When you hear the words pole dance, for many a seductive dance performed by exotic dancers with lithe limbs in a dimly lit bar comes to mind. And it doesn’t help that special dance numbers in Bollywood have played to this image.
However, pole dancing is gaining prominence in India, with a bit of a twist. Besides being used to perform complex dance routines, a lot of Bollywood beauties are now swearing by pole exercises for a fitter body.
And one of these beauties is Jacqueline Fernandez. The actress was shooting for A Gentleman’s song Chandralekha in Miami, when she hit upon the idea of incorporating pole dancing in it. And the rest, as they say, is history. Not only was her performance appreciated, she’s found the benefits to the art as well. “I’ve made it a part of my regime as it helps my fitness, as well as upper body strength,” she said in an interview earlier.
Jacqueline isn’t alone. Yami Gautam too got applauded when she posted a few pictures and videos on her social media account, charting out fitness through pole dancing. “Pole dancing is a great way to work on your fitness abilities and your dance,” Yami said. “It challenges your fitness level a lot more.”
Perhaps one of the biggest proponents of this art form in Mumbai has been Kalyug actress Smilly Suri, who turned to pole dancing as a form of physical and mental exercise after a personal crisis. “I was battling depression when I lost my parents,” she opens up. “Back then, I was advised to do something that made me happy. Having had learnt so many dance forms before, I wasn’t satisfied. Out of sheer coincidence, I landed up in a pole dance class instead of an aerial one in Dubai, and it changed my life.”
Having had struggles with various health issues in the past, Smilly says she’s now fit, thanks to her routine. “I found the purpose of my life. I feel both feminine and masculine at once, and I have learnt to be in the present moment,” she smiles.
Fitness expert Shilpa Rane, a pioneer in bringing pole dancing to India, says she did so after discovering its fitness aspects. “I have over 20 years of experience of teaching pole dance, and students mainly take this as a fitness form since it helps in strengthening the muscles and staying fit. However, I notice that it’s only the educated professionals and not other people who take this up, because the awareness aspect is missing. But those who do, tell me that they feel like they’ve attended an exercise class and not a dance class,” she grins.
Shilpa also has a few words of caution to give for anyone attempting to take up pole dancing for its fitness values. “It’s a very risky form, so please ensure your trainer is qualified. It’ll have you quite literally falling to the floor, and the pole can be very slippery,” she says, explaining that a custom plan for each candidate is the need of the hour. “Beginners can’t be taught the same steps as experienced ones, you know,” Shilpa explains.
Smilly adds that it’s a proper work out routine that makes it feel like a sport to her. “The dance form also helps one be fit and focused. One even learns crisis management and how to live in the now,” explains the actress and dancer, who is also hosting a pole fitness camp in Mumbai next month.
But as far as equating the dance form to vulgarity goes, both Shilpa and Smilly shrug, saying that it’s in the eye of the beholder.
“Men need to understand that the idea of pole dance needs changing, and women have to see the other aspects of the dance form — this isn’t just restricted to strip clubs,” she signs off.