As we know, pole fitness is a form of body weight training and many a pole dancer story starts out with a history in gymnastics, acrobatics, yoga or some form of dance. Well, this month we chat to pole dancer and X-Pole South Africa ambassador, Tarryn Knight on her start with ballet.

Tarryn #nopantsday


1. Please provide a brief background on your dance experience.

When I was 3 years old the doctor told my mother that I would be pigeon-toed. So, following his advice, my mother started making me wear my shoes on the opposite feet and she sent me to ballet lessons to develop turned out feet. Of course, I appreciated the latter solution more than the former. I took up tap dancing at the same time as tap was my grandmother and mother’s chosen dance discipline.

As I progressed, my tap and ballet lessons started to clash and it became necessary to pick one. Furthermore, they are very different dance forms – tap requires one to keep one’s knees bent whilst ballet requires locked knees and straight legs – and so it was time to choose where I wanted to focus. I chose ballet, I love the grace and elegance of it. But in my last year of high school I had to stop dancing to focus on my school work.

Ballet impacted the way I carried myself for many years, even after I’d stopped. Ballet was excellent for developing strength, flexibility and healthy bones growing up. My only regret is that I didn’t take it seriously enough; I should’ve put more effort in. My focus in dance classes was, and still tends to be, making people laugh and feel comfortable about themselves.


2. Please provide a brief background on how you go into pole dance and what keeps you going.

Whilst in University and as I started my career, my heart never stopped yearning to dance. I tried many different dance types – ballroom, Latin American, hip hop (which definitely did NOT suit my body type!), contemporary – but nothing stuck easily. One evening at a party I watched a pole dancer perform and I was transfixed. The desire and determination to learn how to do those amazing tricks started burning inside me. There is a competitive side to me that likes to prove that I can do anything I put my mind (and body) to. That is what motivated me to try it out.

I joined a pole studio in 2008 after a difficult break up of a long-term relationship. It was a gift to myself to rebuild my confidence. My first instructor back then is still a good pole friend all these years later and I still find her pole fitness classes a great challenge – thanks Laila!

My career and business travels have been a disruptive force for pole and I this year, so when I’m asked the question “what keeps you going?” what I actually hear is “what makes you go back?”. It’s the same determination to learn how to do those amazing tricks. It’s the burning desire within me to dance. It’s the life friends I’ve made through pole.


3. Did you find that your background in dance complemented your pole work? And if yes, how so?


In my opinion, ballet and gymnastics are the best bases from which to move into pole. From a ballet perspective, the appreciation of straight lines, creating beautiful shapes with one’s body and the strength and flexibility that it develops are invaluable for starting pole. Spatial and body awareness, control and holding one’s body in a certain shape whilst suspended (i.e. without something to push against) are also important for both ballet and pole.

Tammy ballet collage


4. Which discipline have you found more challenging?

Honestly, ballet. But for personal reasons. I struggled with pointe due to weak ankles and this is less of a restricting factor when dancing in the air. 


5. Do you have any safety messages with regard movements and gear?

  • Always warm up! Not only does this ensure you get a true reflection of your capabilities whilst poling and that you increase your abilities whilst training, it also prevents injuries. Once you have an injury it stays with you and makes poling and learning new moves more difficult in future.
  • Make sure that you stay focused whilst poling. Again, this is important for many reasons: it prevents accidents, ensures you are pushing your boundaries and it provides escape and relaxation.

Tarryn pole collage


For more on our body weight training series check out our news page -> here, as we cover acrobatics, calisthenics, yoga, running, parkour, boxing, aerial dance and more.

Date added: 10/18/2017