Saturday, July 14, 2012

From Duck to Pole Enthusiast : A Pole Dancer's Tale from February 2011 to Forever

Looking back, I never thought that how one simple accident could be the start of something amazing. How something I was then just curious about that I tried, just for the adventure could be something I want for the rest of my whole life. It may cause eyebrow raises among others, and a bit of apprehension but I hold my head high and defend what I love. I chose this. This is what I want.

I'm talking about my love affair with pole, darlings, which I've been doing for quite a while now. I've been inserting pole love in most of my entries here but like any pole practitioner who has grown to love her sport , I figured out I better write a separate entry on it.

February 2011, I met up AJ at Starbucks Pearl Drive. He helped me with my makeup kit, accompanied me to a studio and introduced me to 10 gorgeous girls with amazing muscle tone. They would be my models for the night. They were pole dancers and belong to a group known as the Polecats. When I first thought of pole dancing, I initially thought girls in barely-there outfits would be dancing to sexy tunes, gyrating on a pole, with mood lights wearing well. Little did I know, that was just icing on a cake. They were discussing poses and when I asked how they looked like, AJ pointed to me an illustration of a girl hanging on a pole, upside down with her left leg on the pole, seemingly the only thing to keep her there. I was like, "Is that humanly possible?"  "Yes!" They told me.

photo by James Oliver
light graffiti by King Palisoc

This was the shoot, Polecats versus light, the shoot that started it all.

I wasn't very athletic to start off with. Correction. I wasn't athletic at all. Ask anyone I grew up with or went to high school with. I suck in sports. As most of my classmates look forward to PE class, I didn't. I cowered at flying basketballs and was the butt of all jokes of everyone. I was the classic dork. Tall, lanky, big feet, big hands, with hardly any hand-eye coordination. I took baby ballet because I wanted to be like Liza Macuja and Milo TVCs  had me begging my mom to make me take gymnastics class until I got injured. I loved the dance part in PE but being lanky, I looked awkward and funny. That's why I swore off sports. I was naturally skinny, anyway despite the fact that I eat like a trucker. All I needed was a bit of maintenance workout, so I bought exercise videos just to get the required amount of physical activity going but, it was such a chore to do so. To top it all, I have a defective spine, the number one cause of my insecurity in the world.

After much encouragement from the Polecats, I walked one Saturday to the studio again in a tank top and the shortest shorts I have at home (which was easy as I am the mother of short shorts) to pole class. I was partnered with a guy, Oliver (who now takes up men's pole regularly and rocks at it) where we shared poles. My teacher, CD, showed us how to do a very basic fireman spin. Oliver did it prettily. As for me? I sucked. CD was patient and showed it to me again. I sucked again. Eventually, I was challenged as Oliver effortlessly progressed to prettier spins  and the rest of the girls were doing one-hand spins and inverts. I wanted to cry. It was like high school PE class all over again. CD assured me that I will get stronger and more confident as I continued on with my lessons. With body aches, bruises and all, I thought I'd give it a try.

As I started attending regular classes, I found myself getting addicted to the sport. It must be the endorphins or probably through my teachers' encouragement, I persevered through my classes, bruises and all. When I showed Kris (one of the Polecats) a wound I got from a regular climb and a few other bruises, she told me there would be more to come. "Mas marami pa hindi magiging flawless dyan." The bruises multiplied, though but these were bruises that I dare not hide. Like a soldier, I considered these bruises to be my battle scars.
finally! i can climb!

Wearing shorts with bruises exactly a foot long on each thigh, I walked around the shopping mall with pride despite looks from those I would pass by if I'm a victim of physical abuse. I proudly danced in our stellar 1 recital with those bruises showing. Yes, in four months, I was able to look decent enough for public performance.

I'm not saying that I became an instant pole dance sensation in that short length of time. Inverting, for one thing,  was another story. Most of my classmates were already switching from gemini to scorpio and progressing to survivor dismount when I could barely hook my leg on the pole. My teachers always tell me that it will happen, and it did happen one August night at Amaya's class, I was able to do my first gemini. PRETTILY!!!

I cried at home when I uploaded it. Babaw ko. I cried because I always wanted to do a gemini.

From attending classes, I found myself gaining friends from my classmates, and developing closer friendships among them. Some of them have been featured already here in my blog - Danah, Kiara, and Divine.  All of us had different stories why we took up pole. Some, like me, were intrigued. Some were invited to try. Some wanted a challenging workout. Some needed to get over a heartbreak. We all came from different backgrounds - artists, doctors, lawyers, housewives, teachers, businesswomen, the job list goes on and on. We've helped each other in our tricks and also in life. Taking photos and extra coaching, providing a shoulder to cry on during a breakup, giving helpful advice in wedding planning, we were there for each other.

Through our months of training, we found our strengths and weaknesess. Grace's strength came from her thighs as she does her dangerous brain prettily. Kyla, being the gymnast that she is has insane flexibility and splits. Hannah, as she has been dancing since she was a young girl had all-over body strength and grace. Iana has her very bendy back. As for me, my back's flexibility was out of the question, I discovered a hidden strength - my underarm and knees. I learned the teddy faster than my classmates did, on both sides and had a stable rocketman and yogini. Most of my classmates hated the knee hold. As for me:

photo by Leo Castillo

What I loved from our group was that we pulled each other up instead of pulling each other down. We were happy with each triumph. We applauded each accomplishment.  Students and teachers brought out the best in each and everyone. The studio has become my solace of sisterhood. Being the introvert that I am, I'd usually sulk and cry at home. If it were an ordinary day, I would just be staying home. If it were Tuesday or Thursday, my husband would tell me to attend pole class because it's what usually puts me in better condition. Tuesdays and Thursdays for me are sacred, as they're my pole nights.

Oh and my defective back? I've learned to accept it as part of me. I grew up all my life being insecure about it as I was taunted, teased, and called for it, and had it not been my orthopedic doctor's clearance, I would not be taking pole and forever living in fear of breaking my back. I accepted my body more and learned to love it as it is - faults, bruises, scars, skin burns and all. From being just skinny, I had the healthy body and muscle definition in all the right places. Sure, I may not have silky-smooth palms and my inner thighs have skin burns and darkening from pole friction, but my arms, legs, and abs are toned and my lifestyle has totally changed. As I tell those that chastise me for having the skin burns and darkness, "May athlete bang flawless?"

My love for pole goes beyond the dance studio. I've street-poled in random sign posts and vertical metal contraptions. I practice my splits during photoshoots. I find myself raving about pole at work or with my friends, encouraging them to take classes, proudly showing my photos, and retelling my story to clients and co-workers. People notice how I beam whenever I talk about pole, my classes, my teachers, and my polemates.

Aside from the lessons in class, I've learned to appreciate the art more by working alongside with my teachers during their gigs. No, I don't dance with them. I do my day job by being their makeup artist. I see how they work hard and run their numbers, perfecting their lines, and making sure that everything falls into place. Their gigs enable me to understand their work as performers, and appreciate pole dance not just as a workout but also an art form. It's not just burning the fat and bringing on the abs. It's looking good out there too. Remember when I first thought that pole dancing was just girls in sexy outfits making kembot on the pole? Watching my teachers shows you that it is an aerial art, a legitimate sport - a dance with the perfect combination of athleticism, grace, strength, and just a sprinkle of landi.

As I make sure that their lashes are well-glued, their foundation in place, lips painted a bright red or pretty pink (whatever the peg may be), I watch their performance, applaud at each trick, watch over their stuff, and  take their photos. I'm proud of my teachers, and with each lesson, I  work hard so they can be proud of me.

From a skinny high school student who had been the butt of jokes during PE class who can't even touch her toes, I have become strong enough to lift myself and invert 11 feet up the air and flexible enough to do one full split and is close to working on my second split. From being the waify girl who stood 5'7" weighing only 87 pounds at 20 years old who couldn't grow her hair due to lack of nutrients, I have reached my ideal weight and BMI with the right muscle tone and hair that reaches my waist. During my early 20's I'd smoke Marlboro reds and drink with my friends as we gobble on sisig. At 30 with a healthy lifestyle, I have become smoke and alcohol free with a healthier diet. 

My love affair with pole dancing does not stop here. Back then, I was happy just doing the Gemini. Now, I aim for the iron X and the spatchcock. I strive for a prettier air invert and shoulder mounts. I want to perfect my other side. I constantly watch performances of pole champions in YouTube and get inspired by their stories and performances. A future with having my own child, non-polers tease me that childbirth would be the end of pole. I show them a picture of  Zoraya Judd, a beautiful and strong pole dancer and aerial art performer and mother of two children who is able to balance pole and family life and rock at both and still maintain that awesome physique. How about when you're 50? I show a video of a woman who started pole at 60 years old with tricks more advanced than mine. Disabled? Australian pole dancer Deborah Roach bagged first place at the International Pole Championship in Hong Kong despite the fact that she had one arm.  Virtually travelling to other parts of the globe via the Internet, there is a pole dancer out there, whether an international champion or an enthusiast just like myself that I can get inspiration from.

It's amazing how this sport has changed lives. I see a shy girl in t-shirt and lycra shorts walk in the beginner's 1 class for her first lesson. Months after, she has advanced to the next level, donned shorter shorts, a sports bra, and more confidence to boost. How it changes your life can vary from person to person. You all know my story, and it still hasn't ended. Do I continue on being an enthusiast? Do I become a teacher and then pole champion? I don't know what the future holds. As of the moment, I will continue taking care of my body, training hard, and enjoying this sport. I will work my way to grow stronger as a dancer, as a woman, as a pole sister, as an artist, and as a person, living that one life given to me with uttmost awesomeness and happiness. It's funny how I ended up loving and enjoying each moment of pole when I got here out of curiosity, yet I wouldn't have it any other.

photo by Pearly Tiangco
I am a pole dancer. I stand proud, strong, and awesome. 

and, I can flip upside-down AND kick butt.


tessa said...


Helen Blas said...

Hi Bambi! Your pole story is really inspiring. I've always wanted to try this but I always chicken out because I can't dance or do any kind of sport. I hope I find the courage to try this too. Keep it up! Super ganda ng form mo sa pole! :D

kaishiza said...

Such a lovely and inspiring post, love it