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From Corporate Suits to Sequin Hotpants

All about PDA Co-Founder Michelle Shimmy's transition from corporate law to pole dance entrepreneur and pole star!

So, I'm a pole dancer and a lawyer. There are a surprising number of pole dancer/lawyers around (I've had two working for me at the Pole Dance Academy so far, and many more train with us). It seems to be the case that the more boring and conservative a girl's regular life is, the more of a wildcat she is once she ditches the suit and gets on the pole! It's almost as though the raunchiness of your body rolls and back arches is directly proportional to the amount of tedious paperwork you've had to do before you get to class. One thing that never fails to make me smile is watching my students arrive for class dressed neatly in their jackets, blouses and knee length skirts, only to wriggle out of their clothes and go crazy on the pole. Then at the end, they get dressed, smooth their hair and head out the door, and no one would suspect a thing (if it weren't for the tell-tale bruises, that is). Recently I've done a couple of interviews for other blogs and youtube videos, and people always ask me how I got started with pole. I took my first class back in 2006 and was hooked instantly, and then my favourite joke is that I worked in a law firm to put myself through pole school. The full story is actually a little more involved. Although it had a couple of good moments, overall I hated working in a corporate environment. It was so restrictive, and I always felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't. I was taking pole classes in the evening after work, and sometimes even running to the studio on my lunch break for practice time. Pole dance was such a release for me, and it felt like a secret I carried around with me, a reminder that I still had something interesting going on in my life outside the office. All the while, I was terrified that people at work would find out about my secret hobby, so I never told a soul. In 2008, I went to watch Miss Pole Dance Australia. Sitting in the audience, I thought to myself, gosh I would love to be up on that stage one day, dancing with those amazing women. Immediately, another thought followed - don't be ridiculous. Imagine what would happen at work if people saw photos in the newspaper of your half-naked body wrapped around a pole onstage at the Enmore Theatre. But then I thought - why is it that I'm afraid to pursue something I love, in order to ensure I can keep doing something I hate? It didn't seem to make much sense at all. Six months later, it was time for my performance review at work, and I was sitting in the office of one of the partners. She was in the middle of telling me that although they liked my relaxed and laid-back personality, people were questioning whether or not I was 110% committed to working at the firm. I thought back to the 12 to 14 hour days I'd been working, and the weekends spent at the office. I thought to myself, "You're quite right. I am not 110% committed to working here. Screw you guys - I'm opening a pole studio." So I resigned. I found another job with better hours at an amazing community legal centre that offers free legal advice to disadvantaged people (where I continued to work part-time until it became impossible to manage both). I convinced my sister that opening a pole studio together was a brilliant idea. We found a space, and with a lot of hard work, turned it into the beautiful Pole Dance Academy Bondi Junction.

I love teaching pole, and I'm so happy that I took the plunge and did it. A lot of people have since said to me that it must have taken courage to turn my back on a career as a corporate lawyer to become a professional pole dancer. But it wasn't courage. It was simply that I was so unhappy that I had no choice but to do something drastic. It's entirely possible that if I hadn't been so miserable, I would have kept on keeping on for a lot longer, and turned into one of the people I worked for. Now, after more than 14 years of Pole Dance Academy, I can safely say that it was the best decision of my professional life. I work with my sister (also my best friend) Maddie, and a bunch of incredibly talented girls that I'm lucky enough to call my staff of teachers. And don't get me started on my students - they're the best part of going to work. Watching them grow as dancers (and seeing their confidence and self-esteem increase at the same rate as their muscles and flexibility) is just so much more rewarding than advising companies on corporate takeovers. I'm also so fortunate that being my own boss has meant I can spend more time at home with my little daughter, Charlie.

Here's a funny story from a pole performance I did after first opening Pole Dance Academy, where my old corporate lawyer life suddenly collided with my new pole dancer life!

My sister Maddie and I had been booked to do a show at a 50th birthday party (the guy's girlfriend booked us - what a cool girlfriend!). I was setting up the X-Stage when I noticed the stage needed adjusting. I was holding a pole extension piece at the time, and I turned to the lady standing next to me and said "Excuse me, would you mind holding my pole for a moment?' She looked a little familiar, but I couldn't place her, so I didn't give it another thought. It was only when I was in my red sequin bikini and stripper heels, about to head out into the middle of the party to do my thing on the pole, that I suddenly realised who she was. She was the former head partner at the law firm I used to work at. Oh God. The old me wanted to grab my clothes and hustle my ass outta there like my pants were on fire. But the new me just smiled, took a deep breath, and strutted on out there to bust out some awesome moves on the pole. I figured she would understand - I'm just a much better pole dancer than I am a corporate lawyer!

And I never looked back. Shimmy xx

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