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POLE Dancing, being a South Asian ICON, and SMASHING stereotypes: Safar Nisha

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I was looking around for a sports activity to improve my fitness, get fit and tone up. Although I had interest in fitness, being on the chubbier side, I used to shy away from sports activities due to my low self-esteem. I didn’t know who to approach for advice. I started with jogging. I jogged 7km plus six times a week, rain or shine. While I lost weight, I looked exhausted all the time. I needed strength training.

But I wanted something that has a learning experience, enjoyable so that I would be motivated to continue in a long term (I easily get bored of repetitions!) and preferably something different from mainstream activities that everyone was doing. I discovered pole fitness in 2010.

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Pole dancing generally didn’t have a good reputation, much less as a fitness activity. It was considered sleazy. I checked out a few schools to talk to the instructors and enrolled with a pole dance school. After the very first class, my impression of pole dancing changed completely.

I left the class with a new experience, aching arms and shoulders which was exactly what I wanted, workout! The starting stages were both mentally and physically challenging. I had no fitness background and was very self-conscious about my body. I spent a lot of time (at my own pace), effort and endurance to build up the strength and flexibility for pole dancing. I realized my passion towards pole fitness.

Many of my friends thought that I was learning pole dancing in a dance club. The usual questions posed to me were “Which club are you dancing/performing?” “When are you going to do a private pole dance show for me? While I tried to make them understand what I was doing, most didn’t seem to understand or didn’t make an effort to understand.

But I couldn’t blame them either as reputation as pole dancer was such then, especially amongst indian community. Soon, I was seeing results for my effort. I was getting fitter and stronger. I was gaining confidence in myself and my abilities. Having no fitness background, I never imagined that I was capable of executing tricks/transitions on the pole. Soon I was geared up for more challenges.

I was an advanced level pole student when I discovered aerial fitness in 2012 which is also known as circus arts. With my new found strength and confidence, I was soon learning how to perform tricks/transitions on hoop, trapeze and silks.

Yes, I was actually pursuing pole dance and aerial fitness at the same time and I was working full time. As crazy and tiring as it sounds, I was enjoying my all classes thoroughly. These activities were physically demanding, dangerous and requires full concentration during classes and practices. I felt so liberated and confident. For me, sore muscles meant my body had a good workout. Oh that good pain!

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Unfortunately, I had to stop my aerial and pole fitness activities temporarily to pursue my masters degree. Part time studies while working full time made it difficult for me to keep up with classes and practices sessions. But I still wanted to maintain my fitness level which I had built up painstakingly over the years so that I can continue with my pole and aerial journey later on.

I started exploring the gym, jogging, yoga classes and hiking whenever time permits. These activities didn’t require committed classes/practice sessions. But they didn’t give me the “good pain” and satisfaction I was getting from pole and aerial fitness. I missed flying.


In 2020, I finally resumed my pole classes and aerial classes, starting from the basics. But I was able to handle them better this time, thanks to the other fitness activities I was doing in the meantime. I’m learning spinning pole and specializing in aerial silks now.

Also Read: This World Class Pole Dancer is also an Entrepreneur & a Raw Chef! Meet Jenny Liebert!


I notice that there are not many Indians pursuing pole and aerial fitness as a fitness activity. Not many of them are aware of the existence of such schools in Singapore. I hope to inspire others and create awareness among the Indian community. I hope to see more Indians pursuing them as a fitness activity.

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