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“I am more than halfway through my first term of Pole Dancing.”

Half finishing something is always impressive to me. Usually, when I start something, I do it once and then never attempt it again. For instance, I decided I was going to start making my own clothes. I went to one sewing lesson, pricked my finger and never went back. It was very Sleeping Beauty, without the whole coma and prince thing. What I enjoy most about my pole dancing classes and what has kept me coming back, (besides the free lollies) is that you can come as you are. The classes are not about changing you; they don’t teach you how to be sexier or tell you that you have to wear certain clothes to the classes. (However, you do pick up some pretty good tips; I can now do a pretty sexy body roll!) Sky Sirens is about embracing who you are, and everyone has welcomed me, as I am — a woman who does not wear heels.

This may seem shocking as heels are meant to be fabulous, and clearly, I am fabulous, but I just can't walk in them. I’m sure I could practice and master it, but honestly, I hate being uncomfortable. I have friends that assure me if I gave heels more of a chance I would learn to love them, and they are probably right. I have a girlfriend who wears heels everywhere and can even run in them. I’ve seen her hightail it out of Coles enough, (after using the self-serve check out), to know she can. However, I know who I am, and I accept my limitations. Walking is tough enough for me; I'm a tad clumsy. Add heels to the equation, and I am a walking disaster waiting to happen. I also try to learn from past experiences. I gave my ex-boyfriend many opportunities and ended up loving him. That was a terrible idea, mostly for him, because it ended with me my throwing his phone in the ocean. (In my defence I had been watching a lot of Gossip Girl). Still, I have just never felt like heels were for me, I spent too much time as a 20-year-old all dressed up from top-to-toe but barefoot by the end of the evening.

“It was one of my worries about starting pole dancing; my main concern was the actual pole dancing, but I was also worried that I would be expected to wear heels.”

I had managed not to wear heels to my cousin's wedding even though my Nan told me I looked like a “duck.” I guess I’ve always found it pretty easy to do what’s best for me, despite the cultural norms. Like, I’m from the coast, but I don’t have my driver's licence (aka Barbara Walters, I don’t drive, people drive me. They may be a bus, train or Uber driver, but you get my drift.) The truth is though I also do not want to reject the culture of pole dancing. I feel as an Australian I am already starved of culture, considering our idea of culture is getting drunk and referring to a friend as ‘mate’. But the fact I do not wear heels has been a non-issue, it has never even been mentioned.

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One of the things I love about Sky Sirens is it is all about acknowledging and paying tribute to actual working pole dancers. Katia, the owner of Sky Sirens, sums it up pretty simply, “Strippers created pole dance, and I feel like we are pushed out and rejected from our own art a lot of the time by ‘fitness' pole people.” Katia has created a studio that celebrates the origins of pole dancing. She doesn’t force her instructors to wear heels or her students, but she doesn’t discourage it either. I have noticed most instructors wear heels and I can see why. They do make your legs look longer, and they can make some tricks easier. It is much easier to roll your body. However, heels can also make some tricks harder. In my case, I think they would make every trick harder because I have never been able to master the art of walking in heels let alone dancing. I have my reasons for not wearing heels, and others have their reasons for wearing them. Even though I don’t wear heels, I’ve realised that as long as I am still embracing others who do, then I am not becoming someone that benefits from pole dancing classes while rejecting professional pole dancers.

In my first week of pole dancing, no one wore heels, except our instructor. Slowly, as the weeks progressed, more and more people in my class started bringing in their heels that they changed into when practicing and performing our routine. It is always fun to stare at their shiny and often sparkly shoes, and I still love seeing my classmates in them, because they always look amazing. I mean who doesn't like shoes? Maybe my Dad, who only ever wears thongs.  Some of the babes in my class have even found tricks to be easier wearing heels, particularly floor work. This is when we are on the floor and making certain moves like leg kicks; often I take this time just to lie on the floor because I get out of time with the music, get frazzled and then just stop moving.

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This week was Week 6, and we ran through our routine and the skills we have learned for the term in preparation for next week when we will be tested on our technique to see if we want, or can, progress to the next level of pole dancing. Everyone always finds this pretty nerve-wracking, but the way I see it is, you don’t want to advance unless you are ready. Otherwise, it will be even harder, and at the moment I am not prepared for a harder level, the basics tricks are difficult enough. I’m still very stressed about which leg is meant to go where. Some people in my class are ready to learn more because they have perfected many moves. The only thing I have perfected so far is remembering to go to the bathroom before class.

However, I am getting better at gripping the pole! The first week I felt like my hands constantly slid straight off, but I’ve become much better at holding on. This makes pretty much every trick easier, not easier to the extent it’s actually easy, but easier. I find every week that I am getting stronger, not always at the rate I would wish for, but there’s an improvement, and that is encouraging. It also makes me realise how hard it must be to be a professional pole dancer. I would need to stop every three minutes for water and perhaps a lie-down, but professional pole dancers always make it look effortless. It makes it hard for most people to realise that even just getting the correct grip on the pole is tough work.

One of the things I noticed this week is that almost everyone in the class is bringing in their heels. We even have a time set aside to put on the heels, and I use this time to have a drink of water or a much-deserved micro-break. My instructor, Rose, always uses this time to put on her heels – I am a fan of her pink sparkly Pleasers, but she has never asked me why I don’t wear heels.  Rose is also really good at multi-tasking because she will also use this time to make any house keeping announcements like recommending kneepads. Solid advice that I always forget to take.

Giving up on things is always more comfortable if you feel like you can’t be yourself. It’s the reason I’ve given up on relationships and having 5-star ratings on Uber. Every week I turn up to class barefoot – after a thorough spray with foot deodorant – and every week many of my classmates turn up with their heels. Every week we attempt tricks, share laughs and talk about our lives. The truth is it doesn’t matter if you are wearing heels or not wearing heels. It’s why I always look forward to the classes because it’s a place where I get to be my barefoot self in the same way some of my classmates look forward to the classes because it’s a place where they get to be their high-heel-wearing selves. I am a barefoot pole dancer, and nobody could care less.