Let your hair down

Want to strip or lap-dance for your man? Then learn the art of seduction while getting fit by taking lap-dancing classes.

THE studio is dimly lit in pink, and as a husky voice sings hypnotically in the background, a dozen women clad in bare minimum walk around.

The ambience is akin to that of a cabaret club, complete with the requisite cosy lounge – except no alcohol is served. Nor are there men. Only mineral water, healthy juices and isotonic drinks are available.

The women, some wearing six- to seven-inch heels, sway their bodies provocatively around poles and chairs. They come in all shapes, races and ages. A flick of the head, a gentle roll of the hips, a thrust of the chest, an occasional back somersault – these are all part of their routine, the aim of which is to get fit and to learn to unleash the “Venus” in them in a comfortable environment.

“Girls, you have to arch your back more! Like this,” shouts Maple Loo, the instructor, proceeding to show them the correct way. She oozes sensuality and all eyes are on her.

Welcome to the exotic art of S.L.A.P dancing – a combination of lap-dancing and striptease. At Bobbi’s Pole Studio in Kuala Lumpur, fitness workouts have definitely gotten hotter and sexier.

“People have this misconception that lap dancing is a dirty word. I’d like them to try a slap class and see what a real workout it is. Strippers have great bodies because of what they do. Our class is about posture and lines while accentuating the female body,” says Loo, who is also the studio’s director.

The aim at Bobbi’s Pole Studio is to promote women’s fitness, sensuality, self-confidence and overall wellness, all through the art of exotic dancing. Many will recognise Loo as the stylish judge on 8TV’s Showdown 2010 but few are aware that she’s also a choreographer, dancer and successful restaurateur.

Loo, 38, was one of the pioneers to open a pole dancing studio, a franchise from Australia. She has been teaching slap for the past one-and-a-half years.

“We teach the real components of lap dancing, as one would find in the strip clubs but with a proper syllabus that includes floor work, body rolls, acrobatics and seductive dance steps along with the art of striptease and chair work.”

The origins of striptease are unclear but it is believed to have started by the legendary Mata Hari. Flirtatious and daring, this Dutch dancer captivated her audiences and was an overnight success right from her debut act at the Musee Guimet in France in 1905.

She brought a care-free sensual style to the stage in her act. The most celebrated segment of her routine was the progressive shedding of clothing until she wore just a jeweled bra and some ornaments on her arms and head. Her act was spectacular because it elevated exotic dance to a more respectable status, and so broke new grounds in a style of entertainment for which Paris was later to become world-famous for.

Lap-dancing or table-dancing started in the US in the 60s and involves variations of similar routines, with the aim of seducing a man. The American version of lap-dancing requires that the woman straddles the man’s lap and grinds or brushes against him.

“We call ours ‘slap’ just to put a naughty element in,” Loo grins.

“There are a lot of techniques involved, and we focus on the abs, legs and butt while applying dance techniques. Flexibility is an important component. We also use chairs with an imaginary man sitting on it. Sometimes we use each other as props and there is physical contact,” she explains.

Students will have learnt a complete slap routine by the end of the eight-week course. The alluring choreography is slightly more risque than your average lap dancing class, but the women seem to love it. No, you do not have to take your clothes off unless you want to. As long as the student is comfortable, she can dress in whatever she likes.

“We teach them to strip to the bare essentials; sometimes, the students are shy so they wear double undies. After a while, students who come to this studio have no issues with their bodies. In slap classes, students wear pants for floor work to protect their knees before taking it off. There’s a theme every term; for example, schoolgirl, French, corset, S&M, etc, so for fun, we dress up accordingly,” explains Loo.

Accompanying music may be anything from rock ballads to R&B to pop rock. Every individual has a different reason for signing up, but mostly, it’s for variety in exercise and to help tone the muscles. There’s only so much you can do at the gym.

But sorry guys, classes are strictly for women only!

“There’s no age limit here. My students range from 17 to those in the 50s. Some come to do it for themselves, some to surprise their husbands, some to spice up their relationship, while others are professional dancers wanting to pick up different skills. At the end of the term, we do a fun show in the studio.

“For that one night, they can bring their boyfriends – but only if all the women are comfortable,” Loo says.

The petite Loo herself found it thrilling to learn professional stripper moves but she reckons it’s a natural progression from pole dancing.

“My husband is so used to seeing me do this, he’s become immune to it!” she exclaims.

Surprisingly, most of Loo’s students work in the corporate world but are only too happy to shed their power suits for lingerie, camisoles and boy shorts.

“I start by telling them what the class is about and not to feel inhibited, insecure or embarrassed. They have to feel comfortable and safe because everyone is trying to express themselves. Once they learn the routine, they are in disbelief because they didn’t think they could do it. Then they become addicted to slap-dancing!” laughs Loo, pointing to a woman who comes almost daily to practise.

“I always say it’s a promise of a new day. People may sit back and criticise, the conservative may frown, think we are doing something immoral but come try a class, and you’ll see for yourself. I constantly tell my students to look at themselves in the mirror. It’s really OK to be sexy.

“For women who are not in the entertainment industry, these classes help turn them into a different woman. A lot of them have never danced in their lives. I see myself as their facilitator to make their lives better. When I see their transformation from being uncomfortable in their own skin to who they are now, I’m so amazed and happy for them,” Loo points out.

These ladies have built a necessary feel-good network, and the studio is an important social house they share. It’s therapy for a lot of women. Slap dancers in Australia give themselves stripper names, and this is also done here. You’ll hear of such handles as Sassy, Gina G, Jedda, Summer...

As in any exercise form, one can also get injuries, mostly muscle strains of the hip flexors or bruises.

“As you get stronger, you’ll rely more on your core strength,” Loo says.

Her own foray into pole-dancing started five years ago. Loo was so busy running her hotels and restaurants, she had no time for exercise. She put on weight and felt something was missing. Incidentally, a Burmese monk had told her cryptically that she’d be flying someday and would be the first in Malaysia to do so. That stumped her.

Then she saw a Singaporean pole-dancing on television.

“I asked my best friend to find the contact and went down to Singapore. After the first class, I was hooked. I bought a pole and came back. With Bobbi’s syllabus, it was a dream come true. The rest is history,” she reveals. “I train every day either at home or at the studio, and I think I’ve never looked better. I can imagine myself doing this at 60.”

Like Loo, some of her students are hooked too. A few of them started with pole-dancing and have transitioned to slap-dancing.

“It’s such a good way to keep fit,” exclaims an exhausted Ruby (not her real name), plonking herself next to me. “I met Maple during the studio’s open day, tried a class, and now I’m so passionate about it. There’s nowhere else you can dance like this. There are no men gawking at you. No wolf whistles. It’s such a girlie haven where I am completely free.”

Ruby, 35, is a corporate strategist, and puts in 10-11 hours at work every day. After a series of failed relationships, she’s decided to focus on herself and is “accumulating the skills for the future.”

“Now she’s unstoppable!” interjects Loo. “Actually, all the members of the Obedient Wives Club should come and take these classes!”

“At work, there is so much drama with meetings and what-not,” Ruby explains. “I come here, rip my clothes off and totally let go! Before, I took ballroom and salsa classes, and those need partners but male partners are hard to find. Here I can do it myself.”

Ruby even has a personalised T-shirt with her stripper name, Gina G, and the number 8 emblazoned across the back.

”I’ve definitely become more confident,” she says, swaggering off to her next class.

Aishah (also pseudonym), 36, got tired of the club scene and was searching for something more fulfilling. It was love at first sight when she discovered pole-dancing two years ago. She immediately bought a pole and enrolled in Loo’s class before taking up slap-dancing.

In class, the Kelantanese lass is known as Cherie Bronze because “I want to be everybody’s darling!”

She’s a busy real estate agent but ensures she’s at Loo’s studio at least three times a week.

“My parents know I’m taking this class and always encourage me to do what my heart desires. Initially, I was a bit skeptical about being accepted here but now I feel comfortable. I love the environment. I can forget about everything and lose myself in the class,” Aishah says.

Her moves are smooth and slinky, and with her toned body and revealing two-piece attire, she exudes sex appeal.

“I wear as minimal as I can because there’s no man here! The lesser the better. It’s f-r-e-e-d-o-m!” she giggles.

So ladies, if you want to become hot, sexy and fit, you may want to check out slap-dancing!

For more information, log on to http://www.bobbispolestudio.com.my or call 03-2166 0479.

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