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Kiwi-Indian Software Engineer Finds Love In Pole Dancing

Ajay Chhibber at a pole dance competition. Photo: Supplied

Who could forget the iconic ‘Maahi Ve’ from the movie ‘Kaante’, where Malaika Arora’s pole dancing debut mesmerised 90s kids? Despite the hard work and skill involved, pole dancing was long shunned, perceived merely as a tool for seduction rather than a legitimate dance form. 

Ajay Chhibber, a 34-year-old Kiwi-Indian software engineer based in Auckland, is challenging these norms by becoming a Kiwi-Indian male pole dance instructor in New Zealand. Hailing from the northern Indian city of Ambala, Ajay believes it's time to view pole dancing differently.

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"I am the first male Kiwi-Indian pole instructor in Auckland," Ajay claims. 

“Pole dancing requires a great amount of strength, training and dedication. It is a full-time sport,” he adds.

Like many raised in Indian households, Ajay was heavily influenced by Bollywood, which sparked his interest in various dance forms. But his demanding job as a software engineer in Gurugram, a satellite town of Delhi, left him little time to pursue his passion. It wasn’t until he moved to Auckland in 2015 that Ajay could finally dedicate time to dance.

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Photo: Supplied

“I learned jive, jazz, and contemporary, but I was never fully satisfied. Then I googled ‘fitness dance forms’ and came across pole dancing,” he recalls.

For Ajay, pole dancing is also a form of storytelling. In his first competition, he depicted an animal hunting narrative, painting his face as a lost tiger cub whose mother was shot by a hunter.

“I performed the song ‘Maa’ from the movie ‘Taare Zameen Par’ as an ode to my mother’s unwavering support.”

Ajay’s performance not only challenged stereotypes about pole dancing but also encouraged others to embrace the art form. He noted that Bollywood and other media often depicted pole dancing as something only "strippers would do." 

"There's nothing wrong with strippers earning money through pole dancing, but there's much more to the pole than just that.

"I shed my inhibitions the moment I first stepped into a pole dance studio. There, I found doctors, nurses, engineers—people from all walks of life and with diverse body types—all eager to learn this art form," Ajay shared.

Entering the pole dance studio—a realm many hesitate to explore—was only half the struggle for Ajay. He faced challenges such as injuries, the coronavirus lockdown, and, most importantly, learning to be comfortable in his own skin and overcoming his personal inhibitions.

“There is a lot of pole contact with skin; that’s why pole dancers wear less clothing. It took me a long time to get comfortable with myself.”

Since 2016-17, Ajay’s dance journey has been long and continuous. By adding his personal touch to his pole performances, dancing to Hindi songs by Shreya Ghoshal and Shalmali Kholgade, Ajay gained confidence through many competitions.

“My parents always supported me along the way and never questioned my decisions. That has kept me going,” says Ajay.

He practices on the pole for up to four hours in a week and is an instructor at a studio in North Auckland. 

Having come so far, Ajay now wants to explore the sexy, sensuous side of pole dancing, along with exploring flying pole -- a suspended dance pole --- as a new path for him.

He hopes to see more Indians embracing this art form, breaking stereotypes, and viewing it as a fitness exercise and a form of expression.

“I am still a work in progress. I teach and learn at the same time,” Ajay says.

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