Philippa Rasidi on pole dancing’s erotic origins and how it became a sport that’s now influenced by gymnastics, parkour and Latin dance. By Celina Ribeiro.

Pole position: Miss Filly, 31, pole dancer

I got to a point where I had actually won everything I wanted to win in Australia – which sounds really arrogant, but it’s something I’m really proud of. This year I’m 31, I find it hard to compete as much. It just takes a big toll on the body. This year I chose to go more international and step out of the Australian scene a little bit and let the next generation come up.

Our industry in Australia came out of the strip clubs, so we have a really strong erotic show background. But as the industry grows, we pull influences from people who have come from parkour, or salsa dancing or capoeira. Ex-gymnasts and breakdancers are bringing a great gymnastic element to the sport. In England there are a lot of people there who are gunning for it to be in the Olympic Games. But there are other people who are like: “No! We want to keep this sexy style. It’s not about tricks, it’s about your aesthetic and the way you move.” I am a fence-sitter. My titles are divided: barefoot and heels. But you should be able to flip it, as far as I’m concerned.

I had only been a pole dancing student for about a year when I got asked to begin teaching. At the time I was a database implementation consultant and I was terrible at it. They would say I was doing a great job, but I felt like I was single-handedly taking down small businesses. I decided to leave my job with about four hours of teaching a week.

I’ve now got a very big teaching schedule. I teach about 30 hours a week. It’s a blessing and a curse. It keeps me fit. We’re very physical when we teach. In the lead-up to a big competition, like the International Pole Championships (IPC), I’ll normally train about two hours a day, five days a week. Ten hours of training in between and on top of my teaching schedule. Mostly in training I’m putting a routine to music, figuring out how I’m going to hit those accents and beats. Trying to make it as visually exciting as possible, so my movement looks like how the music sounds.

For IPC I actually had the maximum amount of deductions given because I had swearing in my song. I was going for my first time. I am going for a big splash. I want to be the crowd favourite. I make sure I’m clean and well executed, I have a high level of difficulty, but maybe also a little bit sassy. Typically for the IPC no one wears heels but I decided to wear eight-inch boots. I wasn’t going in to win or place. I wanted to show that I was worthy of being there. Next year, if I get invited back, I would love to play the game a little bit better.

My favourite sort of show – that would have that acrobatic element and the sass – would be my Miss Pole Australia-winning show. There was costuming. I had two guys on leashes. I got to kick out a red carpet. It was real arrogant and I fucking loved it. That’s why I compete. Not because I like to be competitive, but because I love the environment that it allows me to be creative in.

People still call the studio and are like, “Ugh, I just want to book a lap dance.” Which is really fun. The thing is, I love strippers. I love going to clubs. I love that environment because, god, they’re so creative. If someone says to me, “You’re just a stripper”, I get offended because it’s saying a stripper is less than what I do.

You can look on YouTube for “pole dance fails” and I don’t think it’s funny. People go home and they’ve got counterfeit poles. Counterfeit poles use poorer quality metals. We use stainless-steel brass poles and chrome poles. A lot of them are a single piece nowadays and solid on the inside. What’s important is the way it’s put together. If it’s poor quality it can’t withstand the amount of impact that we have to put on a pole. Sometimes multiple piece poles that are poorly put together shatter and people can get impaled on them. Not like Vlad the Impaler impaled, but a little bit impaled. It’s a dangerous sport.

This week’s highlights…

Tennis: US Open

Until September 9, Flushing Meadows, New York

• Horseracing: Memsie Stakes Day

Saturday, 1st race 12.30pm (AEST), Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne

• NRL: Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons

Saturday, 3pm (AEST), McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle

Motorspot: Italian F1 Grand Prix

Sunday, 11.10pm (AEST), Autodromo Nazionale Monza

AFL: Qualifying Final 1 – Richmond v Hawthorn

Thursday, 7.20pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

Pole dancing: Australian Pole Championships

Friday, The Concourse, Chatswood, NSW

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 1, 2018 as "Pole position". Subscribe here.

Celina Ribeiro
is a freelance writer and editor based in Sydney.

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