Kids, and this is the story of how your mama became a pole dancer. JK, I have no kids. Probs never will. I was a blogger before I became a pole dancer (read more here). I got into pole in Sydney, Australia, at a really dark time of my life. After graduation in London I got into an abusive relationship that sparked my depression and anxiety, but instead of grieving properly I just ignored it and went Couchsurfing instead.
My PTSD, depression and anxiety came back with a bite after a year, built up by stress and loneliness, and I realised I couldn’t take it anymore. So I did what I do best: leave. I ran as far as I could to the other side of the world – literally. So I went to Sydney, thinking I’d just move there forever, be a happy beach bum who studied criminology and surfed and petted koalas. News flash: it didn’t happen.
When I got to Sydney I realised London wasn’t the problem: I was. I was running away all the time instead of facing uncomfortable truths and memories. Now time zones and miles away from friends and family, I felt even more hopeless and lonely. Enter my friend Hannah, whose friends went to Sydney Pole, Sydney’s biggest studio in Camperdown, close to my university.
At the accepting, welcoming, safe environment that is Sydney Pole, I got my head and my body back. Students and teachers from all ages, genders, shapes and walks of life helped me embrace the body I was so ashamed of again, and helped me nurture the show-off I’ve always been. Except that now I actually had something to show off: my pole moves! So now I’m one of those people that spam your social feed with their fitness achievements. Sorry not sorry.
At my first showcase I was so nervous I didn’t even invite friends over. Then my nerves started to chill and I slowly became more comfortable, performing my last showcase in front of my date, his friend and some 200 people (or maybe more?) in my Agent Provocateur underwear and Pleaser boots as I danced to my favourite song, Poison by Alice Cooper, and to Warrant’s Cherry Pie.
Through Sydney Pole I also met Emma from the Black Light, the official photographer of Miss Pole Dance Australia, and the wonderful Nikki McClennan, an SP student and photographer. I did photoshoots with both of them, and I’ve been dying to share them somewhere other than my Instagram because I love them. So naturally now I’m sharing them on this blog, ’cause they’re waaaay nicer than my sweaty pole class shots.
Posing in pictures for me has always felt weird. As a teen, I always panicked that my hairline or nose would give me a trollface. That’s still what I think about when people are taking pictures of me. Which is why these shots felt like such an achievement. I wasn’t even drunk! I made it! I am normal!
When I told my friends I had begun going to twerk classes they were like. “You? Twerking? You don’t even know who Drake is!”
You will be happy to know that I know do know who Drake is and that, after a lot of twerk fails, I can actually twerk decently… for a white girl. I don’t know why I was so determined to get into it. Maybe because I really needed something to work towards, and it seemed fun, a great workout and, unlike pole, you could use it on a night out.
I began twerking at Sydney Pole, in ReRe’s classes. ReRe works with Aussie Twerk, Twerk Queen Kristina Moskov’s company, which is the most famous in Australia, having also taken part in Germany’s got talent. ReRe never thought I’d go back after my first, hopeless class (“How do you loosen up your butt?” was an actual quote of mine from that class, together with “IT’S. NOT. MOVING”), but I kept working at it, twerking by myself like a dumbass in front of the mirror of my Coogee house. And slowly, I learnt.
I do acknowledge that twerk is not part of my Italian, white culture which is why I am extremely proud to have learned from some incredible twerkers all over the world. In London, I was trained Twerkology Nation, learning more twerk styles and improving my dancing thanks to the founder, Chanelle, who really believed in me and introduced me to teaching. Finally, in 2020, I started teaching regular twerk classes offline and online after becoming a qualified Twerk Technician and passing my exam with Atlanta’s only Vertical Joe’s.
From baby pole dancer in Sydney…
Sydney marked the start of my pole dance journey. I will always remember pole dancing in Sydney as moments of incredible joy, of feeling part of a team, of hair flicking and body rolling to some of my favourite rock n’roll tunes at packed showcases.
In Sydney, I was a baby poler. I pole danced there for just a year. My body was different, my pole dance ability and strength were limited, but I was living for this new, mind-blowing hobby that was finally teaching me how to love myself after years of guilt and self-loathing.
It was in Sydney that I started accepting, and then loving, my body. It was in Sydney that I first had the guts to perform in front of a crowd, and became comfortable in front of a camera.
Pole dancing has given me an opportunity to express myself and to accept myself that got me out of some of my darkest times. I didn’t have any dance training, or coordination, or upper body strength, and everything initially felt like an uphill struggle. But when you see this shots, you are looking at someone who had been pole dancing for just a year and who was finally starting to be comfortable in her own skin.
…to pole dance instructor in London and in the cloud
Now that I’m back in London, I have found pole and twerk homes on this side of the pond and have become a certified showoff who spins on the pole for a living. I train daily with the pole I have in my living room, I’ve competed at a variety of competitions and I’m now a pole instructor at Exotica Pole Dance, where I’ve been trained to teach. My teaching massively increased throughout 2020 – including chair dance, Twerk Technician certified and floorwork as well as pole – and, since the Coronavirus pandemic, I’m now available to teach online too, having met and taught students across three continents via Zoom classes and through Buy Me A Coffee tutorials.
I feel like I am becoming the person I wanted to be as a teen: a naked-ish performer who also wrote and had something to do with criminology. Someone I could be proud of, and someone who didn’t feel shame, or limit herself for fear of what others would think.
And that’s the thing: pole is empowering. I’ve heard many people wonder why a feminist, an educated woman and a PhD student like me has chosen to pole dance and twerk. First of all, feminism is about gender equality, not judging other women (#sexworkiswork). Secondly, thanks to pole I now no longer need validation from the outside world to feel great about myself, because pole and twerk have given that to me.
You might think you don’t need to sexualise yourself to feel confident, and many people don’t. But this has been my journey and I’m not going to apologise for it: sex has taken the power away from me, and sex has given me that power again. Kinda. I’m not making this up by the way: various books and studies have found that people who pole dance experience “embodiment”, a higher form of physical awareness, and a more positive understanding of body image through sexualisation. In short, if you are in charge of your body, of the way your persona is perceived, if working out makes you feel sexy, you feel good.
Some have mentioned that the social media over-sharing, the sexy dancing, the nakedness, are a cry for attention. Maybe they are. But if you do Crossfit, or syncronised swimming, or football, you probably do the same. If you get a kick out of winning new clients and being praised at work, you’re probably manifesting your need for attention in another way. As human beings, we all wish to be recognised and praised in different ways. Pole is one of the ways in which I like to be praised.
Anxiety and depression don’t just go away, but pole helps me stay sane. So if you’re interesting in my pole and mental health journey, in my performances and competitions, you’re in the right place. Over and out.