Meet Joanna Michelle, a strong and sexy fitness entrepreneur and pole dancer extraordinaire whose fitness journey began in the UAE and New York City. Now she’s bringing the art form to India, while also crushing stigmas and empowering Indian women to pursue what makes them feel good!
1. Can you tell us a little about how you discovered Pole Dancing?
The grandeur of dance forms such as burlesque, show jazz, pole dance and cabaret has always fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. I was fortunate to have been exposed to the performing arts world at a very young age. The strength, technique and grace of the dancers, along with their unwavering confidence, had and still continues to inspire me. I first came across pole dance as a community dance/fitness class while living in the UAE in 2016 which is where I began my journey. I completed my professional training at Body & Pole in NYC across a four-month intensive program in 2019, under some of the industry’s best coaches and performers.
2. Do you see a rising interest in the pole dancing scene in India?
Definitely, yes. I am constantly speaking to people from different cities who express their interest. Indians are now starting to make fitness an integral part of their lives, and are often looking for new ways to integrate it into their daily routine. There is more of the right kind of exposure to it in India now, which allows people to see the depth of this art form. You can see how much it benefits your strength, flexibility, fluidity, coordination and overall skills as you learn various manoeuvres on the pole.
3. What's a misconception people have about Pole dancing that you'd like to quash?
There are many. One of the biggest misconceptions is that one needs to already be of a certain fitness level or age to begin learning pole dance. This is far from the truth.
You can begin learning pole dance without any fitness or movement background at all, and at any age! Just like any other fitness modality, we start with an Introductory level and teach you all the basics to progress in the best way. There are different styles of pole dance too, that suit different people.
In fact, when I was training in NYC, I had many fellow dancers that were 45 years and over, and even one that was 70. They influenced me in a very positive way.
4. Some words of advice for those who've just started their pole dancing journey?
Stick to it, and do not judge yourself based on your first, fourth or even fourteenth class. It is a relatively new art form here with many elements at play at the same time. It takes time, practice and consistency to gain familiarity with the moves and techniques. Enjoy the process - it is dancing after all!
Stay consistent with a class at least once, if not twice a week, and give yourself at least 3-4 months with a professionally trained and experienced teacher.
5. You're a yoga teacher as well! Do you find that your yoga practice helps with your pole dancing and vice versa?
Yes, and an ex-professional dancer and certified flexibility coach too. And yes, they do have very positive influences on each other. While I do include flexibility drills in the conditioning of a pole class, it is not the main focus. So for intermediate or advanced students, I would recommend including yoga or flexibility training to nail those super bendy pole moves.
6. What would a new student expect in one of your classes?
You can expect to have a good grasp of the foundational elements that are a base for all the advanced moves. You learn the correct techniques to warm up and condition your body for the pole, especially your wrists, shoulders and core strength. You learn the basics of spinning and climbing, and introductory moves working towards a routine. It can seem overwhelming at first, but I promise you - by your 10th class you are acing it.
7. What are some challenges in your journey as a fitness entrepreneur? And how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest ones is changing peoples’ perception about ‘only a very intense workout being a good workout’. I am constantly educating my clients on the importance of understanding the nuances in alignment, muscle engagement and modifications, as these are key elements to their progress.
Another one would be taking the leap of faith and flying to New York for nearly half a year to have the best training in pole dance possible. I wanted to be the best I could be and to bring the best knowledge and experience to my students, and this is what I am in the process of doing. At the time, almost no one here knew what it was, and I had to choose to believe in myself, my abilities, skills and experience and work hard for it, despite the doubts of people around me.
8. Your favourite tunes to train to?
I love very soothing music when I am working on intense contortion skills - Florence and The Machine, Cigarettes After Sex, John Mayer and Alicia Keys. And when I am working on strength and conditioning I switch to Beyoncé, Cardi B, Dua Lipa and Ariana Grande.
9. STAC is all about everyday luxuries and the way they make us feel. What is your own version of a little luxury that you indulge in every day?
Everyday luxury for me is most definitely my skincare routine. I generally don’t wear make-up, unless it’s a night out. I like my skin to look fresh naturally, so I do take the time to eat well, stay hydrated, cleanse my face properly at night no matter how exhausted I am, and moisturise throughout the day. Sunscreen is your best friend!
10. What does jewellery mean to you?
My Jewellery is a reflection of who I am. I play around with statement pieces once in a while. But I love delicate, simple and elegant pieces that have one or two intricate details that stand out. This is why the STAC collection really spoke to me. It is the bespoke craftsmanship and style of jewellery that I would wear every day.
11. Which jewellery piece of yours is meaningful to you and why?
I have a delicate silver necklace with a blue heart that belonged to my mum since she was in college which means a lot to me. And a silver ring with very intricate detailing at the top that I bought at the time of completing my yoga teacher training. You will rarely ever find me without it.
12. Do you have any tips for budding fitness entrepreneurs?
Have a good equilibrium between following methods that have worked for successful entrepreneurs in the industry, and following your own unique journey. We want to expose ourselves to the knowledge out there, learn from the successes and failures of those we admire, and we want to maintain the integrity of the ideologies that matter to us. Stay true to who you are.
You can find Joanna and all the fitness and dance inspo you’ll ever need at @intuitivemovementtribe and @joannna.michelle.11 on Instagram!