Pole history has roots going back many years, but as a sport and an art form it is extremely young. Australia only opened it’s first pole studio in 2003! So in our fifteenth year, APDM has decided to do a series chronicling Australian pole history – as told by those who were there to see it.
Today’s story comes from Vanessa, who co-created the very first pole studio in Australia. Read on to learn how pole studios as you know them first began!
by Vanessa Brecht
I told my boss I had an ongoing gynaecological appointment on Tuesday afternoons and would have to leave early for six weeks. When the first Tuesday rolled around I caught a cab to the cross and looked each way thinking “surely I’m going to get caught” before heading down the dark stairwell…
There were a few other girls milling about and I thought “where am I? what am I doing? This is SO COOL!!!”. I learnt that Bobbi had never taken drugs (shock! weren’t all strippers prostitutes and drug addicts? It was 2001, I was young and very naïve!) AND she studied commerce at university and was just back from ten years in Japan being a showgirl. WHAT??!! Mind blown.
We all got on podiums and started with an invert. I think maybe one person got it, so we went on to do a climb and then a layback. There was no warm up, no music, just a dark club… It was AWESOME!!! You had to sign up to two lessons a week, so on the Saturday we went to Men’s Gallery where different teachers, Jamilla or Sydney, taught us similarly crazy moves.
At the end of two terms the club decided they didn’t want to run the classes anymore. By then I had a pole in my bedroom. I had walked around in Bobbi’s stripper shoes so much looking at myself in strip club mirrors that she gave me a pair of her old thigh boots to use, and then suddenly I was pregnant! Yep, a year of “trying” and the pole and the boots made it so!
The last lesson we had, I told Bobbi about a photographer friend of mine who was coming to Sydney from New York. I suggested that if she could get a club for a day, I could get him to photograph her and we could do a coffee table book. Long story short, we sent the book off to Taschen and while they were thinking we started working on another project.
We decided to get a pole manufactured for home use and do a DVD, and sell the package to Rebel. While we were meeting “directors” at their homes (with bongs on the table!) we were offered another opportunity.
OK, let me explain. There was a strip club where Bobbi did shows, and the owner also had a massage parlour on Pitt Street. On the middle floor was a room with weights where the bouncers from the strip club would work out. It also had a pole where Bobbi would teach the strippers during the week.
He came to Bobbi and suggested that if she wanted to put another pole up there, she could run classes and give him a percentage of takings. So we did a one page super non-professional proposal and had a meeting with him – deal done. Then it was ACTION STATIONS!
Candice and Jamilla were on board as teachers. I was heavily pregnant and leaving my day job at lunch to have business meetings with Bobbi after her shows in strip venues. We called a few clubs and found out how to organise another pole, got the remnants of Bobbi’s paint from her garage and repainted the room. Bobbi made curtains, and we named ourselves Sydney Pole Dancing School. We even got t-shirts made and printed off some flyers.
It was the day before our open day, Candice and I did some Pitt street mall brochure drops (very depressing) and we were doubtful anyone was going to come, when something happened. We got a tiny article in the Sydney Morning Herald! Remember there was no Facebook back then – we didn’t have a website, no email, so we wondered if that might be enough to get a few people through the doors.
I guess people read the paper, because we had a hundred girls turn up, ONE HUNDRED! It was packed! We had a bit of a chat to them, Candice, Bobbi and Jamilla did some moves, and I was sitting there breastfeeding and signing them up for classes. We didn’t expect it to be that popular, AT ALL.
The plan was we had two poles, so we would have six people in a class. Three people would be on the poles with the teacher for fifteen minutes, and three people would be doing a circuit class by themselves. They would swap over twice in a class. In reality what ended up happening was that all the girls just sat and watched, waiting their turn.
As EVERYONE was signing up I was writing it all down (we didn’t have a credit card machine or a company bank account, hell I think I must have been taking cash deposits), I was yelling out “hey Candice, can you do another class Wednesday?”, “hey Bobbi, can you do a 7pm Thursday?”, “Jamilla, can you do another one Saturday?”, and suddenly we had one hundred students!
We did a bunch of hen’s nights in that first eight weeks, and we also found another premises in Castlereagh street. We ripped the carpets out ourselves, painted it (I got paranoid the paint fumes would hurt my 2 month old baby, he’s fine), Bobbi sewed the curtains, we got an Ikea desk and an old couch for reception, found a builder to make a stage, and Bobbi staple gunned material to the ceiling (that was HARD, I was super crap at that but Bobbi had muscles!!). We bought so much pink paint that they gave us three x 4 litres tins of jelly beans (that’s where THAT started, if you’ve ever BEAN to Bobbi’s haha).
We had another open day at the new studio (this time with thirteen poles) and an hour before it began, Candice and I were still painting the window sills. There were old gross hard bits of chewing gum and lots of dust, but we had a time limit and just painted over the lot of it! The jelly beans were a hit, as were the demonstrations.
Around this point we had an article in the “It Happened To Me” section of Women’s Weekly titled “I Lost my Baby Fat by Pole Dancing”, and shortly after, a segment on a TV show (I don’t think Foxtel was around and so everyone still watched free to air AND read women’s magazines). Word had well and truly got out, and there were SO MANY girls at our second open night! We didn’t know it then, but that’s how Australian pole history was born!