It’s not every day that you meet a lawyer turned pole dancer. But that’s exactly what Michelle Shimmy did. Here, Michelle explains the reasons why she left corporate law for pole dancing, and how her career has changed for the better.
Michelle is no ordinary pole dancer. Michelle and her and her sister Maddie are the driving entrepreneurial force behind an every-expanding business in Sydney – the Pole Dance Academy
Utilising their love of fitness and inspiring others, the sisters have built a successful business over the last seven years, and it continues to surpass expectations. Having opened their first Pole Dance Academy studio in Bondi Junction in 2009, these young female entrepreneurs are taking the business world by storm, currently operating three studios across Sydney and travelling the globe to share their pole dancing skills with up and coming performers.
Having had a successful career as a corporate lawyer before opening Pole Dance Academy, Michelle initially planned to continue her law career and run the studio on the side, however, the overwhelming interest in pole dancing over the past few years, urged the duo to further expand their pole dancing business.
Here, Michelle explains how it all happened …
What was life like as a corporate lawyer?
“I was a corporate lawyer for 6 years before I left to become a pole dancer. As a student, I had very much enjoyed studying law at university, but once I got a job as a graduate, I realised how much the reality of life as a lawyer differed from what I had expected. It wasn’t exciting or stimulating. It was often very boring, and I worked extremely long hours. I didn’t find the work inspiring or challenging, and I felt very isolated sitting in my office all day. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do a placement in the Pro Bono team, and I loved working there, but once that ended and I had to go back to corporate law, reality set in, and I realised how unhappy I was in my job.”
Was it a struggle making the decision to leave?
“It was difficult to leave a high paying job to take a risk on a new venture, but I had a couple of factors in my favour. Firstly, my sister Maddie was prepared to do it with me. And secondly, I was so desperately unhappy as a corporate lawyer. I felt like I had to make a change, and our decision to open the studio came during the GFC (global financial crisis), which didn’t really impact Australia too badly. However, the firm that I worked for decided to put us all on a pay freeze, so I didn’t receive a pay rise that year. This was actually a huge stroke of luck, because I think if I had have received my pay rise it would have been harder to walk away from the money!”
What was the catalyst for leaving your role as a corporate lawyer?
“The catalyst for leaving my career as a lawyer came right before my performance review. I had been working very long hours – 9am to 11 pm – and on weekends. Before I had my official review, one of the partners in my team told me that some of the partners felt that I wasn’t ‘110% committed to working at the firm’. At the time, I was shocked and upset. I even cried! I felt that if working such long hours wasn’t enough, there really wasn’t much more I could do. And then I thought to myself, you know what – she’s right! I’m NOT 110% committed to working at the firm. I’m going to quit and open my own pole studio. And so I did.”
Tell us about the Pole Dancing Academy. What does a pole dancing class involve?
“An hour long class at the Pole Dance Academy involves a 20 minute warm up, focusing on strength and flexibility. For the following 20 minutes, the instructor teaches new moves and skills. Then for the next 15 minutes, the instructor teaches the choreography, and the last five minutes consists of a cool down. At Pole Dance Academy, we teach focus on strength, flexibility, tricks and skills, and dance choreography – everything you need to become a well-rounded pole dancer!”
Do women join for sexy pole dancing tricks or fitness?
“Pole is for fitness and fun. We often laugh about the idea that people think pole classes are sexy. In reality, pole classes involve a lot of hard work, sweat, grunting, laughing, and failed attempts before you finally master the move and make it look good! A lot of unsexiness occurs before it begins to look even remotely sexy. It’s a fitness class, with a fun and flirty side.”
Who are your clients?
“Our students come from all walks of life. We have uni students, professionals, mums, grandmothers, boys/men (not many – but a couple!) – anyone at all can try pole. You don’t need a fitness or dance background, and we assume zero strength and flexibility for our beginner classes. You don’t need to do any pre-pole training, we take you as you are and turn you into beautiful pole dancers through our carefully planned syllabus.”
Explain the physical and emotional benefits of a pole dancing class?
“The benefits of pole include increased self-confidence and self-esteem, improved core strength, improved flexibility, upper-body strength and increased fitness levels. Even though pole dance can completely transform and tone your body, the best benefits are the way pole builds a positive body image and makes you feel great in your own skin. It’s wonderful to see students who were at first uncomfortable wearing baggy shorts to class eventually feel happy enough in their bodies to perform in cute pole costumes. It makes me so happy to see the way that pole can transform your perception of your own body. I know exactly how it feels because it helped me to overcome my own body image struggles.”
People often associate pole dancing with strip clubs. What do say to that assumption?
“I would say that they’re right – that’s where pole dancing started! I think that to shy away from and to deny the origins of pole dance does a big disservice to the wonderful women who began the pole industry and set it on the path to grow and expand to where it is today. Nowadays, while pole dance still exists in strip clubs, it’s evolved to so much more. It’s a fitness activity, a sport, a performance art – it can be sexy, artistic, acrobatic – it can be whatever you want to make of it!”
What’s next for you and the Pole Dancing Academy?
“For the time being, we are pretty flat out managing the studios and the competitions we run! We will never say never of course, but for now, we are busy making sure our three Sydney studios are the best place to learn the beautiful art of pole dance.”
What would you like readers to know about pole dancing?
“Pole dance really is for everyone! Don’t be put off thinking that you have to be strong and flexible to start. When I began, I couldn’t touch my toes or lift my own bodyweight. Over time, you develop the strength and flexibility you need, and you will be amazed at the incredible things your body can do!”
ABOUT: Pole Dance Academy is leading the pole dancing phenomenon in Sydney, pushing fitness fanatics in a different direction by offering them an exciting opportunity to increase their fitness, feel sexy and see what they’re capable of; all through pole dancing. The Pole Dance Academy has three studios located across Sydney in Redfern, Bondi Junction and Crows Nest. They also offer hens parties and birthday party classes too. Check out there site for class times and details.