Anusha Swamy choreographs riveting pole dancing routines to Tamil songs by AR Rahman and Ilayaraja
Ahead of World Pole Dance Day, we talk to the 30-year-old Chennai-based dancer who is shifting the narrative around this art form, from taboo to empowering
Anusha Swamy is redefining pole dancing and what it stands for. Stripping? Scratch that. Freedom is more like it. Clubs only? Challenge that. She conducts open call workshops that are welcome to both genders, on the ECR. But the biggest shift in perception when you watch this Chennai-based dancer work beautiful fluid choreography via her Instagram reels — is not what you see, but in fact, what you hear. Instead of sensual lyrics or familiar pop beats — you see her move to AR Rahman’s Yenga Pona Rasa (Maryan) or the nostalgic strains of Ilayaraja’s Thumbi Va (Olangal).
Ahead of World Pole Dance Day, (September 30) we ask Anusha about her unconventional choice of audio, which seems to have become something of a theme since she started learning pole dancing back in 2019. “It wasn’t planned. I would practice at home to Tamil songs that I loved or had grown up with and because I am a dancer, I would naturally just move to the rhythm.” She goes on, “It was only when I began recording myself with my phone camera to track my progress that I realised pole choreography goes beautifully to Tamil music.” She isn’t the only one who thinks so. Turns out her 102K followers agree, as well as new fans including Dil Bechara director Mukesh Chhabra and popular costume designer Neeta Lulla who DMed about their astonishment and praise.
Going back even further to how she picked up the interest, we’re told that Anusha was on vacation in Australia, just a year before she was supposed to head off to LA in 2020 (not knowing that COVID-19 would hit) for a dance course. The 30-year-old who choreographs dance sequences for South Indian films (like the upcoming Shaakuntalam and F.I.R) tells us she was looking for something to make her stronger, ahead of the trip. “There happened to be a four-day pole dance workshop next to my hotel and so I decided to test the waters... ” LA never happened, but she had found a new love.
Haters gonna hate
Of course, with any showcase of art — even more so the risque craft of pole dancing — comes plenty of criticism, comments from haters that are vulgar and crass. But Anusha seems unfazed. Instead, she chooses to focus on encouragement. A recent post she shared reflects this sentiment, “This past year, people have really shown me acceptance, acceptance to something that was always taboo... ” As for Kollywood music directors who surprise, surprise might suddenly chance upon their work featuring as background score to a graceful dancer on a pole, does she ever wonder about offending anyone? “This has not ever happened to me that I have offended anyone who has said: Don’t use my music. It has always been please use my music,” she responds. Anusha ponders the question again for a minute and adds, “If they are true artistes, I don’t think they can be offended when I am minding my own business and practising my art.”
When people ask me if they can try it if they are on the heavier side, I tell them:
If you can walk and jump with your body, you can handle a pole as well.
Ahead of her first three-month intensive pole camp in early October, we ask Anusha about the women who aren’t dancers that have taken her sessions — lawyers, IT professionals, yoga teachers... we wonder, what has been the biggest reservation in the classroom to date? “I have worked with students aged 11 to 48 and the most repeated question I get is: I’m a little on the heavier side. Can I still try it?” Her response: “If you can walk and jump with your body, you can handle a pole as well.”
Fitness, followers and a solid core workout apart, we wrap up our conversation with the simple but intangible: what does getting up on a pole feel like? Anusha has used many words to describe the experience over the course of our chat. Words like magical, independent and strong. But posed with this question outright, she surprises us with the last thing we expected to hear. She pauses for a moment and then smiles, “Free... like a child.”
Pole camp starts October 9 at Tattva Studio, ECR. INR 25,000 for 24 pole sessions and 24 home workouts spread over three months; beginner-friendly.
Height of comfort
In a bid to empower women to feel the same sense of freedom she does while taking to the pole, as opposed to being self-conscious — Anusha has collaborated with Sthenos to create silicone-coated poles that don’t require skin contact for grip. “So you can wear what makes you comfortable that is body fitted — leggings, jeans...” she says. Weighing 15 to 20 kgs, these ‘fitness poles’ range from 8.5 feet to 13.5 feet and come with extenders if needed to adjust to your ceiling height. They are also completely portable and come with a custom-made heavy-duty bag for easy transportation. INR 34,999 inclusive of taxes and pan India delivery.