What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when you hear the words- “Pole Dancing”? Strip Club?
It is no denying that Pole Dancing has long been popular for being an erotic dance form practiced by female dancers in strip clubs. Well, that’s what we have seen in the movies!
But the narrative around pole dancing is fast changing. The dance form is steadily becoming a mainstream form of fitness- practiced in gyms and dance studios.
Interestingly, the inspiration of the modern pole dance that we know today could arguably may have come from Mallakhamb- an 800 year old Indian pole sport practiced on a thick wooden pole exclusively by men throughout history.
Meet Nupur Chaudhuri- a 34 year old restauranteur, ex-journalist and a pole dance trainer based in Pune. Nupur has been practicing pole dance for the past 2.5 years and her marriage with the art form has been nothing less than magical.
In 2020, she bagged a silver medal in Level 3 of the 2020 PSO Libra Virtual Pole Championships. She was the only national participant in the global contest and the first Indian to win a pole performance medal. Here is the video of her award-winning performance.
But the initial struggle to learn was real. Since there was no pole studio in Pune, Nupur had to make a 3.5 hour commute to Mumbai every weekend to learn from a pole dance trainer.
Benefits of Pole Dancing
Nupur explains how pole dancing is resistance training and cardio in one, and improves flexibility too.
“Pole teaches you to engage each muscle that you don't normally do. Your strength shoots up manifold. I can do 2-finger pull ups, or even more normal pull ups that most men in the gym”.
Additionally, pole dancing encourages body positivity and boosts confidence.
“It is so liberating. Once you start pole, you stop caring about stuff like cellulite or stretch marks because you just fall in love with what your body can do,” says Nupur.
Meet Aarushi Vikram, a Noida based pole dancer who has been practicing the art form for the last 4 years. She feels that pole dancing has not only helped her develop a great physical fitness, but also has improved her mental health. She feels much happier now having gained confidence about her body- how it looks and what it is capable of doing.
Aarushi got introduced to the dance form during her post-graduation in the UK. One day while reading, she noticed a pole studio right opposite her library and instantly decided to drop in for a class.
In the beginning, during her time in the UK- it was easier to learn as access to expert trainers was much easier. Once she moved back to India in 2018, her growth took a hit as there were hardly any pole studios in India. She eventually found a teacher in Nandini Maharaj- a Delhi based pole instructor and later resorted to self-learning.
Aarushi feels that the pandemic has resulted in the upside of many incredible teachers from around the world teaching online, which has helped her grow and consistently train as well.
Similar is the story of Aditi Singh, a Delhi based pole dancer who has learned the art form from many trainers across the country including the likes of Nupur and Aarushi.
Aditi shares the experience of her first pole dance class- “I went for my first class with layers of clothing as I was too shy and had body image issues. But as soon as I took the first swing, I immediately fell in love with the pole”.
Start learning under supervision:
Aditi tells Skyshot- as amazing as the pole is, there definitely is an element of risk involved. It is crucial to find the right guidance or have a lot of self-awareness when you practice any aerial art form.
Bruises are quite common and we call them “pole kisses"- Aditi Singh
Pole dancing is for anyone and everyone
Aarushi tells us that it is quite natural to be shy when trying out something new for the very first time. Also, pole tends to look daunting from afar. However, everyone becomes more and more comfortable as time progresses. Boys come in her class as well. While the ratio indicates far more women than men, there are more boys getting interested in pole with time.
“Pole is for everyone. It is the ultimate sport for fitness and self-care. One can be an absolute beginner, of any weight, any height and with a complete lack of a background in dance, gymnastics or calisthenics, and pole will be just the same for them as anyone else” says Aarushi.
Skin Exposure is Important
A question that many people have is that is it necessary to expose their body to dance around a pole?
The short answer is Yes! This means your work out attire is shorts and a sports bra.
"In order for the skin to get a good grip of the pole, pole dancers must have their legs, arms and stomach exposed in order to stay longer on the pole"- says Aarushi Vikram
Stereotypes around pole dancing
Last year when J.Lo pole danced in her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, the debate around pole dance and its acceptance as a regular dance form came back into the limelight.
While on one side, pole dance as a sport has witnessed some major acceptance in the global community with international competitions taking place every year (there has even been a petition to Make Pole Dancing an Olympic Sport!).
On the other side, the idea of pole dancing as a fitness sport is still very new to India and therefore there are still some stereotypes attached to the dance form. It’s often considered to be something that strippers do in nightclubs.
Nupur, Aarushi and Aditi- all have had their minor share of negative experiences- receiving discontentment and hate on social media and sometimes in person. Nupur tells us an interesting story of an in-person experience. She once visited a doctor for a wrist injury. As she explained to the doc about how the injury was incurred during pole dancing, the immediate reaction from the doctor was “Do Indian girls from good homes do such things?” And later she was prescribed to not continue with “unnatural” activities.
Nevertheless, most of their experiences have involved receiving much appreciation for their craft. In addition to the unending love they receive on social media, their biggest support system have been their family and friends.
While Nupur’s husband has been a great source of support for her, Aarushi’s parents have been rooting for her since the start. She has even taught her mom & dad a couple of moves as well. Aditi admits that had it not been for her family, she would not be a pole dancer today.
The pole dancing community is closely knit and artists from all professions, ethnicities, religions, cultures, sizes, and ages share the same love for the pole. With more people getting acclimatized to the idea of pole dancing as a full body workout, India has witnessed a considerable growth in the number of pole studios that have come up in the past couple of years.
The lockdown and restrictions are going away! Lets make 2021 all about new experiences!
If you live in Pune or Delhi NCR, we advise you to drop in for a Pole dance session super soon. The featured artists can be reached out here:
Written by Anubhav Gaur, Creator at Skyshot Media