Like a 1940s pin-up girl, actress Kris Bernal is clad in a bra top and skimpy shorts, and her wavy hair cascades down her body. She clambers up the pole at the fitness studio, pivots her body in mid-air and stretches out in a flat horizontal position like a banner on a mast.
Called the half-flag, the pose is a show of core strength and arms. As she holds her pose for the photographer, she begins to quiver.
Bernal’s teacher, Lea Carla Santos, chides her for not staying in shape despite the actress’ busy schedules with the GMA 7 drama series “Hiram na Alaala” and the variety show “Sunday All Stars.”
Nevertheless, Bernal manages to strike strong poses. She hoists herself onto the pole again, hooks one leg, swings the other leg and spins.
“I took up pole dancing because I wanted to do something different… I wanted to let out my sexiness,” she says.
Bernal has never danced in her life until she became a mainstay in “Sunday All Stars.” She never thought she could do it. “In showbiz, you have to do everything,” she says.
Pole dancing attracts women because it allows them to express their sexuality with openness and freedom. They also want to push themselves to the limits with the demanding postures that require a secure hold on the pole.
Bernal admits that she was very shy about wearing a sports bra and shorts in class. But in pole dancing, bare skin is required to keep the grip on the poles, especially as the moves become more difficult. Then there are the bruises from the friction of the skin against pole, common in beginners.
A sport and an art
As she focused on the resistance training and cardiovascular conditioning of the workout, Bernal shed her inhibitions. She discovered that although pole dancing unleashes her inner pussycat, it’s also a sport and an art.
Pole dancing has an extensive vocabulary of moves. An hour-long workout is intense, with a lot of lengthening and contracting of muscles.
As an art form, it requires a clear body line, grace and musicality.
Bernal used to pump iron at a popular chain of gyms in Quezon City. With pole dancing, she got more noticeable results. “My arms became stronger because I have to lift my body weight,” she says.
Standing at 5’1″ and weighing 90 lbs, she was often mistaken for being anorexic. But with pole dancing, she started to build muscle. “People say my body looks fuller now.”
Hanging in mid-air and inversions came naturally because she has a strong back and stomach muscles. But flexibility can be a problem for strong, muscular types like her. “I have a hard time doing tricks with back bends,” she admits.
When she performed pole dance routines on TV, she immediately got inquiries and requests to appear in special events.
Bernal looks up to singer-actress Ciara Sotto, who is a certified pole dancing instructor. “She’s graceful and strong. Her muscles are sculpted and she can do anything. I wish I could be like her someday,” gushes Bernal.
Bernal has befriended her pole dancing classmates and enjoys the group effort. “We share the same struggles while having fun,” she says.