Pole Studio
222 Queen Street, #02-01
Not my personal favourite, because they have 38mm spinning brass poles and like to dance sexily in heels.The upside is that most students end up with great dance skills, which do help with making your tricks look amazing.
Best for dancing, while learning tricks.

Groove Singapore
100 Tras Street, #03-21
Unfortunately, an only ladies dance school. So good for the shy ones. Their courses range from Levels 1-10, and they offer exotic dance and burlesque for getting yoursexy on. My opinion of this studio is that they don’t focus as much on getting you strong and solid in your tricks as much as they should. 
Best for taking it easy.

Pole Dance Academy Singapore 
5A/6A Craig Road
Opened by one of the original Stripper Gymnasts, Michelle Shimmy. They also use 38mm brass poles. Their courses include pole dance from Beginner to Advanced, as well as Yoga for Pole and more dance-y pole classes. 

Studio Sands
23A Kampong Bahru Road, #02-02
Nice and airy studio with lots of light, using 40 and 45mm chrome X-Poles. They also offer a pole dance course for couples, so you can bring along your BFF, BF or GF. 

Slap Dance Studio
155A/157 Telok Ayer Street
A very new studio – mini courses start in December and things should be in full swing by January. Right now, a great place for lunch time practice for polers working in the CBD. FYI, this studio does striptease and lap dance classes so it may be the best place to become a real “stripper gymnast”.

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