The Passion to Pole Dance

I have been pole dancing for nearly three years. It started as an interesting way to exercise, but I have grown to love it and am now deeply passionate about it as a way to test my physical limits and express myself through dance. When people find out that I’m both a lawyer and enter pole dancing competitions, I am often asked “Why do you like pole dancing?” as if it is inconsistent with my legal training or occupation. So when I was approached by the Chief Editor to write about my experiences with pole dancing, I was extremely excited for the opportunity to share my passion, and more importantly, to let a wider community know about this genre of dance activity.

Why do I Like Pole Dancing?

As a huge advocate of self-expression, I embrace who I am and enjoy the moments when I can express my emotions. When I dance, I listen to the music and let my emotions flow. This is completely different from what I am at work as an in-house legal counsel at a leading investment bank. While the bank where I work has a friendly and open culture, when my business stakeholders come to me for legal advice, I try to engage with a high degree of professionalism and decorum. I don’t act aloof, but it is the nature of the professional world that we are rarely supposed to show much emotion. Work can be tough and challenging at times. While people might recognize that types of dance, ballet for example, allow the release of mental tensions through vigorous physical activity, I find that there is nothing like the release I get from the challenging nature of competitive pole dancing.

My journey into competitive pole dancing has not been easy. I do not have any previous dancing experience, so it was extremely challenging to learn dance entirely from scratch. My first couple of pole dancing lessons were a complete disaster. I couldn’t catch up with the music or coordinate my body in the way my instructor did. As I lawyer, I critically evaluate what needs to be done to address issues in order to achieve the professional objective my client needs. I try to apply the same methodical approach from work to my pole dancing training. When we dance, there are a lot of fine details to watch out for, eg pointed toes, straight legs, arch back, etc. I believe my methods and the level of precision I have developed at work helps my dancing. For example, after each dancing class, I watch my own dancing video to identify any mistakes made and to watch out for improvement points. This is very similar to how I proofread my legal drafting, not only double, but triple checking, my legal work until it is in ideal shape.

What is Pole Dancing About?

Pole dancing is a form of physical exercise which requires a great deal of strength, flexibility and endurance. The training we undergo is intense. In addition to pole tricks, we train ourselves with challenging floor tricks like handstands, splits, bridges and flips, as some of the choreography we learn includes these gymnastics as well. While we take time to work on our overall fitness, the dancing element and music interpretation is another thing that we have to work on as well. Unlike some of my polemates who can attend weekday classes, I can only devote my spare time to pole dancing by separately arranging one-on-one private classes with my instructors, going to contortion classes and practicing on weekends.

One aspect that confuses people and creates the wrong impression of pole dancing is the clothing that performers wear. The reality is that given the athleticism of the moves and the need for various parts of the body to drape and hold the pole - the hands, waist, thighs, ankles for instance - it’s skin that gives the performer the optimum grip. Thus dancing outfits are necessarily on the skimpy side.

My First Competition

I entered my first competition in February 2019. Each contestant had to choose his or her own song, come up with a distinct choreography, and design and assemble his or her own costume and make-up. My solo routine had to last for a minimum of three and a half minutes. The idea was to tell a story by our dance in front of a panel of judges and approximately 200 audience members.

My competition planning process happened to coincide with an important project at work. It was the most stressful time I have ever experienced, concurrently managing my work and my hobby. I was on the verge of giving up the competition, but I did not give up in the end. I chose to portray a mermaid, who was making a last dance for a prince before she turned into seafoam. I was thrilled to be selected Second Runner Up of the First Division. During the competition, I made many new friends who share the same passion as I do. Indeed, the competition gave me lots of fond memories that I will not forget for the rest of my life.

The benefits

One of the biggest benefits of pole dancing is that I became more health conscious as a result. Before I started pole dancing, I did not pay much attention to my diet, which was too heavy on carbohydrates without a sufficient intake of protein and fiber. Because pole dancing requires a great deal of body strength, I need a sufficient intake of protein in order to build my muscles while downsizing my body fat. It was interesting learning more about the nutritional value of the food I eat. I now avoid starch-based carbs (eg rice and noodles) and my current diet is mainly made up of protein, lots of vegetables and a moderate amount of fruits. One of the unexpected results of taking up pole dancing is the increased energy I gained as a result of the dietary change, which, coming full circle, increased my productivity at work too.

Jurisdictions: 

In-house Legal Counsel of a Leading Investment Bank

Karen Yeung is the in-house legal counsel of a leading investment bank, advising on investment products including cash equities, bonds, structured products and OTC derivatives across all asset classes. Her primary legal coverage is product governance and regulatory issues specific to private wealth management.