Monday, August 22, 2011

From strip clubs to the gym: Pole dancing in PH

Pole Academy Philippines creative director Ed Aniel (left) and instructor Merry Farnal-Ballinger. Photos courtesy of PAP

MANILA, Philippines - What would you think if you see a woman who wears sexy clothes dancing and climbing a pole?

A taboo perhaps for many, especially for Filipinos.

Contrary to what others believe, pole dancing is not just for strip clubs, said veteran dancer Ed Aniel, who aims to wipe out the stigma attached to the performance art.

Aniel, who began his dancing career at age 18, introduced pole dancing as a form of exercise in the country by founding the Pole Academy Philippines (PAP) in 2007.

He has 2 other senior instructors: Eisa Jocson and Merry Farnal-Ballinger.

Asked who can join his classes, Aniel said, "Sex, age, height and weight don't matter. As long as you are willing to learn and you are passionate about it, you can enroll in our pole dancing classes."

Pole dancing as fitness craze

Geri Gatchalian-Gil, managing director of PAP, said pole dancing is fast gaining popularity in the Philippines as a way to get fit.

She said students initially enroll in their classes as an alternative to gym sessions.

PAP associate director Eisa Jocson. Photo courtesy of PAP

"But eventually, they enjoy going to the classes especially since we don't just do tricks on the pole. We have dance numbers every night at the end of the class," she said.

Gatchalian-Gil, a 42-year-old mother of two, said she first had inhibitions in showing some skin, but this changed after enrolling at PAP.

The academy, she said, helped her learn not only to pole dance but also to express herself better.

"Some actually lose weight from pole dancing, and even tone their muscles in the arms, legs and abs," she said.

True enough, PAP students shared that attending pole classes under Aniel "brought out the goddesses in them."

With pole dancing gaining ground in the Philippines, Aniel dreams of elevating it to the stage and showing the public his "hybrid style" of theatrical pole art.

"Pole dancing is an art form. At PAP, we call our brand of pole dancing as 'Jazz Le Pole,' a combination of jazz, ballet and pole dancing, which sets our school from other pole dancing schools in the country," he said.

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