My colleagues might disagree, but I proudly identify as a reserved introvert – not the sort of person who volunteers answers for “class participation points”. My rather tame exercise regimes reflect this. For instance, Emi Wong workouts during the Circuit Breaker, and the occasional run. Pole dancing classes were not even on my workout radar. It looked graceful, sensual even, but I would never dare suspend myself in the air in something like a bikini.
That is, until fate intervened.
Though pole dance arrived on Singapore shores in the last decade, I was a true laggard and only tried it out in 2019. The occasion: a hen’s night. Yes, I know, typical.
My only previous encounter with the dance was viewing the IG stories of friends who were performing all sorts of aerial stunts on the pole. I thought it looked otherworldly, but it seemed out of reach for someone non-athletic like me.
Imagine my trepidation when my #girlsquad “kidnapped” me to try pole dancing together one evening to celebrate my upcoming wedding. Probably inspired by Jennifer Lopez in the movie “Hustlers”. All sorts of thoughts raced through my mind: What if I couldn’t spin? Were my shorts too short? Would I fall?
Thankfully, none of these came to pass during the trial session we had with Jasmine Han of SLAP Studio. The energetic instructor cracked us up with jokes at every juncture, and taught us a simple routine that mashed up dance moves and spins.
As an ex-dancer, the satisfaction of nailing a dance routine flooded back, while the challenge of mastering spins and climbs was addictive. Even with a simple climb, you have to kiap your knees tightly to the pole, engage your core, and grip on for dear life despite sweaty palms – all in time to the music.
When you succeed, though, it’s magical. When all the moving parts fall into place, it’ll seem like you are flying through the air, a tiny sliver of an alternate life as a Cirque Du Soleil performer.
After the trial session, equipped with fresh bruises, a sense of achievement and a $100 dance voucher – courtesy of my friends – I was hooked. Where do I sign up, folks?
My first “Intro To Pole” classes were a whole new world. Everyone seemed nervous and we were all pulling down shorts that Kept. Riding. Up.
We learnt a simple routine to Sia’s “Chandelier”, and since it was dominated by dance moves and a few spins, I thought hey, no biggie.
What I didn’t account for was the pain. Wrapping your legs around the pole and relying on pure friction to stay afloat was excruciating. “Your skin will get thicker!” the cheery instructor told us when she saw our grimacing faces. The aftermath wasn’t pretty, either. Bruises were EVERYWHERE.
Our skin did get thicker, both physically and metaphorically. After an 8-week course, the physical pain had dulled and any semblance of paisehness had gone with the wind. Taking the place of shy girls judging themselves in the mirrors were women who boldly wore sports bras and boy shorts – all the better to maximise your skin’s surface area and friction.
With my awkwardness banished, I even signed up for the studio’s Year End Performance, inviting my husband and friends to watch my new skills in action.
With every high comes a low. With every peak comes a valley…well, you get the idea. For instance, plateaus when performing certain tricks.
My Achilles heel was poor core strength – #throwback to my dismal NAPFA scores for sit-ups since forever. Thus, I took a whole 6 months to do a clumsy basic invert, which refers to pulling yourself from the ground to go upside down on the pole.
Since the invert was the basis of many pole tricks, I felt it was holding me back. On good days, I nailed it, but on others, I was a scrambling monkey. A very frustrated monkey.
Yet, unlike my brief flirtation with ClassPass and Chloe Ting ab challenges, I persisted with pole. The satisfaction of achieving a trick once out of your reach was addictive. Plus, it didn’t quite feel like exercise – the hours flew by much faster versus my time on the treadmill.
Another challenge I faced was internal: envy. Many times, I saw fellow classmates effortlessly contort their body into pretty shapes on the pole, while I could not even tell my right leg from the left. The wisdom of the proverb “comparison is the thief of joy” hit me with full force, and I realised that instead of comparing my progress to others, I should focus on how far I’ve come instead.
Pro tip: Record your pole sessions so that you can look back at the progress you’ve made.
As I grew in confidence and started posting videos on Instagram, a few friends expressed a tentative interest to try pole for themselves.
Most common sentiments heard? “Is everyone in the class very good?” “Can plus size girls do it?” “I want to try it but I don’t dare to wear so little!” “Is it slutty?”
Image credit: Mona’s Comics
I heard a shred of insecurity underlying the excitement in my friends’ eyes, and saw a past version of myself reflected right back at me. It turns out that in my 6-month journey, I had developed a greater appreciation of my body for what it can do vs how it looks – you’d hardly care about cellulite that much when your powerful legs get you suspended in the air. Self-consciousness, who?
The pole community is also one that’s super supportive. Unlike many fitness studios where the default mode is to pretend your classmates are invisible, my fellow polers always stepped up to make sure I didn’t fall off the pole. Some classmates offered tips on how to achieve that elusive Superman or Leg Hang pose. Others even clapped when I finally nailed it.
Never once did I feel condescended to or ignored. That reinforced a win-win mindset where I no longer felt the need to tear down others to make myself feel better. A life lesson that extended far beyond the pole.
If you’re somehow intrigued by my experience, you might want to sign up at one of the pole dance studios in Singapore. Here’s what I personally think of each in a nutshell, based on my own experience or reviews from friends:
If reading this article has convinced you to give pole dancing a shot but don’t know where to start, I recommend going for trial classes to see if pole dance is up your alley. Most studios in Singapore offer sessions from $10 upwards.
Pro tip: Get a friend to go with you or get a referral from an existing student (slide into my DMs please) for possibly cheaper rates.
As for what to wear, you can get away with thigh-baring shorts and tanks for beginner pole dance classes. But as you advance, consider investing in proper pole wear.
International brands (get direct from site or from curators like Aleta Active):
If you don’t mind preloved wear, you can also check out FB Polewear groups like SG Polewear Buy, Sell & Swap or head on over to Carousell.
Pro tip: Two main problems that plague polers are sweaty hands and weak knees. If you have either, I recommend grip aid so that you won’t slide down the pole like a fireman, as well as knee pads to protect the latter if your dance choreography requires floorwork.
Last, but not least, we know all of you are dying to post videos of your lessons or newly acquired spinning skills. Take videos of yourself to figure out how to improve, but blur out your classmates to protect their privacy if you’re posting on social media – not everyone will be comfortable having their videos on the interwebs.
With that said, have fun pole dancing! Or at least, not judging those who do 🙂
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