Living to the beat of a pole

NATASHA PATEL
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2013
Natasha Patel
JOHN SELKIRK/ Fairfax NZ

STRAIGHT UP: Natasha Patel talks about life as a pole aerial fitness instructor.

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Natasha Patel, 26, is a pole aerial fitness instructor at Viva Latino Dance Studio in Auckland. She lives with her parents and a bull terrier/greyhound cross named Hugo.

During the day I work at Harcourts Real Estate. After work I pick my sister up from school, take my dog for a walk and then go to my place to get a change of pole clothes.

I try to keep as warm as possible, so I will wear track pants, a hoody and leg warmers, but otherwise I'll wear short-shorts and a singlet to help me grip onto the pole.

Initially you bruise a lot, but eventually your body toughens up and you get a few calluses. In any sport you use one part of your body more than others. You use all the muscles that monkeys use.

We use surf wax to grip onto the poles, and later we clean them with methylated spirits. I started teaching out of my parents' garage, one-on-one, for pocket money.

This is the only physical thing that I've been formally trained in. I trained with Pole RevolutioNZ in Pakuranga under Amy Richardson-Impey.

She's international-level and is one of the owners of Miss Pole Dance NZ. I was supposed to be competing in it but didn't go through with it because my shoulders have taken a hammering.

I've not missed a single class because if I miss classes like that my students fall behind. You lose strength quickly if you don't keepit up. It's all women in my classes. My sister is the youngest - she's 16 - and the oldest is a grandma.

We get a couple of kids through - the mums bring their kids along. Generally, kids pick it up very quickly; they have the flexibility and they learn by watching.

I know a lot of guys that do it, but the poles aren't tall enough - these guys are like six-foot-three.

 I refer them to my coach and they can do a mix of things like juggling, pole and aerial hoops as well. We also do acro, where you counter-balance on people.

Sometimes for the drills in my class I throw a song on and you're not allowed to touch the floor that whole time. You have to stay on the pole for three or four minutes. The girls are exhausted when they come off - it's a full body workout.

I have fallen off a few times and the girls have fallen off. Generally they know how to fall; that's one of the things I teach them - how to catch themselves.

The moves I teach them are the little moves: always squeeze, even when it hurts, slide down slowly and don't panic.

When people don't listen to me I have got very angry at times. I get upset because if they don't listen they could do something wrong and fall on their head. I have sworn at people a couple of times.

When I'm talking and demonstrating something I don't want to have to stop and keep demo-ing over and over again. But I'm very patient, apparently.

It's about two hours a day, and then on top of that there are hens' parties - sometimes there will be two a night.

On good days I'll put ankle weights on and train with those. It's more resistance - it works you harder.

One of the guys I know from [circus theatre company] The Dust Palace, he teaches me a bit of contemporary.

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We have jam sessions. On a Friday night, instead of going clubbing I'll stay after class and he'll come over and we'll play. You learn a lot from play.

He teaches me a lot floor-wise and contemporary-wise and I will watch and critique him technically. When we dance together and train together we're very focused. It's like work. You think very technically. It's not a big deal to us.

I haven't actually danced for any of my boyfriends. I have offered to teach at clubs but the managers are really snooty about it, like: "The girls will teach themselves."

At [strip club] Calendar Girls, the girls come over from Australia who are really good at what they do.

 They are right up on the pole - they are very strong girls. But the ones who just dance around the pole, it's not that impressive.

Occasionally you get the odd asshole who's stupid about it, but mostly people are more accepting.

- Sunday Star Times

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