Smilly Suri, the pole star of India
There are some people who we meet and they make a place in our hearts forever. Their personality has magnetism that pulls and bonds us with them for life. Today, let us meet one such person who I met over 15 years back during a film shoot and she remains one of my most favourite people till date. You all know her the jiya dhadak dhadak girl from the super-hit film, Kalyug but to me, actress Smilly Suri is not just a super-dedicated and sincere student but a friend who I will cherish till eternity.
I take great pride to inform you that Smilly has taken her acting talent a step further by introducing the beautiful art of pole-dancing into Indian dance scene. Here are a few things I asked the super-talented dancer and actress:
Take us through your varied dance background and what you learnt from it?
My mother said I danced before I walked. Dance is prayer for me. I trained with Shiamak Davar, became an instructor at his institute, then took up Latin and ballroom dancing under your guidance, learnt Kathak from Guru Vijayshree Choudhary and later moved to salsa and aerial arts. Each dance form came to me at that time in my life for a reason. Like ballroom dance and Kathak made me grow into a woman and I learnt to be feminine. Salsa helped me learn improvisation and fast footwork. Jazz made me stronger and sharper with my moves. Aerial arts and aerial silk helped me conquer my fear of height and free-falling. I have loved every bit of my dance journey.
How did pole dancing happen then?
I went for an aerial silk class in Dubai but happened to meet a pole teacher who taught me pole tricks. I had found my calling, my inner-self and my purpose. I experienced a dance that helped me feel stronger yet sexy and helped me hold my weight and use all my dance knowledge to feel beautiful.
Tell us more about your training in pole dancing…
In 2016, I was depressed as I was facing hormonal issues. I was unhappy so I decided to leave India and train in pole. I applied to Brass Barre Pole School in Singapore and they called me and I took the leap. I was broke so I took a loan from the bank and took off. But I have to say it has been the best decision of my life. At the school, I found women of all age groups — women in 50s and 60s yet so physically strong, cancer survivors and women who struggled but pole was their religion. They taught me how to be stronger and happier and most importantly, the art of celebrating womanhood. I realised the importance of good pole wear and that it was not just skimpy clothes. I wore an eight inch heel and was comfortable in them too. I will never forget my training days. They made me who I am today.
How is the acceptability of pole dance in India?
It is not as bad as I imagined it to be. India, I won’t say, is ready for pole dancing but for any dance form to bloom, it takes time. Internationally, pole dancing is a sport but I like to keep the sexy elements attached to the fitness and tricks. I have coined my own style now and got a copyright and trademark for Bollypole which is fast gaining popularity.
What all challenges have you been facing?
The biggest challenge I am facing is to make a women feel empowered. We Indian women lack self-confidence. We are so busy with our husbands and family that we never take time out for ourselves. We love ourselves less; body shaming and self-acceptance is a struggle. Yes, few women do like to post their videos and pictures on social media but rest still lie about their rendezvous with pole which will change soon and I am quite optimistic about it.
Tell us more about your school, Pole Star.
I intersperse yoga and gymnastics with pole dancing. It is the best exercise for all our muscles and core. While we pole, we lift our own body weight so why gym when you can pole.
You are a part of Bollywood where pole dancing has been associated with bad girls. What is your take on it?
Pole dancing world over is associated with strip bars. Adding to it are Hollywood and Bollywood who have sensationalised it. In the 50s and 60s, strippers brought pole out into clubs and while dancing they stripped, showed tricks as to how tough and flexible they were. As a result today, it is accepted as a sport. I believe it will be recognised, accepted and hopefully done and used the right way in Bollywood and Hollywood too soon.
What are your plans with pole dancing in India?
I want to empower women and make them blossom through pole. I want people of our country to know that pole art is close to contemporary. There are many styles like static pole, chair tease, lap dancing, burlesque, cabaret and more. I want to educate what real pole dancing is all about and make strong educated polestars in India. I want to be known as the mother of pole revolution in India. I want to empower women through pole tricks and allow them to challenge themselves.
I feel so happy and elated to see the young and cheerful Smilley blossomed into a confident and self-assured woman who has learnt to not just speak her mind with boldness and courage but even to dance with equal gusto.
Sandip Soparrkar is a well known Latin and Ballroom dancer, a World Book of Records holder and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with National Achievement Award and National Excellence Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]