When Renee Tan started pole dancing in 2006, many people thought she wanted to become a stripper.
“Many people asked me, you are a graduate and you want to work at a club?” said the 35-year-old principal of Groove Dance School.
“That’s because they think everyone who pole dances – especially in places like Bangkok and the United States – work in a club. Today this negative mindset has changed,” she added.
Not all agree.
Medical technologist Magdalene Lam, 22,who picked up pole dancing at Groove nine months ago, said: “Everyone still has the perception that pole dancing is not for normal girls but I disagree. It’s a kind of art and we need to help our friends understand this art, and to understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Pole dancing is tough, according to many students at Groove. Not only do dancers need to have a high level of physical fitness to execute the acrobatic moves, they have to move with grace and finesse as well.
It is very common for students to walk away from the poles with aching muscles and bruises on their thighs.
So what drives pole dancers to come back for more?
Renee Tan said: “There is a lot of satisfaction – because this is not an easy sport. Many students drop out along the way because they cannot take it. But I like the challenge, not just physically, but mentally as well.”
“The sport has helped me to keep fit, become stronger and feel a lot more confident about my body. I want to share this experience with as many women out there as possible.”
“I have been always into dance and sports. I have been dancing since five years old, and I was also doing a lot of sporty stuff at the same time. So I feel that pole dancing is a very good merger between the two.”
According to Tan, most of her students are working professionals in their twenties and thirties.
But what is surprising is that her instructors are working professionals as well.
“I have a school teacher who is here as an instructor. I also have a speech therapist who works at NUH who is teaching here as well,” she said.
Because her instructors are teaching out of genuine passion, they enjoy sharing their love for the sport and are extremely committed to teaching despite having to juggle a full-time job.
Groove is an all-ladies dance school. Tan believes that this arrangement will encourage more women to take up pole dancing.
“In pole dancing, we have to wear shorts and tight tops. If men are around, the girls may feel intimidated and self-conscious,” she said.
“This is a place where no matter what shape, size and age you are, you will come in here feeling comfortable,” she added.
Some students have taken their hobby to the next level, participating in international showcases and competitions in countries like Ukraine, Australia and the United States. Two representatives from Groove have also competed in the International Pole Dance Championship, which was held on Nov 30 last year at the National University of Singapore.
Groove Dance School is now the largest dance school in Singapore offering pole dance classes. But despite a thriving business, Tan does not foresee an expansion of her school in the near future.
“I did consider getting another place, but I’m worried about quality. I may not have the time to make sure all my instructors do the right thing. We want to keep the lessons personal, and to make sure that every student gets taken care of by our instructors.”
Groove Dance School is located at 100 Tras Street, #03-21, Singapore 079027. For more enquiries, please call 62234813 or visit www.groove.com.sg.