When in Manila, amazing things happen every day: stars are born, millions are made (and lost), and people defy gravity. I got to see this for myself, watching the jaw-dropping, eye-popping, and even heartwrenching performance of Polecats Manila, the Philippines’ premiere pole-dancing group, at PhilAm Life Auditorium. Infusing pole-dance moves with jazz, ballet, gymnastics, and maybe just a pinch of superhumanity, the Polecats wowed the crowd at Polarity: The Polecats Manila Second Year Anniversary Show.
Polarity: Polecats Manila’s Second Anniversary Show
For the uninitiated, the Polecats are responsible for turning something once confined to seedy nightclubs into high art (both figuratively and literally). Last summer, I enrolled as a “Polekitten”(student pole dancer) at their main studio, Gen Studios, along Pearl Drive, Ortigas, and became a certified Polecats fan, which is why when I heard they were celebrating their second anniversary, I jumped at a chance to attend their show.
Polecats defying gravity in sync onstage.
I was not disappointed. In true Polecats fashion, the dances were a combination of contemporary jazz moves, pole-dance poses and tricks, and ballet-like grace. The Polecats spun, kicked, flipped, and literally turned worlds upside-down in moves that seemed almost superhuman. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough to keep up with their rapid-fire choreography: one minute a girl would be doing a basic “thigh hold” (it is what it sounds like: you grip the pole with your thighs, no hands) on the pole, and the next she’d be upside-down and spinning, all to the rhythm of OPM hits played by the Manila Symphony Orchestra.
A blue fairy: Polecats combine ballet and jazz choreography with classic pole dancing moves and almost inhuman grace.
My favorite number was one performed by two girls and Polecats’ sole “tomcat.” It told a story in dance of a girl in love with a boy in love with another girl. It may sound cheesy, but set against a sad OPM love song, with the stage bathed in blue lights, and the dancers moving in graceful contemporary-dance steps that would have made Mia Michaels (of So You Think You Can Dance fame) proud, it was actually rather heartwrenching.
She loves him but he loves her: Polecats and their lone Pole”tom” tell a story with spectacle.
She dances, alone: Polecats Manila‘s story of unrequited love, in movement.
Guest performer Parkour Philippines literally exploded onstage. Parkour exercises are described as “movements designed to get around obstacles quickly and efficiently,” as in rescue situations. Given this action hero-like definition, it should have been no surprise when the Parkour Philippines performers ran full-tilt, jumped, rolled, leapfrogged, and climbed up the poles like monkeys hopping from tree to tree. I worried they might accidentally kick one of the orchestra members in the head. Near the end of their set they even leapt off the stage and into the audience, balancing on the edges of unoccupied seats!
Leaping, lunging, rocking, and rolling: Parkour Philippines blows up the stage with their action-hero moves.
In the souvenir program, company manager Myla Tan explained the title of the show, “Polarity” — having two opposite poles which contrast each other. Pole-dancing, she explained, was a sort of polarity: tension in the movements, in balance, in pushing the limit and throwing a couple of laws of physics out the window. To illustrate this was a saucy yin-and-yang number with some girl-on-girl action. By girl-on-girl, I literally mean a girl ON another girl: the dancers, one dressed in black and the other in white, alternated standing on each other while on the pole, dangling each other by the legs and/or arms, and, in a definite crowd-pleaser of a move, even formed the yin-yang circle!
Tension of opposites: Yin helps Yang be a superwoman in this performance inspired by the meaning of “polarity.”
Full Circle: Forming the yin-and-yang symbol, Polecats dancers illustrate the meaning of “polarity”
You would think that one-and-a-half hours worth of pole-dancing would get boring, but the show went remarkably fast. Pretty soon, it was the final number. To the instrumental of Pupil‘s Disconnection Notice, the entire Polecats Manila ensemble strut their stuff in an attitude-filled number that, to me, was reminiscent of Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango.”
Hotter Than the “Tango:” Full of saucy swagger, the Polecats Manila team is poised for their final number.
To make things more exciting, Parkour Philippines once again burst on the scene, jumping over the posed dancers and running circles around everyone in what seemed like a never-ending stream of kinetic energy.
We dance the body kinetic: Parkour Philippines rushes in to give an extra jolt of energy.
With this mix of Parkour, Pole, and OPM rock n’ roll, it was finally curtain call for Polarity. To me, it had barely felt like thirty minutes, much less one-and-a-half hours of dance and theatrics. The audience seemed to feel the same: all of us tried to call for an encore after everyone had given their bows. The dancers did not give in, but the Manila Symphony Orchestra played its rendition of the Eraserheads’ Ang Huling El Bimbo, which had started the show. (Side note: I would definitely pay for a CD of their instrumentals for Polarity.)
After the show, the audience got to mix and mingle with the performers in the PhilAm Life Auditorium’s lobby. I couldn’t help but run up to some of my teachers and steal a couple of photos.
A Polecat reunion: Me with Polecat (and my teacher) Kayleen Ortiz.
A Polecat and her proud Polekitten: me and one of my teachers, Polecats Manila company manager Myla Tan.
More Reunions!: Me with Polecat Mara Andres.
The Momma Cat Herself: Me and Polecats Manila Founder and Creative Director Christina “CD” Dy.
Watching Polarity, it’s hard to believe that anyone else could do what these women can do, but that would be missing the point of Polarity and Polecats Manila. Polarity is not a celebration of the impossible, but the possible, and the reason Polecats Manila is going strong two years on is their devotion to their mission to teach people to push the limits of what they can do and discover that it may be more than they think.
When in Manila, why not try to test your boundaries and try a few classes? They will definitely change your outlook and turn your world on its head. To check out a review of Polecats Manila’s array of classes, check out this article.
Polecats Manila‘s website: http://polecatsmanila.wordpress.com
The ‘Cats on FB: https://www.facebook.com/PolecatsManila
On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/polecatsmanila
For classes, contact: 0917-700-POLE (7653)
For bookings, contact: 0917-701-POLE (7653)
Polecats Manila holds classes at Gen Studios Ortigas, 360 Fitness Club Ortigas, and 360 Fitness Club Makati. Class schedules and prices are available on their WordPress page.
Polecats Defy Gravity at PhilAm-Life With Polarity: Polecats Manila’s Second Anniversary Show