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This unique tandem is getting more people interested in the dance-exercise
ON A DARK, SILENT STAGE, TWO women walk to a silver pole. Faint strains of piped-in music play, and a spotlight snaps on to reveal both of them on the pole?blindfolded.

The audience, initially stunned, breaks into applause and scattered hoots of support.

The music goes on, and Christina Dy and Mirell Macalinao?the faces behind the otherwise tantalizing stage team name of GirlVSGirl (GVG), arguably one of Manila?s most popular pole acts?begin a series of surprising acts on a pole. They clamber up the pole, spin around it, balance on each other, turn upside down: It seems there is nothing they can?t do on that unyielding piece of metal.

But make no mistake; this is no sleazy bar act. In fact, by day, Dy and Macalinao aren?t even professional dancers.

The 33-year-old Dy is an acclaimed visual artist whose charcoal sketches regularly grace the walls of the Silverlens Lab (she is also one of CCP?s 2009 Thirteen Artists awardees). Macalinao, 29, meanwhile, is a bank employee.

But to other people, they?re pole dance rock stars whose performances are a staple at places such as Mag:Net, Saguijo and fitness/beauty events.

Unremarkable start

However, they didn?t grow up dancing on every available pole they saw. In fact, Dy insists her first few sessions as a student were unremarkable.

?Mich Dulce brought me, and I was hooked!? she recalls. ?I was the worst student but I was challenged. Pole dancing had a lot of possibilities.?

Dy and Macalinao met at Movement Dance Studio, where they took lessons under Ed Aniel, who is credited with popularizing pole dancing in the Philippines (he currently runs the Pole Dance Academy at the Clara Ramona Studio).

?CD and I became friends because we both enjoyed practicing long hours together at the studio, even beyond class hours,? Macalinao says. ?Later on, as I learned more and more new stuff from CD, this inspired me to continue on practicing to improve and keep up. All those hours together led to GVG.?

Dy adds, ?Eventually our class got dissolved, so I asked Mirell, ?OK, what can we do with just the two of us???

While they learned the basics from Aniel, they eventually started looking online for more sources of inspiration.

?We learned 99 percent of our tricks from YouTube,? Dy says. ?Yes, really!? (So don?t be put off by those videos of people falling from the top of the pole?with practice and supervision, it can be prevented).

Right name

And of course, there was a matter of finding the right name for their new tandem. Dy credits the name to her friend Mihk Vergara, who also came up with the name of the pole group she founded, the Polecats.

?I love the name,? she says. ?We were chatting, and I said I wanted a cool name that?s easy to remember. And, voila!?

It goes without saying that two barely dressed, hot women who can perform gymnastic feats on a pole (occasionally blindfolded) get a lot of attention, sometimes unwanted.

?Most people?s reactions are very encouraging. They clap and ?ooh? and ?aah? at the right moments,? Dy shares. ?I?ve gotten a lot of students?and a lot of free drinks!?after they?ve seen us perform.?

But ?there are some who are quite rude; some shout ?MOMOL [make out make out] na lang! Laplapan na lang!? It?s annoying, but, well, not everyone?s educated enough to appreciate the artistry of it all. We don?t let those stop us from performing.?

Macalinao says, ?Some express amazement at the tricks. I let them know that this stuff can be learned by anyone willing to work hard.?

Imperfect moments

Like any co-workers, the two also have their less-than-perfect moments, but make it a point to not let it affect their performance onstage. (It?s difficult to not trust the person with you if you?re holding on to that other person for dear life while clinging to a pole.)

Dy shares, ?Usually, Mirell and I talk to each other while performing. I usually say what trick we?re going to do next. Once, Mirell said no. And we were arguing and fighting while performing! Hindi naman halata from the video, thank goodness.?

Of course, the question many potential pole dancers want answered is: Have they suffered from any serious injuries?

?In one trick, with CD balanced on my legs and me holding on to the pole carrying both our weights, I was supposed to slide slowly down,? Macalinao said. ?But my hands were so sticky, they wouldn?t budge at all! It was so heavy and I wanted to let go so badly, but I couldn?t because we?d both crash to the floor. I panicked and shouted for CD to get off. Before that time, my fear had always been that my grip would slip and we?d crash. It never occurred to me to worry about getting my grip ?stuck? on the pole.?

But other than that, the two agree the risks in pole dancing are exaggerated by YouTube videos of falling dancers.

?We?re still both in one piece!? Dy declares. ?We?ve both fallen during performances, but we?re still alive and dancing.?

Even a sprained wrist or two won?t stop the women of GirlVSGirl from dancing.

?Pole dancing makes me strong, it helps me lead a healthy lifestyle,? Dy says. ?It allows me to express myself in an altogether different way from drawing. And since I started teaching, it has been a venue to help other women [and men] feel that extraordinary sense of self as well.?

Macalinao adds, ?Pole dancing is a challenge. I enjoy working on pole tricks and I love the feeling of finally getting a beautiful pose right. Also, it reassures me to know, from experience, that every day, every hour and every minute of practice always leads to some progress.?

Catch GirlVSGirl on www.facebook.com/girlvsgirl and www.facebook.com/polecatsmanila. Contact 0917-5356237 or call the Movement Dance Studio (Ortigas 9448075/4744283, and Makati 3926220) for details.

E-mail the author at biancaconsunji@yahoo.com.