By Bejay Browne
No longer the domain of seedy strip clubs, pole dancing is now widely recognised as a form of performance art and a growing fitness trend with ‘regular’ women of all shapes and sizes flocking to learn the combination of dance and acrobatics.
Stella Christodoulou, 32, has been teaching pole dancing in Cyprus for the last three years and now has more than 50 students taking part in regular pole dancing lessons in both Paphos and Limassol at the Theofilos and Stella dance studios. She said it’s a great way to get fit and have fun at the same time.
“I have all sorts of students from all different backgrounds, nationalities, ages and sizes. I also have a number of more mature ladies; this is a fun and challenging way to keep fit,” she said.
Christodoulou, who is also an experienced Latin dance coach, said she only discovered the sport by coming across a video on YouTube by accident.
“I was amazed and found it very inspiring. I was looking for something to do which was exercise and didn’t depend on a man,” she said. “Although I had my own dance partner, it can be difficult for women in Cyprus to find men to dance with. With pole dancing you don’t have to depend on anyone else.”
Christodoulou had no intention of teaching others to pole dance when she started out. She said she bought a professional portable pole and put it up in her dance studio to practise on. However, when her female dance students saw it, they were intrigued and wanted to learn themselves.
“Pole dancing is about confidence and women feeling sexy in themselves. They like how it feels when they dance. We start with bare feet and then dance in heels. Women love this, it makes us feel good and the dance moves are a lot of fun.”
The dance professional said she has experience with people of all fitness levels and that she teaches classes from beginners to advanced, as well as private groups and individuals.
“I have experience of people with zero fitness and have taken them on to doing very difficult and fast tricks. It’s like any sport, knowledge and experience are paramount,” she said.
“There is a programme which we follow and slowly they will progress. It takes about six months to be able to ‘invert’ or turn upside down. We work on core muscles and arm strength to do this.”
Christodoulou has no interest in breaking down barriers or taboos still associated with pole dancing and says she isn’t trying to change how it is viewed. She believes time and education are already doing this.
“China has a national pole dancing team – that should mean something. It’s not about women shaking about and whatever else goes on in some men’s heads, this is an art. It involves acrobatics, tricks, flexibility and strength.”
Although Christodoulou said that in theory men can pole dance too, many wouldn’t feel comfortable with some of the more flamboyant moves.
Christodoulou was interested in sports and gymnastics from an early age but first trained and worked as a beautician and flight attendant before changing careers to do what she loves.
“I changed my career path when I met my husband Theofilos. I became his assistant for salsa and Latin dance, I had always loved to dance.”
The dance teacher has four or five pole dancing students which she describes as really good and perform in Limassol at weekly organised events.
People wanting to learn pole dance should wear comfortable clothes to lessons – as if attending a gym – but with tight shorts underneath. They will also need a pair of high heels. Christodoulou says she can teach anyone, regardless of size or fitness level. Pole dancing is a good way, she says, to help change an unhealthy lifestyle.
“It’s getting more and more popular. Women like to feel fit, sexy and feminine. Learning to pole dance is a great way to achieve that.”
Stella Christodoulou 99042886