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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Granny pole dancing at 71

At 71 years old, Ms Eva Ho is an unlikely pole dancer.
The Straits Times - September 28, 2012
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Granny pole dancing at 71 -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

At 71 years old, Ms Eva Ho is an unlikely pole dancer.

But every Tuesday at 6pm, the grandmother of eight walks into the dimly lit, pink-hued room of Bobbi's Pole Studio in Queen Street.

There, she joins the Pink Spartans, a cancer survivor group which started pole dancing class together last year.

After warming up, the eight women dressed in workout gear spend an hour learning new tricks on the pole and practising their routine to If We Hold On Together by Diana Ross.

In time with the slow, sentimental ballad, the women undulate around their poles, performing movements and lifts, gripping the pole with their thighs.

"At first, I thought I would never be able to do some of the moves, but after a while I found I could lift myself on the pole," says the Swedish citizen and Singapore permanent resident who moved to Singapore in 1965 to marry her Singaporean love, Tim, now 77. They have three sons.

In 1998, when Ms Ho was 58, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After one breast was removed, she joined the Breast Cancer Foundation where she later became part of the pioneer batch of the Pink Spartans, a cancer survivor dragon boat crew, in 2002.

She still rows with the crew every Saturday and competes with them in local and international dragon boating competitions in Hong Kong, Macau, Berlin, Australia, China and Kuala Lumpur.

She had never thought about pole dancing before their instructor, Ms Tan Li Leng, 55, asked the Pink Spartans if they would be interested.

Ms Tan's friend, the director and principal instructor of Bobbi's Pole Studio - a franchise from Australia - had offered them a studio for an hour a week.

"I did not even know what it was. I thought it was something done only in bars. I just thought it looked fun. It is amazing what some of the advanced girls can do. If I were younger I would really go for it," says Ms Ho.

The group started off with basic dance moves before slowly incorporating the pole into the routine.

Now, she loves it. "I like the lightness and the freedom of the dance. Doing movements to music is a freeing experience and the pole makes it even more freeing, more fun," she says.

She does not let pole dancing's vulgar reputation dissuade her. "If you want to try new things, you have to overcome judgment," she says.

Besides, she has her family's support. "My grandchildren think they have the coolest grandma ever," she says with a laugh.

Though some people are surprised she is pole dancing late in life, it does not faze her. "Age is in the mind. Of course, as you get older, you have to watch yourself a bit more, rest a bit more, but you have got to try. It's not that I have great ambitions with pole dancing, I just enjoy it," she says.

Many moves require much strength and after a long summer visiting her sons and grandchildren in Sweden, Ms Ho is doing 20 push-ups twice a day to rebuild her strength and stamina.

Still an active woman, she also plays golf and tennis with her husband once a week and does qi gong nearly every day in addition to her dragon boat sessions on Saturdays.

Pole dancing is a welcome addition to her exercise routine as she feels it helps manage her osteoporosis. Because pole dancing is a weight-bearing exercise, it helps build muscle without putting too much stress on her bones. "I am much stronger and more energetic after I do it," she says.

Ms Ho credits her instructor, Ms Tan, for inspiring her to dance: "She makes you believe you can do anything."

Learning to dance with her Pink Spartans team-mates helps, too.

"Doing it with the team makes a difference. We support one another. We have all been through the same trauma of cancer," she adds.

Learning to pole dance fits the Pink Spartan's message. "Our message is that even after cancer, you can do so much, you can live a full life and you can learn new things. I would never have gotten into this without dragon boating and, of course, without my cancer," she says.

“My grandchildren think they have the coolest grandma ever.”

Ms Eva Ho

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