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Traveling from Pole to Pole

By on April 25, 2018

Einstein once said, “Logic will take you from A to B. Pole dancing will take you everywhere.” Ok, you’re right—he didn’t say that. But it’s not far from the truth. Raise your hand if you’ve ever traveled for pole conventions, pole camps and competitions, taken a pole-cation for yourself to see your favorite pole artists, or even just traveled in two hours of traffic to a local pole studio. (Please, don’t let me be the only one.)

As pole dancers, our dedication to our practice runs deep. But so does our support for our fellow pole dancers. And nowhere is this more evident than when you travel. How many of you have been to a foreign country and been welcomed with open arms into people’s studios or maybe even their homes? How many of you have moved to new towns or maybe even new countries and found your “home” in your new pole studio? How many of you have attempted to pole in a studio where you don’t speak the language?

A savana in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

I visited Singapore for the first time last year for my very first international pole competition. It had been 8 years since I had visited a new country. I was feeling the excitement of seeing a brand new place, but I was also paranoid about forgetting some competition essentials. Luckily for me, I only needed to bring a pair of shorts and some pole grip, which I checked five times before I left to make sure it was in my suitcase.

When I got there, I was met with a heart-warming gesture that is so symbolic of our community: the local studio was willing to open up their space for some last-minute training and run-through. It was particularly important for me because high ceilings and space was not what I usually train on in Hong Kong.

Competition in Singapore in 2017.

Last summer, I visited my pole family in Los Angeles, where all my pole adventures began. It was so comforting to be back with the people who helped me to train as a dancer and witnessed my growth. I moved from L.A. to Hong Kong about two years ago. Moving to a new town is frightening, but not as frightening as not knowing at which studio you will be training at. At least that was the case for me! Two months before moving from L.A. to Hong Kong, I wasn’t busy trying to learn more about Hong Kong. Instead, I was contacting different studios to see if they were looking for new instructors to join their team. Fortunately, I have found a new family in Hong Kong who inspires me and keep me moving forward.

I visited Tel Aviv, Israel during Chinese New Year—another first-timer got checked off my bucket list. José, whom I connected with on Facebook, invited me to visit his studio, so I began to organize my first trip to the Middle East. It was my first trip with no competition or teaching agenda where I got to simply be a student. And the sole purpose of my trip was to relax and pole. I also met Ayelet, a studio owner in Jerusalem, whom I talked to for another Bad Kitty article. It is unimaginable how connected I can be with other people in the world because of pole dancing!

Visiting Ayelet in Jerusalem, Israel.

Then earlier this year, I was invited to teach some workshops at a pole camp in Shanghai, China. Although Hong Kong is part of China, the mainland is very different. Even the languages we speak in the two regions are different. Because I wasn’t familiar with the Mandarin terms that people on mainland use for pole dancing, I sat on the side quietly in the studio on the first day, trying to memorize all the basic pole vocabularies, such as invert, leg hangs, etc. in Mandarin. My mind was expanded as I tried to absorb all the new information.

In the past year, I have visited five countries and three of them I set foot in for the first time. Although there were times when I didn’t have access to a pole, I still tried to fit in elements of the sport when I really missed it.

A bamboo pole in the middle of a beach in mainland China.

Last month, I visited two more places, Port Elizabeth in South Africa and Xiamen in China, for work. With a packed schedule and in a remote location, I had no access to pole at all. Life can get quite depressing after two days of not going upside down. This is when you need to improvise. I managed to do a few back walkovers on some grass. You might surprise yourself if you take a moment away from the pole! Necessity becomes the mother of invention.  When you really crave a pole, you will find yourself searching for anything that resembles a pole, that can also potentially hold your weight. In my case, a random bamboo in the middle of the beach.

My travels in pole this year have opened my eyes to how important this practice is to me and how much love and support I get from my fellow polers. It has also helped me to see even more clearly the ways in which our community connects and unifies us across languages, countries, religions, and cultures despite how the outside world might see us. Like many of you would agree, becoming a pole dancer is one of the best decisions I made!

Seattle, U.S.

Do you travel for pole? What stories do you have to share about your pole travels? Comment below.

Rhyn Cheung

Rhyn Cheung

Rhyn fell in love with pole dancing in Los Angeles, California. He competed in PPC, NAPA, CPDC, PSO Nationals, and was crowned Men's Division Champion of Colorado Pole Championship 2016.

Rhyn now teaches workshops in Hong Kong and is pursing his PhD in marine biology at the University of Hong Kong.

Instagram: @rhyncheung
Rhyn Cheung

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