She has accomplished a lot, simply because she really loves what she does! We are referring to Melina Boukouvala, Physiotherapist, Pole Artist & Instructor and Pilates Instructor. With 10 years experience in professional level gymnastics, her first contact with pole dance, took place in December 2012, at the urging of a friend to try it and immediately started lessons! In 2014 was the Danish champion in the professional category and in 2015 took part in the competition Battle of the Pole, category lions / lionesses (professional), Prague-Czech Republic.
Melina we would wholeheartedly like to thank you for accepting our invitation and honouring us with your interview that is hosted here on Vertical Wise. When did you first decide to take up pole dancing and what prompted you in this choice?
My first contact with pole dancing was in December 2012, when my friend proposed I should take up courses in a pole dance school in Athens. I found it interesting enough, as well as a good way to keep my body fit.
You have lived in Denmark for quite some time and you have also won first place in the national championship. Tell us about your experience there. What are the differences in pole dancing, if any, between Denmark and Greece? What is it like to compete in a foreign country?
In Denmark, pole dancing is more of a sport than dance. People prefer doing tricks and combos to dancing. Moreover, the majority doesn’t like wearing high heels or do Exotic / Sexy dance. They opt for a combination of acrobatics on the pole and exercises which require a lot of strength.
Training in a foreign country can be quite complex especially if you don’t speak the local language. You adapt by perceiving everything through seeing not listening thus making the difficulty level higher. Personally, I used to observe everything around me, from hand gestures to facial expressions in order to get a grip of what was going on in the class! It might sound difficult but it was fun!
Competing in a foreign country is really challenging because you have the opportunity to meet people with other mentalities that share the same passion and the same love with you. On the other hand, I think that when you participate in competitions of another country, you do not have the support you would have in a competition in your country, where all the friends and family of yours can easily come and see you. Nevertheless, I can say that I had a wonderful time in the danish competition, because I had already made a lot of friends in Denmark and fortunately, some of my greek friends made it and travelled all the way to Copenhagen to see me and support me.
Have you made sacrifices for pole dancing and what were those?
All sports need sacrifices, despite the age group you belong to. Pole dancing is indeed a very demanding sport. It takes up time and you need patience, long training hours and stamina. Therefore, a person must be willing to give away free time for the sake of training.
Having been involved with this sport for 10 years, as a child, I wouldn’t say that all this was a sacrifice I made. On the contrary, intense workouts became a part of my life without any problems. I think the biggest sacrifice is that I haven’t been practicing physiotherapy as much as I used to.
How much time do you spend training? (Depending on the occasion e.g. for a competition)
Generally, due to other professional commitments, I try to workout as often as I can, because as we all know, “practice makes better”. During periods of preparation for a competition, the workouts increase 2 months before the competition, at least 5 days a week, for sure.
High heels or not?
Not! I like “pole” as a form of dance but I prefer the sport version. I am not against exotic dance or heels, on the contrary, I feel it is quite stunning and demanding, but it is certainly not my cup of tea.
What move was the most difficult to learn?
Each new exercise has a degree of difficulty, especially as you advance. I think exercises that have been frustrating enough, are those … I haven’t managed to master yet! Nevertheless, I believe that the difficulty is to perfect your performance and not just complete an exercise.
What advice would you give to a girl who wants to take up pole dancing?
Actually I would say that if she likes it she should go for it. Those I would advise though, are the girls who consider it, but they don’t dare try it.
An established opinion is that if you want to start pole dancing you should be thin and have strength in your arms. This is a huge myth! The strength in your arms is gained through intensive workout and you begin to lose weight if you practice regularly. All of us that we do pole dance weren’t at the same physical condition when we first started!
If you had the ability to change overnight something in your field, what would be the first thing that you would change?
Nothing. I don’t know if this is good or bad – it depends on everyone’s point of view – but i believe that one can only appreciate beauty only when they have seen something ugly. Imperfection makes something seem beautiful, not fake. Something that would be good to change though, is the way people see pole dancing, especially in Greece. People should start seeing pole dancing as a sport, as an art and understand the difficulty and the strength needed. Pole dancing is certainly not just a sexy dance with high heels around a pole.
Besides pole dancing, are you involved in any other activities?
These days Pilates and Pole Dancing take up a lot of my time so I don’t practice physiotherapy as much as I used to.
What do you think of the level of pole dancing in Greece?
I have been watching pole dancing in Greece for only 1,5 year but I admit that the level is high. There are certainly girls who are worthy representatives of Greece when they go abroad.
Where do you see pole dancing ten years from now?
Time changes everything. I would like to think that it will have a positive outcome, with more publicity not only as a sport but as a form of art as well.
Thank you Melina!
Featured photo by Fotograf Esben Zøllner Olesen