With graceful aesthetic videos, choreographer Anusha Swamy is steering the art of pole dancing away from themes of eroticism
Gravity hardly seems a universal truth when Anusha Swamy is on the pole. Round and round she moves, twirling her arched legs around it as if cutting through water. In a one handed motion, she inverts herself until her hair falls away from her face, striking a graceful pose to the music of violins from the late SP Balasubrahmanyam’s ‘Thoda Thoda’.
“Ask people what superpower they would want to have, and most would say flying,” says 29-year-old Anusha.
Chasing after this freeing sensation, the multi-hyphenate choreographer who has worked for movies such as Maryan and Shuddh Desi Romance, has found her latest passion — pole art. “When you’re on the pole, it feels like you are flying. But at the same time, you are in complete control of your body. If you’re not in control, you will fall, so it keeps you at a higher level of consciousness.”
After just one class in Melbourne last year, on an introduction to pole art, Anusha had a pole installed in her Chennai home in March this year. “A friend of mine ordered it from the US and we self assembled it. I don’t think there are companies here who do that,” she says. Since then, she has been putting out videos of her pole dances on Instagram every few days, garnering over 73K views on her latest one.
The songs of her choice include classics like Sid Sriram’s ‘Ennadi Mayavi Nee’ and Hariharan’s ‘Pachai Nirame’ — those that bring melody and rhythm to the pole and make her movements look soft and powerful at the same time.
There is a bigger reason behind the selection of these songs, she explains, “The pole fitness community abroad is huge. They take it as seriously as we take Classical dance. But here pole dance is associated with eroticism. Like, if you’re on a pole, you’re a stripper.” With these well-loved songs, she hopes to break the art form free from that idea and earn respect for the strength it requires.
“Pole dancing needs full body strength: upper body to pull yourself up against gravity, core to hold on to the pole without using your arms, and lower body to perform mid-air inversions. So it is a combination of strength, flexibility and endurance,” she says.
Anusha recalls how she would practise day in and out when she first got the pole, resulting in a shoulder injury. “My trainers sat me down and made me realise that I was trying to get the perfection of Day 1,000, on Day 1. So after that, I started taking it step by step. They moulded my fitness training around the pole, working on my hip strength, core ability and pull-ups.”
With this level of fitness also comes a confidence boost — “it makes you feel powerful, every time you unlock the next feat or trick,” says Anusha. This is why, by next year she hopes to start a community of pole artists in South India, as Indian pole artists are far and few in between.
“The pole is for everybody but for women especially, I think it’s a great way to interact with each other,” she says, adding, “I don’t think I would have survived the lockdown if not for the pole.”