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Dance crew on stage surround JLO on a stage pole during Superbowl

Super Pole at the Super Bowl

This year’s Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira put pole dancing on the world’s BIGGEST stage for millions to see! In celebration of this amazing milestone in pole dance history, we spoke to ALL of JLO’s super pole dancers to get their perspective on their historic performance.

Johanna Sapakiehas been pole dancing off and on for about 10 years. She was already working in the industry as a circus performer (aerialist) and dancer for many years. In 2009, Johanna joined Cirque Du Soleil. She began her pole dancing journey there, combining both aerial acrobatics and dance.

Egyptshari started pole dancing about 15 years ago at the age of 20 with the likes of OG polers such as Karol Helms, Pantera, Felix Cane, Studioveena, Fawnia and Jamila Deville…

“This is the first time I’ve ever truly gone on record to state it, but I started pole dancing in a strip club in Emporia, Kansas…”

Irmingard first saw pole dancing at a film festival after-party. The women dancing seemed so strong and powerful. She was mesmerized. The dancers had sensuality and grace while being in control of their own bodies. She saw them and thought… I want to learn how to do that. Soon she looked up where she could take classes and has been pole dancing for 11 years.

Sheila Joy Burford fell in love with this new craft 8 years ago! Little did she know she would take it from a hobby of fun and fitness to actually performing.

Crystallionc started pole dancing ten years ago because of a culmination of life events. She was getting enervated by her day job and she always wanted to try a circus class. Having a hard time finding adult silks classes, Chrystal found a groupon for pole classes.

“I went on a blind date with pole dance expecting to like it, but not expecting the healthy long-term committed relationship it’s become. I am forever grateful to have found a community that provides such enormous camaraderie and support!”

Talia Jade Marinostarted poling in 2009 working in her first Cirque du Soleil show, Viva Elvis. She was required to learn pole dance as well as spins pole-a hinged pole apparatus with two hand loops where two acrobats would do pole and aerial tricks.

“It was intense for me since I had never pole danced ever in my life, but I was determined, and the rest is history.”

How long did you train for this performance?

Talia: I was training for 2 months. Johanna Sapakie, J-LO’s pole coach and choreographer could only be there for the first 2 days of rehearsals. So Johanna called me, as well as J-LO’s creative director Tabitha Dumo (aka Power couple Nappytabs), and asked me if I could come in and fill in for Johanna, almost as if I was Johanna’s assistant, since she was the lead for pole for this Super Bowl gig. I stood in for Jennifer for “Waiting for Tonight” as well as reviewed choreography and went over any pole tricks and skills she wished to review. We had about 10 days break for Christmas and New Year’s.

We were back on Jan 6th and Johanna and I started rehearsals a week prior to the other pole dancers joining the team- to work on pole combos and doubles pole work for the creative team. Although it evolved from the combos we created originally to what you saw at the Super Bowl which was all solo work, we wanted to be prepared and give Jennifer and her artistic team options to pick and choose. The rest of our pole team trained with us 3 weeks before the Super Bowl.

Were there any opportunities to get to rehearse as a group before game time? How much rehearsal time did you get with JLO?

Talia: Our rehearsals were 9-hour days, with 1-hour dinner/lunch break. We were there every day. As soon as the NFL side approved the show, we  did a rough run through about 2.5 weeks out. Some days, the Choreographer, Parris Goebel, would focus on a particular section, and if the pole dancers were not involved, we would run through our section on the side of the stage. We rehearsed at Telemundo Studios, the Bubble at Dolphin Training Center, and the tent at Hard Rock Stadium. Our last 5 runs were on the actual Stage at Hard Rock Stadium. Jennifer rehearsed with us almost every other day. She is very hands on with her vision for her shows. She herself, trained like a beast and she’s one of the hardest working people I have ever met.

What was your favorite pole move that you executed at the Super Bowl and why?

Johanna: My favorite move that I executed during Super Bowl was probably my Allegra. Although it’s not necessarily a difficult trick, it’s super quick to get into and was a really powerfully musical moment onstage. It was also when the cryo blasts went off, so you really felt like a Bada** Rockstar while it was happening!

Egyptshari: You know it’s really funny because I’m going to answer this and people are going to think that I’m so basic, but I’ve been in the performance aspect of pole for so long that I understand the uneducated audience does not quite translate pole moves like an educated audience who is familiar with pole dance. Being an OG, it was all about the showmanship. For this show it was important for us to be at the top of the polls because there was a lot of action going on down below us. On top of that, we were asked to try to maintain a decent spin. Therefore, my favorite pole trick for this event was the Ballerina. It translates to any audience, educated or not, and it’s a pretty shape…

Irmingard: I did a move where I hooked my shin on the pole in an upright split. It’s one of my favorite moves that I have had years to work on perfecting. It’s a shape I can move comfortably in and out of and really enjoy without overthinking. In the performance it gave me a moment to breathe and look out at the scene in front of me to take it all in. I even got to look up and see fireworks being set off over the night sky. Really an incredible memory I will carry with me forever. 

Sheila Joy Burford: I would have to say my favorite pole trick was cranking a good, old Machine Gun! The poles were LED So I enjoyed looking down and seeing the crowd go bananas!

Crystallionc:The Dragonfly/Libellula. Not only do I love the trick, but it also allowed me an opportunity to look around and take everything in! I would often catch eyes with Sheila, and we’d send each other ALL the energy. The move enabled me to absolutely live on that stage!!!

Talia: Hmmmmm, that is kind of hard for me however, I have not one but 3… Handspring because it is classic, up right Shaina Split because it keeps a nice tight spin since our poles swayed A LOT, and Martha split because it is interesting and you stay high on the pole. All of us pole dancers had to stay quite high, basically at the top of the pole, due to the dancers being right in front of us.

What was the energy like performing for over 60,000 people and an audience of 102 million? 

Egyptshari: Before the Super Bowl, the largest audience I had ever performed for was the combined concert of Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang up in the DMV area. It was an outside arena and the seating was vast, I remember walking to the stage and having my breath taken away in that moment.

However, when I walked into the stadium for the Super Bowl, I felt that same moment for literally a split second and then I felt completely overwhelmed with gratitude and amazement…. Kind of like somebody opened a floodgate of emotions and I almost couldn’t control it. Usually when I get nervous, the adrenaline is pumping through my veins so intensely that I’ll tremble or shake a bit. I get these nervous butterflies in my stomach and I have to close my eyes and take a deep breath to channel my energy in the right direction. But for this event-like I said I was completely overwhelmed with such positive emotion that I almost burst out into a full-blown, snotty nose ugly cry!!! Right before tears were about to fall from my eyes, I had a self-chat with myself and I said “Bitch! Pull it together!!! You cannot ruin this beautiful AF makeup!”

What was your most memorable moment from being on stage with JLO?

Sheila: My most memorable moment on stage was actually looking around during the performance seeing all my pole friends thinking, “WOW we’re here at the Super Bowl on a Super Pole! Hahah”. I had another great moment in rehearsals when we getting ready for a dress run and we’re about to run our pole pass. JLO suddenly walked by my pole with her hair blowing in the wind, glowing skin, and one of her first outfits, I actually couldn’t even get on the pole. I was suddenly star struck and yelled to her “You look so beautiful” & she smiled and said, “Thank you!” Missed my pole pass … it was really funny!

Some people have criticized the inclusion of pole dancing in this year’s performance by saying it was too sexy for such a large audience. Would you like to respond to some of recent pushback against pole at the Super Bowl?

Egyptshari: No not really LOL!!! But I will. The reason why I don’t care to is because the same person who would write this in an article would be the main person sitting at the tip rail in a strip club or taking a woman fitting of a fantasy into the VIP lounge. I’ve been a stripper. I’ve been in a strip club. I’ve seen the type of people that frequent these establishments and they love to hide behind those velvet walls. An issue with today is we have social media and everybody wants their opinion to be heard, but I’m extremely protective of my energy and I do not let a lot of negativity into my space. What I have to say about it is, stop giving those people attention and instead let’s scream from the rooftops for the people who are praising the female empowerment that was embodied on the Super Bowl stage.

Your Superbowl Halftime show, along with recent performances by Lizzo on Saturday Night Live and FKA Twigs at The Grammys all featured pole dancing. Do you think the world is finally starting to appreciate the skills required, the beautiful diversity and limitless potential of pole?

Irmingard: We are making steady progress! If you told me 10 years ago when I first started pole dancing all this would be happening, I wouldn’t have believed you. We have come a long way, but we are not where we need to be. I hope to see pole continue to expand its reach. The marginalized communities of strippers and sex workers have been denied basic fundamental rights and that is where this art form stems from. We need to pay homage to this and work through our own discomforts and stigmas perpetuated.

How has this whole experience been for you? Has anyone been particularly supportive of you?

Crystallionc: I’m so grateful for all the memories this experience gave me!! Hilarious drives on the Florida turnpike, building stronger relationships with other talented pole artists, being truly humbled by the talent of everyone involved. They have such commitment and passion!
My family has always been the best support network! They are encouraging in any life decisions and are unwaveringly optimistic about all of them. Talia for knowing my capabilities and always pushing me harder. My friends, bosses and coworkers, and the entire pole community have shown me lots and lots of love! I’ve been really lucky in having a lot of support for performing pole for this event.

Is there anyone in the world of pole dance that you admire? Are there any new people in the pole community that you’re really excited about?

Crystallionc: There are so many!! Jenyne Butterfly, Jamilla DeVille, Alethea Austin, Natasha Wang, Phoenix Kazree, Oona Kievla, Carly Child and Charlie Shea, Daria Che, Olga Koda, Vera Verse, Gaby Borrayo, Natalia Tatarintseva etc. I admire everyone who decides they are going to pole dance!!!! It takes a strong courageous person both physically and mentally, so in any form and at whatever level, I ADMIRE YOU!!!

What do you have to say to the people who say, “I could never pole dance”?

Sheila Joy Burford: Don’t knock it till you try it! Once you do try it welcome to your newest addiction!
Lori Lu
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