Learning to Pole with Dignity (not)

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(Nicked from Leen Isabel)

 

Having attended quite a few pole fitness classes before I decided to give stripping a try, I thought that the pole dancing part would be the least of my worries. As you can imagine, I wasn’t entirely right about this.

Having mastered climbing, a few basic spins and some other moves in class, plus with the years of ballet training on the side, I felt ready to rock the pole. The part I was most worried about was having an audience for the first time. That and finding customers and being able to carry out any private dances. I had never been naked in front of any bloke before other than my brother and cousins when we were all little. having said that, I was even more nervous of dancing on stage in front of the other dancers or “pros” as I thought of them.

This one Romanian girl who calls herself Vanessa always looked fantastic on the pole. She didn’t usually do any complex movements unless there was someone to impress. She just danced around it gracefully, giving any customers who were watching seductive glances. Whatever she was doing, it worked well and she would nearly always get a private dance afterwards.

I had told the other girls that I had experience in ballet, but kept the pole fitness classes to myself. Looking back, I am VERY glad that I didn’t. On my third night, the manager thought it was time that I learnt the basics on the pole so that I could then fulfill my duty of appearing stage at least once every night. Much to my delight, he asked Vanessa to show me the ropes. She smiled and lead me over to the stage on the far side. She seemed friendly enough.

I watched as Vanessa effortlessly glided around the pole, swaying gracefully and throwing seductive glances to the imaginary audience below the stage, just as she normally did. “Now you try.” She said, backing away and eyeing me expectantly. Oh boy. Here I go. I took a step forward and gingerly put a hand on the pole. I had always done pole in bare feet or trainers before, not these huge platforms!

“Well, go on!” Vanessa didn’t seem to be the patient type. Just what I needed on my first go. I tried to picture how she had moved around the pole a few seconds before and attempted to re enact her movements. Griping the pole with both hands, I took a swing. The pole didn’t slide under my palms as I had imagined and I tripped over my feet, crashing to the stage floor. My hands felt uncomfortable with something icky coated onto them. i realise now that they use wax as a pole lubricant, which I was not at all used to.

“Is alright, try one more time.” Her thick Romanian accent came from the corner. I didn’t really fancy doing it a second time in front of her, but of course I did. This time I managed to spin slightly further before getting stuck. I hated wax!

“Watch me again.” Vanessa grabbed the pole from me and did her majestic, yet simplistic spin once more. It looked so incredibly easy when she did it. It wasn’t as if I was a completely graceless person either, I could do ballet just fine! Just goes to show ballet training isn’t entirely transferable to pole dancing. I’d better learn quick. Again, I attempted the basic spin that Vanessa had now shown me multiple times. This time I fell backwards.

At this, Vanessa snatched up her bag, turned to me and said “When you want to learn properly, I can show you. But now, you don’t waste my time!” and stormed off towards the large leather sofas to sulk. Clearly, she thought I was simply taking the piss. I cringed internally. Perhaps it was better for her to think that than realise that I was just simply doing a shit job. Oh well, YouTube can be my teacher. YouTube has all the patience in the world, mashallah, and oh boy that’s what I needed.

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From Ballerina to Rocking the Pole

Something that provokes curiosity in both the other girls and customers alike is how does someone go from being a good Muslim girl to a stripper in the first place? While I can’t speak for the few other Muslim dancers I have heard about, I can attempt to explain my own story and a bit of Anushka’s since she was the one who lead me into it. Truth be told, it was a slow process. I’ll start with our first transition from classical dancer/non-dancer to a rather modern type.

When I was little, I used to do ballet. I was fairly good at it and moved up grades with relative speed. I often got a lead role in the end of term show and even won some competitions back in the day. This was put to an end when hit puberty at around twelve and I began to develop hips, a bum and a hint of bosom. Several of my aunts began hinting to my parents that perhaps I was a bit old to be doing this type of dancing as I had to wear such form fitting gear. My parents eventually agreed and forbid me to carry on dancing. I loved ballet and was deeply saddened by this.  I now know that it is in fact possible to pursue ballet while wearing more appropriate clothing. A quick Google on “Muslim dancer” or “Muslim ballerina” can show you.

 

 

Once I was in my first year at university, I had a quick look through all the different sports and activities offered at the Sports Union. Seeing that they did ballet classes, I immediately knew which I wanted to do. No one could stop me from dancing now!

I told Anushka, one of my flatmates, that I had decided to take up ballet again and how excited I was by it. Her eyes lit up and she suggested we do some type of dancing together. Since she had never done ballet before, we decided to choose something we were both beginners at so we could be in the same class.

The Sports Union at uni didn’t have a suitable ballet class for me since they were all aimed at beginners. Anushka and I then started to search for a local dance center where I could find a good ballet class and where we could find a class that the two of us liked. We found one and began to search through all the differnt kinds of lessons they offered. Salsa? Nah. Ballroom? Nope. Tap and jazz? Meh. Then Anushka caught sight of something that made her almost squeal. “Oh look Henna, they do pole dancing! How cool it that!” I eyed her suspiciously, nope sure if she was being sarcastic or was genuinely intrigued by the pole dancing classes. “Seriously, pole dancing? No offence, but I think you’s make a really funny pole dancer. In fact. so would I.”

This made her grin more. “Exactly! Let’s do it for a laugh! Look, it’s an all girls’ class, so no harm in doing it. And besides, I hear it’s really good exercise. Pole is probably much better at toning all your muscles than ballet.”

She had a point. Plus, it would be funny to see the look on people’s faces whenever we told them we did pole dancing. It was decided. Plus, it turns out you can also do pole dancing while modestly dressed. It’s just much harder to grip onto the pole.

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Pole dancing is great fun and really is fantastic for the body. I also know a few blokes who take pole dancing just to tone up and increase their overall strength. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your average Muslimah taking pole lessons. Most of the girls we took the classes with had never seen the inside of a strip club, let alone worked in one. It is essentially a form of vertical gymnastics that takes years of training to perfect. There were other factors that played a part in Anushka and I turning from vertical gymnasts to fully fledged strippers.