“I climbed my first pole at the age of 20….”
My best friend found a studio near school and I had always been interested in proving how adventurous of person I am… so “why not”. We had each other and the giddy of an animated Bambi to get us through the first class. That August found me discovering the thrill of challenging my body while building the strength and stamina it takes to execute moves that could take 12 months to perfect. I currently attend regular classes at The Pole Studio under Tracey Simmonds and Carmi Kruger. After attending my first showcase, I couldn’t help but share the art.
“It’s hard for people to understand what we do for a living,” said a passionate Carmi after concluding the Love Pole: Vertical Arts Showcase (which she produced). When asked about the statement, she responded: “People associate pole dancing with strippers, yet that is not where pole dance originated. That’s how little people actually know about pole dancing. There is nothing like proving them wrong and doing a dance which displays the art form and then seeing the shock on their faces along with the words ‘wow that was beautiful!”
“People associate pole dancing with strippers, yet that is not where pole dance originated.”
The showcase was aimed at raising funds for South African pole athletes to compete at international events like the World Pole Sports Federation (to help efforts to make pole fitness an Olympic sport). Such showcases also aim to give the public a real understanding of what aerial dancer Tanji Suni describes as “an emerging form of contemporary stage art.”
Carmi started as a 6-year-old ballerina, and then went on to train in Ballet-RAD, cecchetti, Spanish, Greek, tap, modern dance and contemporary. She has danced on three continents and has won prizes in numerous global pole fitness competitions. She’s also sociable and fun to be around despite her intimidating six pack and often purple dip dyed hair. The meisie from Vereeniging loves the freedom and challenge of getting moves on the pole that look impossible and then displaying them in a dance that looks effortless. Professional dancers like Carmi often consider pole fitness as another extension of their athletic and aesthetic ambition; because like other forms of dance it requires core strength, flexibility, musicality, and expression through movement.
“It takes discipline, hard work and hours of training. We’re like gymnasts, we just do moves vertically.”
“It takes discipline, hard work and hours of training. We’re like gymnasts, we just do moves vertically,” says Carmi. She has dreams of seeing pole dance mainstream as a recognized sport and dance form, and thinks it would be great for people to enjoy it without worrying about a lurking stigma.
With 11 months at it, I could say pole fitness takes a good marriage of creativity, physical hardship and willpower. It’s a constant challenge that requires almost impossible standards, but with it I have adopted a fearless and self-aware attitude. The only impossibility is leaving The Pole Studio without appreciating disciplined repetition, pain and pointed toes.
Pictures photographed by Lize-Mari Janse Van Rensburg
For more information about The Pole Studio, visit http://www.thepolestudio.co.za/.