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Pole Travels: Berlin

By on November 8, 2017
Last summer I went to Berlin – and of course, I had to meet some local polers and check out local pole dance studios. The capital of Germany is a hip, alternative, cosmopolitan city with a very rich history. The city gives you a sense of freedom and there is something for everyone. Just like pole dance.

Pole dance has such a supportive and friendly community worldwide, it would be a pity not to get to know the local people who share the same passion as you while you are traveling. Sure, you will probably learn a new trick or choreo along the way, but changing your environment can do wonders for regaining motivation and breaking out of a rut. Whatever your style is, you can find a pole studio that specializes in it in Berlin.
Berlin is a very international city, so you will not have any trouble communicating with others even if you don’t speak the German language. However, be aware that Berlin is huge, so plan your sightseeing time accordingly. Getting from one part of Berlin can take more time than you would expect. Most studios offer a trial lesson for 10 euros, however, there are also studios that charge up to 20 euros for the first class.

Berlin

I chose to visit places in alignment with my pole taste: two studios that focus on the dance part of pole dance – Soul Flight and Drehmoment Pole.Aerial.Dance. I took a pole class at each studio and talked to two instructors about the Berlin/German scene and the studios where they teach.

Miglena Lafchieva is a teacher at Soul Flight studio which is located in an interesting and hip neighbourhood – Kreuzeberg. The studio is spacious. I learned about Miglena through her pole dance blog The Pole Dancer and since I liked her tutorials I decided to take the Pole Motion class. She is super-friendly and open, so we met again a few days later just to talk about pole dance and our goals. The whole class was in English (I don’t speak German), everyone had their own pole, and we learned a short choreography that included a few spins and a bit of floorwork. Usually more lyrical, the choreography (or one part of it that was taught that day) was sassy and sexy, but without heels, which was refreshing.

Miglena Lafchieva

Alisa Saric is the owner and teacher at Drehmoment Pole.Aerial.Dance. At this studio, I decided to try something I usually don’t do at home (because I don’t have the opportunity at home) and booked Off Duty Stripper class. (Alisa was kind enough to let me use her shoes.) The studio is welcoming and from the moment you enter it, you can feel that it is made to be an oasis. After a warm-up that consisted of all the sexy moves you can think off – legwork, body waves, leg waves, ankle conditioning, etc. we proceeded with an exotic choreography. Alisa later explained that she likes Doris Arnold’s and Elizabeth Carmine Black’s style. What was pretty impressive is Alisa’s ability to teach in three languages simultaneously – she explained everything in German, English and Bosnian/Serbian. Although I struggled a bit with the choreography due to being an exotic pole dance newbie and coming to the class when the last part of choreography was done, the way Alisa teaches and runs the studio left a strong impression on me. Her perfectionism, hard-work, and attitude can really make you feel empowered and inspired.

Alisa Saric, photo by Late Night Tales

Bad Kitty: Are there any particularly good spots for street poling in Berlin? Either for a workout or just an Instagram worthy pic? Is street poling legally allowed in Berlin?

Miglena: Officially, there are a few street workout parks for callisthenics.They’re listed here:
You’ll find a lot of horizontal bars there but you probably won’t find any regular poles. At least there wasn’t a pole in the park that I went to.

I wish there was a public pole in Berlin like the one in Bondi beach that I’ve seen on photos. That would definitely attract a lot of pole dancers. And some tourists for sure as well. 🙂

I don’t think street poling is officially allowed in Germany, but I don’t think it’s forbidden neither.

You can take a cool pole picture in the public transport called S-Bahn, which I also don’t think is allowed. So, it would be at your own risk. Otherwise it all depends on your creativity to find a pole on the street or on public playgrounds.

This doesn’t mean that Berlin is not good for outdoor photo shoots though. On the contrary! I had a cool outdoor acrobatic and flexibility photoshooting in front of big graffiti walls, abandoned places, train rails. East Berlin is full of cool and rough places. It’s definitely worth going out with a camera to look for them.

The author of text in one of the parks

Alisa: Yes, there are indeed plenty! One of the most popular insta pole pic spots is certainly in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where you will find several street sign posts. (S+U Brandenburger Tor) Most of our local trains (S-Bahn) have poles in the centre between the doors, and leave plenty of space, whereas the subways (U-Bahn) are a lot more narrow, but open other possibilities of casual pole/acro action, so I’m sure you will have at least one opportunity where you will see a kid dancing around the S-Bahn pole, and you’ll definitely want to strike a pose yourself. Just don’t let the conductors catch you – nobody ever explicitly said that street poling is illegal, but you’ll probably be asked to come down from most poles and posts, especially in public transport.

I know that many people also love to take pictures on the pole-like installation at the Berlin Wall Memorial (Bernauer Strasse), but you will have to decide for yourself if you really need a street pole pic from a memorial which symbolises quite a sad part of Berlin history. Berlin has always had a very eventful history, so please be sensible before climbing something. I’m sure that you will find plenty of outdoor pole opportunities pretty much everywhere else.
As to workout parks, we do indeed have a few that are quite decent and being used by callisthenics fans. Simply google for “Berlin street workout/callisthenics parks” to find the locations. The most known ones are in Moabit (S+U Hauptbahnhof), Alt-Stralau (S Treptower Park), the Gleisdreieck (S Gleisdreieck), and the tiny one in Monbijou Park (S Hackescher Markt).
 

BK: Tell me more about the studio where you teach. How would you describe the style that is taught in your studio? What kind of classes do you offer, and which ones do you teach?

Miglena: The studio where I teach is called Soul Flight and is located at Moritzplatz in Berlin. I’m very happy that I found it 3.5 years ago. Back then I was a beginner and took my first classes in another pole dance studio. What convinced me personally as a student to move to SF was the fact that even in the pole technique classes we’d always learn combos and not just single tricks. By the end of the class we could perform a whole routine with lots of new moves and transitions. Personally, I strongly believe that the more you learn combos, the easier it will be to come up with your own ideas for routines later.

Also as a teacher I feel like SF is the right place for me. The studio puts a lot of emphasis on the dancing part of pole and to me, pole dance is all about dancing. We have Pole Flow classes in different styles – from lyrical to sexy and exotic. We teach a choreography for 8 weeks and the students can perform what they learned in a small show at the end.

In my Pole Motion class I teach a choreography and apart from learning new moves we focus on flow, transitions, quality of movement and expression. Between the warmup and the choreography we usually do short and playful exercises for freestyling or for creating a short low-pole combo.

Soul Flight, photo from the studio’s website

Soul Flight, photo from the studio’s website

Alisa: I teach at Drehmoment Pole.Aerial.Dance, which is located in Tempelhof in the South of the city. Drehmoment means momentum, or turning point, and letting people find their own momentum is exactly what we do. To us, pole is a form of dance that opens countless possibilities to make it your own, and that’s why we put an emphasis on solid basics both in general movement and in pole, and encourage our students to become creative with what they already have from the very start. We take pride in the freestyle culture in our studio, since to us, the biggest reward is to see our students blossom as individuals. We are humans first, then dancers, and then pole dancers, and we find that our holistic approach leads to pretty remarkable results.

We offer pole level classes (our beginner format runs five times a week), exotic pole classes for various levels, flexibility classes, and regular specialty classes/workshops, like our highly popular Freestyle Night, and soon floor flow classes, mobility workshops, and also lap dance. Our team is still growing, so we are slowly adding more and more to our schedule. We are bursting with ideas and love to take our time to finalise our ever evolving class concepts.
Personally, I teach all pole levels, the flexibility classes, most of the speciality classes, and our currently three exotic pole classes. Our exotic pole style is very sensual, and it is my personal little feminism project. I believe that nothing and nobody but you holds the potential to bring out the strongest version of yourself – by facing your own sensuality, and learning to own it. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy empowering other women through what I have learned on my own movement journey, and also as a woman who had to empower herself. Isn’t it beautiful how much more dance is, than simply trying to impersonate a certain style? That’s why we use pole dance as a tool for our students to grow as movers, dancers, and also as humans.

Drehmoment Pole.Aerial.Dance

Drehmoment Pole.Aerial.Dance team, photo by Christina Bulka, Late Nigh Tales

BK: If you are a traveler who doesn’t speak the German language, would you be able to take a class, participate in it and follow the instructions? (provided that you speak English)

Miglena: Yes! All teachers at SF speak English fluently. Very often there are students in my classes who don’t speak German at all. Berlin is a metropolitan city and in some areas you might not hear German at all.
Luckily, all native Germans speak English and they don’t mind having the class in English.

Alisa: I think it should not be a problem for the most part as a student here since English is widely spoken. In our studio, all instructors are fluent in English, and I know that there are other places here in town where there is also instruction in English. At Drehmoment, we usually teach in Denglish (Deutsch + English), as we always have at least one expat in class.

BK: Approximately how many pole studios are there in Berlin?

Miglena: I think there are about 9 or 10 studios right now. Unless I’m very much mistaken I think  there used to be 4-5 studios just 4 years ago.

Alisa: The Berlin pole scene has grown tremendously in the past two years. From only a handful of studios not too long ago, we have gone up to almost a dozen studios, plus a couple of gyms or dance schools where pole dance is also being taught. There is a pole school for pretty much every taste and every kind of demand.

BK: Tell me more about international competitions, workshops, and pole camps in Germany.

Miglena: I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. I personally really love performances but I realized that most competitions are too restrictive in terms of rules and regulations about movement. The only competition that is less restrictive and that I’ve participated in so far was Pole Theatre UK last year. And this year PT comes to Germany for the first time! I applied and hope that I’ll make it to the finals.

There might be more international competitions in Germany that I’m not aware of.

I find that there are a lot of international workshops in Berlin though. Most of the studios here invite and host international guests and pole stars. I feel lucky and I’m very grateful for that.

Pole camps? Yes, at least two. But there are probably even more. One is organized by Stefanie from Pole Sports from Berlin. And I think I’ve seen another one but I’m not sure.

Alisa: The pole scene in Germany is a bit younger than in most other West European countries, so we still have a manageable lineup of competitions and camps. Pole Theatre Germany will be run for the very first time this autumn, and apart from the IPSF-endorsed competitions, there are several other privately run ones, like Crazy Pole Cup and Stell on Fire.

Pole camps have only started to emerge in our country. A few are being run by the North Sea and Baltic Sea, and some studios also offer in-house camps, mostly during summer time.

BK: What is the general opinion about pole dance (according to non-pole people) in Germany?

Miglena: Pole dance is becoming popular in Germany in the last few years, mostly as a sports trend. The first thing I hear from non-pole people when I tell them that I dance and also teach pole dance is: “Oh yeah, I know (I’ve heard or read) that it’s a very hard and acrobatic. I’m aware that it’s a sport and a good workout”. So, in my eyes, Germany is in the (beginner’s) stage of establishing pole dance as a sport and also cutting (denying) any relation to striptease and strip clubs.

I guess that’s good, but I don’t see myself there completely. For me the workout and the toned body are just a nice side-effect. As I mentioned previously, for me personally pole dance is a DANCE. It has become my way to be creative, to get to know myself, as well as to express and at the same time enjoy myself.

Alisa: I recently spent a month in the States, and I feel like although pole dance has been around a lot longer in the States, we encounter a whole lot less obstacles here in Germany. Germans tend to be quite tolerant and liberal, so of course, you can always face some dumb comments like anywhere else, but nobody will question your sanity because of your hobby. 🙂 Most people will have at least seen pole performers in those TV talent shows, or have a pole dancing acquaintance, so you are probably more likely to hear respectful questions about the insane muscle strength and capabilities that we need to have as pole dancers, instead of some nasty sleazy comments. Berlin especially is probably one of the most liberal places in the world, so what are you waiting for – come and visit Berlin!

Drehmoment Pole.Aerial.Dance team, photo by Christina Bulka, Late Nigh Tales

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Nina

Nina

A pole and lyra enthusiast, day-dreamer and the queen of procrastination.
Find her at Polebook.net
Nina

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