Bollywood's love affair with the pole!

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If Bollywood’s leading ladies have many fans, they themselves are the fans of a particular thing: the pole. Stars such as Jacqueline Fernandez, Yami Gautam, and Esha Gupta have all fallen for it.

Surprised? Don’t be. The gravity-defying act of a pole dancer is not only spectacular and sensuous, but it’s also a fantastic workout for enhancing strength and flexibility, and aiding concentration.

Actor Yami Gautam recently posted a very short Instagram video, in which she’s exuberantly pole dancing, and captioned it: “In firsts of so many firsts ... pole dancing !! #neversaynever #hustlehard #dancelikeitsyourlife.” As of now, the video has nearly 936,000 — almost a million — views. Talking about this new thing, Yami says in a media statement, “Now, I am in a phase where I want to experiment, push myself and my limit. And this thought only comes from one’s mind. Nobody put this thought in my head; it stems from my own will and passion.”

It challenges one’s fitness level

As for what pole dancing does for one’s mental and physical health, Yami says, “The whole idea came because of my love for fitness and dance and that’s something I enjoy doing now. Pole dancing is a great way to work on your fitness ability and your dance. It challenges the fitness level a lot more. So I thought this could be something additional, which until now, I could not have imagined myself doing.”

Chandralekha from the film A Gentleman, and you bet pulling that off didn’t come without a lot of practice. Jacqueline also keeps treating her fans to her pole dance fitness routine on her social media profile. That, in turn, is fuelling more interest in this tough but rewarding workout.

“Every day, I get more requests from girls around India regarding pole dancing classes. Bollywood celebrities have developed a great interest in pole dancing, especially after the social media posts of one of my best students,” says trainer Roksolana Chubenko, who has taught Jacqueline. And, not just the women, but actor Varun Dhawan and choreographer Terence Lewis, too, have tried some moves.

Pole dancing is an empowering act

For actor Smilie Suri, who has dabbled in every form of dance — salsa, ballroom, contemporary, jazz — pole dancing is “empowering” and, in her case, an antidote for depression. She says, “After Kalyug (2005), I did some flop work and nothing good came along. And I was depressed, was struggling, and did some TV, theatre. [After which] I got into aerial arts and malkham (aka mallakhamba, an ancient Indian exercise in which the participants execute yoga and wrestling poses while hanging from a wooden pole). But after my dad’s death and these past few years, I didn’t realise that I was battling depression, and one day I just broke down. That time, I had gone to Dubai, and there, I was waiting to meet an aerial teacher; instead, a pole [dancing] teacher walked in.” Now rejuvenated by her lessons, Smilie herself has begun teaching pole dancing.

“And,” says Smilie, “I feel sexy. Basically, pole dancing is really hard on the core. You are anti- gravity, [one] has to be focused and be in the present. At the same time, you get sweaty palms. It gives you a lot of grit. The places I got bruises, I would cry and die. But those parts became stronger, inner and outer thigh, inner part of the knee, stomach and sides of the waist, and my anxiety reduced.”

A pole dancer is basically an athlete

“Poling is similar to playing a hardcore sport that works each and every muscle in your body and invigorates the mind,” explains Mumbai-based professional pole dancer Aarifa Bhinderwala, who has taught the likes of Yami, and has shattered many myths associated with pole dancing, too. She adds, “Pole dancing is essentially athletic in nature. So a poler is essentially an athlete. My students are powerful women from every walk of life, and on the pole, each one is a boss. Yami is a beautiful girl with a lot of grit and grace; her pole journey will be the same.”

Actor Esha Gupta also chose the fun pole dancing routine to stay fit, and swears by its benefits. “It’s great for the core and upper body strength, especially,” says Esha. “I had got a shoulder injury, so couldn’t continue for long, but now I am fine and will pursue it again.”