Not too long ago, United Pole Artists received a sweet email from Philippines pole dancer Annie Aniel who suggested that we feature her father, Ed, on our blog. He has been a figure in the industry for the past ten years, offering the first pole dance classes in the Philippines back in 2004. We spoke with Ed Aniel about what pole means to him, how it has changed since he first started and where he sees it heading. Read on to learn more!
What do you like most about pole dancing?
I love dancing. Growing up, I breathed dance and took all the dance classes I could. When I discovered pole, what I saw was a different kind of dance form and that was most exciting! No one else viewed it as a legitimate dance form and so the thrilling challenge for me was to remove the stigma it carried and get it accepted as something artful in a conservative country such as ours.
Has it changed your life?
The way the events in my life unfolded fated me to become the pioneer of pole dancing in the Philippines. That was not exactly planned but ten years down the line, that pretty much set the course leading me to who I am today.
How would you describe your style of pole dancing?
When I started in 2004, pole dancing was what most people were familiar with – the kind one would see in strip clubs and bars. Those are, undeniably, the origins of the dance, and that is the major reason some people were and still are uncomfortable with it. The acrobatic pole moves were not the fashion and so I was never accustomed to learning the name of a specific pole move. Instead, with my dance background, I learned to “work the pole.” Eventually, I developed a dance syllabus I called Jazz le Pole and I tested it with dance friends.
Jazz le Pole takes acrobatic pole tricks (no names then!), and incorporates it into choreography inspired by more traditional forms of dance, such as ballet, jazz, tango, and the like, to produce elegant results. Jazz le Pole is about the art and expression of dance. Remember, this was back in 2004! I’ve always carried that with me. That Jazz le Pole is a dance class.
I notice that the trend today seems to be focused on a lot of death defying tricks. So, my teachers offer more of what the younger students are looking for: impressive tricks but still in the Jazz le Pole style.
I look at pole dancing as a whole. You have to look hot, beautiful and sexy, not like an acrobat without shoes! You have to know your music, feel it and move with it. When you perform, you must connect with your audience. When we do events, we want to make sure that our audience is entertained and that our performances look effortless and beautiful!
Your daughter wrote us with your story. Does she pole dance as well?
Yes, she does! And in 2012, she was asked to be the brand ambassador for a denim company here in the Philippines (Freego) for their Freedom of Movement campaign. Here
is the viral video of my daughter, Annie, together with fellow brand ambassador, Misagh Bahadoran of the Philippine Azkals.
How do you feel about the controversy surrounding children and pole dancing?
I have a lot of mothers in my classes. It isn’t long after they’ve started pole dancing that they purchase their own poles. So naturally, their young children are exposed and become good at it because they are starting early! They will be my next generation of dancers! I don’t worry about it because we teach a dance form and always take into consideration age appropriateness in choreography.
How popular is pole dancing in the Philippines?
Pole dancing has fast gained momentum here in the recent years and several private instructors and gyms offer classes. My position here is to always make sure your instructors have received the proper training (and this means years of experience as a dancer and physical trainer).
When scouting around for a class to join, and for the student’s own safety, I ask that the students do not settle for just a week’s certification course that automatically certifies the teacher to be a pole dance instructor. Do an extensive background check on the “school” and “teachers.” I tell them, remember, it’s a physical activity and bad training can result in the wrong muscle definition or injury. You don’t want to bulk up in the wrong places. I see that happen all the time! You still want to look sexy after all.
Is there any stigma you receive as a male pole dancer?
If there is, I’m oblivious to it! Or choose to ignore it!
a fun video. I am dancing (on the floor) with two of my jazz buddies. We’re in our 40’s and 50’s now and are all daddies. These guys are straight have attended my pole classes. Here, we perform with my girls, Uela, Mini and Eisa.
What has been your proudest pole moment?
The greatest thing that makes me proud is the awareness of pole dancing in the country today. Pole studios and performance groups continue to proliferate in the Philippines. As pole is a fairly “new” activity and now the “in” thing, everyone is calling dibs on being the “first,” the “creator,” the ”trailblazer.” I see this and think about the first time I offered classes back in 2004 when no one else was doing it. That makes me very proud.
And then seeing my students transform is such a thrill! Whether the metamorphosis is unlocking something from within or the physical mastery that comes from hard work and dedication, their stories make me proud!
As far as performing goes, it was when we were performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last May 2013. Our group was the first group ever to do a pole performance in the prestigious theater! We did three numbers.
Were you affected by Typhoon Haiyan?
I was in my province in Mindanao when the Yolanda (Haiyan) hit, so I wasn’t directly affected. However, my daughter’s boyfriend lives in Ormoc and the devastation there was terrible. She had to take things into her own hands, fly there herself to make sure relief would get to his family as none of the government aid reached them for days, weeks even.
What motivates you to keep dancing?
Dancing! It’s my first love! I will always have dance in my heart and that is what propels me. Second, are my students! I love to hear their stories about how they transform after they take pole.
What plans do you have for the future?
As a performance group, we at Pole Academy Philippines see pole dancing as an emerging creative dance discipline. Emerging, as it is currently evolving from sleazy to fitness and finally as an aesthetic discipline, which Pole Academy Philippines is pushing. We are creative and pioneering as the pole dance vocabulary and possibilities keep widening through our vision, syllabus and aesthetic style.
There is so much movement possibility on a vertical pole! The pole challenges are addicting to overcome. On one hand, it brings back memories of childhood and playing on the playground bars. On the other, it is deeper, bringing out something that you didn’t know existed in you (or you denied) as a woman.
It may take some time for women (especially Filipinas) to shake off the perception of pole dancing because of its origins. And we at PAP love to challenge that perception. Once you’re over that, there is the euphoria of getting the benefits of fitness, exotic dance and increased confidence. There’s also the fun of a dance class through all kinds of music and the powerful bond of sisterhood.
Continue to create awareness. What we like to call Guerilla Street Pole Dancing is like Parkour, which is a physical training of the body and mind through obstacles in your environment, but using select vocabulary has its origins in strip clubs.
Pole dancing requires strength, flexibility and coordination and at PAP, we train really hard in our studios. When we go out into the streets, we are not only challenging ourselves in the context of our environment, but challenging people’s perception of pole dancing.
To learn more about Pole Dance Academy Philippines and its founder Ed Aniel you can “like” them on Facebook
or follow them on YouTube
*Please note the interview above was translated to English by a third party.