THE mere mention of pole dancing would make anyone conjure an image of skimpy outfits and breathtaking moves, but it is more than that. Many do it as a hobby and get a workout out of it. It is about fitness without losing the touch of the arts. “Pole dancing is not necessarily sexy; there are a lot of artistic elements in it. If you look at gymnastic competitions, you can see the athletes are very fit but still artistic; that is what we want to do,” said Liew Yen Shan, Viva Vertical’s pole dancing instructor. You would be surprised that those interested in pole dancing come from all walks of life, from full-time mothers, lawyers, doctors and even teenagers. Liew said pole dancing is suitable for anyone and any type of body can start with it. “First timers will start a bit slow which is totally fine. It is like studying; small progress is still progress and is better than nothing. You get to train flexibility and core, and flexibility is important as it protects you from getting injured in your daily life. Although flexibility is important, we are not aiming to train you to be as flexible as gymnasts,” Liew said. Beginners stay on the floor most of the time, and train on arm strength and get used to using their core. They also learn how to hold themselves up because if you know how to do it, you are five or 10kg lighter and that makes partner work much easier. “For daily life, it is important to hold your own weight. That is why we don’t have a limitation or restriction on weight for those coming to learn pole dancing. You learn to handle your own weight and holding your own weight is enough,” Liew said. Students Noah Yap and Ng Suk Hong both agreed that wanting to try new and crazy moves was what brought them together. Yap has been doing pole dancing for about half a year, while Ng has been at it for three years. Ng has the flexibility while Yap has the strength allowing them to complement each other during performances. The challenge faced by ladies is mainly strength because women have lesser upper body strength and a heavier lower body, while for men it is mainly friction on the skin. “When using the stainless steel pole, you need a lot of skin to grip the pole which is why most of the time we are wearing shorts; we need to use the waist and thigh. Our hands also become rough and have a lot of callouses. These are the things you have to give in if you want to do this,” Liew said. She added that men build strength very fast so when they do harder moves, you can see their improvement significantly. The only thing men are lacking is flexibility which women have and hence they need a longer time to train on that. No artistic move can be executed without the dangers involved. Muscle pull is common if the individual is not warmed up enough or if he or she executes the move harshly. For intermediate onwards, because your head is downwards, if you don’t handle the moves properly, your head will land first. “I would recommend anyone to try pole dancing but not just that, you should find something you really like and do it as a fitness routine. “I understand there are people who don’t like pole dancing. Some ladies worry they may build too much muscle, but don’t worry about it. If you are interested and are curious about it, give it a try. “As long as you like what you are doing, you will continue to do it. Don’t do it because it is a trend or because your friends pulled you along to do it,” Liew said.