Thank you Sid Ventura of Yahoo Sports for this wonderful article! We look forward to working with you again in the future.
Ever tried pole dancing? If you haven’t, chances are you have a negative connotation of it. You’re thinking provocative and seductive moves, right? Or perhaps an item on a list of things to have at a bachelor party?
If you have, then you’ll know it’s a challenging sport/performing art that takes months to master, and will leave you sore all over after you’ve tried it for the first time.
Pole dancing probably can trace its origins to the red light district, but it has since evolved into a wholesome and unique fusion of artistry, dance, exercise and a little gymnastics. During a recent sports and fitness expo, I saw a booth featuring pole dancing, and yes, I admit, I ogled a bit at the video they were playing. The first thing that entered my mind, as soon as I snapped out of my stupor, was what was a pole dancing outfit doing in a sports and fitness exhibit? The second was, how the heck do they do that?
That piqued my interest just enough to send an e-mail to the exhibitor, a group named Polecats Manila, to find out more about what they do. And also, in the name of, um, research, to see up close exactly what they do.
I was contacted by the group’s founder, Cristina Dy or CD for short, who invited me to drop by their studio to do some observing and interviewing. CD said Wednesday would be good, because I would get to watch three classes: beginners, corporate, and sensual groove. I know, right? “Sensual groove” definitely sounded the most interesting.
So sometime last week, I dropped by their studio somewhere in the heart of Ortigas to catch these polecats in action, and hopefully to gain a better appreciation of their chosen performing art.
“We started as a class, actually,” says Amaya, a 28-year-old who has been pole dancing for two years now. “CD used to teach the evening class. I used to teach the afternoon class. The rest of the group, they were her students at night. I decided to join them.”
Before Polecats, CD and her original partner already had a pole dancing gig called Girl vs. Girl. The other future Polecats were all her students, and one day in 2009 she decided to let them in on a piece of the action. “We had a gig for Halloween,” she recalls. “And I was like, ‘Hey, bakit kami lang? My students are good. Isama natin ang students.’
“Even before I thought of putting up a performing group, I just wanted a T-shirt for the class. We were becoming really close, and we said, ‘Let’s have a shirt.’ So I said, ‘I want a name for a pole group that looks good on a shirt. Two syllables, so it’s easy to say.’
Thus was born Polecats Manila, a group of 11 pole dancers who teach and perform pole dancing. “So it all started because I wanted a T-shirt,” says CD. “Our attitude has always been, just say yes to opportunities.”
That desire for a group T-shirt has now grown into a full-time dance studio that offers different types of pole dance classes almost every day of the week. CD’s original two-girl performing act has grown big, both in terms of number of dancers and number of event bookings.
“I guess all of us got pulled into it by someone else,” says Amaya. “I started because my friends dragged me into it. And a couple of them are friends of CD’s.”
Amaya and CD both believe that pole dancing offers a new kind of aerobic challenge, which is why more women (and men, actually) have started taking it up. Since there are pole dancing competitions, CD classifies pole dancing as both a sport and a performing art. She says most of their students are just looking for something new.
“Most of them are bored from the gym. Actually a lot have never exercised before, and they were just looking for something fun. We’re doing quite well. Most of our students want a gymnastics-type with just the right amount of sexy. They don’t really come here to just grind or whatever. They like the tricks.”
“It’s a form of exercise,” Amaya adds. “I guess like what we tell our students all the time, it empowers them. It empowers us. We gain new friends, feel confident, you know. So we really like it.” In fact, they like it so much that they even have names for their different poles.
Beginners have thrice-a-week classes, after which they can take more advanced classes. The Polecats themselves are required to practice a minimum of 20 hours a week. In basketball terms, CD likens it to regular team practice where they hone their moves or try out new ones.
“There’s always a new move,” Amaya says. “That’s what we love about pole dancing. There’s always something new to achieve. Like with us, we’re already the advanced class here in our studio, but there’s always so many more we can learn. There’s always a killer move, and then when we conquer it, we find another killer move. We watch the champions like Mai Sato.”
Amaya says a five-minute pole dance routine usually burns around 700 calories. I tried out a couple of basic moves, just for kicks, and I didn’t last five seconds. It’s a physical challenge just to lift your body parallel to the floor with only your arms grasping the pole for support.
In trying to be like a polecat, all I got was a pole-likat.
The dance classes, though, form just one part of the business. The girls also perform during events, and while these have proven to be lucrative and oftentimes fun, it also has its share of professional hazards.
“We get a lot of those (corporations’ events). We just did a gig for Mellow. And then me and Kayleen (another Polecat) did one for an Indian company. That was interesting.”
A gig will usually cover a two or more Polecats performing for around five minutes, because that’s about the longest you can pole dance without tiring. “It’s never tuloy-tuloy,” Amaya explains. “A five-minute routine will leave you panting. Sapilitan, kaya namin, maybe six, seven minutes. What we usually do is five minutes, then three minutes. We do sets, depending on the client if they want us to do several sets.”
But here is where the hazards of the trade come in. Between their sexy outfits and stimulating dance moves, it’s easy to see why some people have gotten the wrong idea about what they do.
“We were at this bar, and we were performing with a live band,” CD narrates after I asked her about her worst professional experience thus far. “So we were there, setting up the pole. And there were some foreigners in the audience. And then they came up and threw money at us. And sana P1,000 kaso puro P20 eh. Kung P1,000 iyon, I’ll get it pa.
“But it’s mostly people trying to touch us during gigs. Because we usually perform in very crowded places. Like one time, in Encore, pagbaliktad ko, ‘Oh my God, I’m touching people’s boobies!’ And then, that whole gig, me and my partner, we didn’t go down the pole. Kasi puro tao na sa baba. Parang ang feeling mo puro zombies na sa baba.”
Amaya says they make sure they draw the line and explain to potential clients what they do and don’t do so that expectations are managed properly.
“Men’s magazines, we don’t accept those. We make it clear that we are not the sexy type of dancers. If there’s an event that’s centered on men, we usually refuse. We did get indecent offers when we started out. Not too much now, because it’s more popular now. There are some clients that have an idea already. They’ve seen us before or they’ve seen our video. But there are some that we have to explain.”
“For the most part, people have been very nice,” CD says. “Also because of the kind of pole dancing that we do. It’s very athletic. Sure, we flip our hair and stuff. But that’s not the main point of our show. The sexiness or the arousal of the male audience, that’s not the point.”
Still, there are those who sometimes get the wrong impression. To keep them safe, the Polecats enlisted police protection. As in, the Pole-lice, the name of a bunch of guys who watch their backs during gigs and take care of anyone who starts becoming impole-lite. Sort of like a new breed of bouncers. The Pole-lice even have their own T-shirts. They also happen to be the Polecats’ boyfriends.
“Their motto is, ‘To obey, to love, to provide and to protect,’” says CD. “They’re at all our gigs. And they have a T-shirt as well, and then the letter “I” is a pole with a girl on it.”
The Pole-lice have been very helpful, and have made the Polecats’ job easier. “Like the people who threw the money,” CD recalls. “The Pole-lice got the money, went to the guys and said, ‘Keep the money. It’s not about that.’” And they were like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’”
View article at: Yahoo Sports