Mention pole dancing, and you’re likely to receive a wide range of responses ranging from disdain to fascination. Today, I interview Ileane, co-founder and instructor at PoleLAb, to find out more about the up-and-coming sport here in Singapore. Ileane has been an avid dancer since she was young, and has experimented with different genres (ballet, salsa, reggae, hip bop, and burlesque). We ask Ileane how she fell deeply in love with the sport.
How did you begin exploring pole dancing? Why did you choose to pursue it?
When my friend asked me to join her for pole dance, I had no idea but I was very interested because I’ve always liked to try new things. I went with an open mind to see what I was getting myself into, and I’m glad to say I’ve never looked back since then!
Pole dancing has been a huge part of my life since. There is just so much to learn, to achieve and to conquer. I’ve always loved dancing. Pole has a combination of everything: dance, strength, flexibility, mobility, coordination, musicality, emotions, expressions, flow, etc. It is just like any other form of dance, just that it requires a tool (the pole) and lots of skin contact in order to stay on the pole.
How has pole dancing changed your life?
My confidence level has risen greatly and I’ve learnt to accept my body the way it is.
I was never a skinny girl, but wanted to lose weight trying to become [a pole dancer]. Pole dancing changed the way I saw my body. It made me learn to ignore my imperfections and focus on what I was capable of doing with it. I express myself more freely.
There is something powerful about pole dance — I’ve seen women of different body sizes, shapes, races and ages practise difficult pole moves in pole attire (sports bra top and tiny shorts). All bodies are welcome in pole — there’s no saying that overweight people cannot do it.
What makes PoleLAB different from other pole studios?
PoleLAB operates as a boutique fitness gym instead of a full time teaching studio. Which means that people can come here to just work out using our gym equipment, or polers can just drop by anytime to practice their moves or work on their choreography.
We offer an all round timing throughout the day, 7 days a week, of gym and poles usage. Our classes are only in the evening and [we have] only one class a day instead of 2-3 classes, as we want to give time for people to practice at our place, which no other studios or gyms with poles offer.
What motivated you to start the studio?
The idea came about when my partners and I realised that a lot of pole enthusiasts wanted to find places to practice their pole moves as well as choreography, but there was no place to go to. Even if there are timings for practice in those studios, it would either be full or at a time when it’s inconvenient.
We decided to open up PoleLAB and provide this service to those who want to practice as and when they want to. So they can improve faster, have more time and a place to practice more often. We also only charge them for the amount of time they use, so they can use the gym at their own pace and not worry about needing to stop on time or exceeding a limited time.
What is a common misconception about pole dancing?
People still see pole dancing as sleazy; that it is for strippers and exotic dancers. I think it’s because of the very little clothing we have to wear when we pole dance. However, it’s because we need the skin contact to stay on the pole.
Only people who have tried pole before would know it’s not that easy to just climb the pole or do a straddle. Dancers make it look too effortless.
Why do you think more people need to know about this sport?
This is the 21st century, everything is evolving, even pole dancing. It has become a form of art, a form of fitness, and still a form of dance as well. They need to start witnessing a new generation of pole dancing, change their perception and accept it as a dance just like any other kind of dance.
The things we do with just a vertical metal rod can be so much more than just body waves and twisting the hips around it. People need to see that and know that pole dancing can be sophisticated, emotional, artistic and beautiful. They need to try it at least once to know that it is not as easy as it looks, and appreciate that we can make it into a choreography of 3-4 minutes without stopping.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to go into pole dancing?
Sign up for a trial to experience a pole dance class, or, if you are feeling more adventurous, sign up for a term to experience what it really is like.
If you are afraid of pain and bruises, then it is not a sport for you. But if you are not, then just go ahead and knock yourself out. I have not seen anyone who regretted taking up pole dancing, only those who could not commit as they have a lot of things going on.
Pole dancing will give you a huge sense of achievement, satisfaction and confidence. You can find your own style in it, learn a lot more about your own body and improve on your strength and flexibility at the same time.
Just be careful though, because it is highly addictive and you will become occupied with which moves you want to conquer and achieve — you’ll be thinking a lot about them. You’ve been warned! 😉
This article is part 6 of a series in which I interview people who practice sports that are less mainstream, and debunk some common misconceptions people have about them.