From our Hot Seat series.
Nicholas Tang is a pole dance and aerial hoop instructor at Aerial Arts Academy who also performs, competes, and judges in competitions across the globe.
Tang first started practicing pole dance at the age of 14 with Viva Vertical studio in Malaysia, attracted by “the idea of defying gravity” and the impressive performances of his mentors. Ten years later, he’s participated in — and won — a number of competitions across the globe.
My students are drawn to pole and aerial because of curiosity and because they find it empowering. Imagination is brought to life through the world of pole and aerial. Many people who come for trial classes have no idea what they are signing up for. But after trying it, they will not want to stop because they feel empowered to handle a pole or any aerials equipment, especially when they get to execute tricks smoothly.
Given the fact that pole dancing has historical ties to the exotic dance industry, people have a lot of misconceptions. When I mention I am a pole and aerial instructor, people often say, “So you are a stripper?” [The belief is that] pole dancers wear very little clothes for pole dancing, so they must be easy or have no morals. Instead, the truth is that if you pole dance, you are more mindful and empowered about your sexuality, and sometimes that scares people who don’t have a similar understanding of their own sexualities. I will not deny the fact that pole dancing is sexy, pole dancing makes you strong, pole dancing builds up your confidence, pole dancing is a form of art and yet it’s also a sport. Stripping or not, who are we to judge?
Another common misconception for aerials is that it is only for women. Absolutely not! The guys who turn down aerials purely on the basis of “It’s a girl thing” have no idea that they are missing out on an incredible way to train their bodies, build strength and flexibility, and explore a whole new realm of expressing themselves.
There are also people who think, “It’s just pole dancing and aerials, how tough could it be?” Well, it is harder than it looks. You need a lot of upper body strength to be able to pull yourself up, leg endurance and pain endurance in order to carry out the techniques, and you have to make it look graceful. And oh — the pain is real!
It’s okay to be different, to do what you love to do and to express yourself thoroughly. If you want to be a pole dancer or an aerialist, do it! It’s your life. Live without regrets.