Pole-Dancing: Not just for the Ladies Anymore

Hugo Matos shows ’em how it’s done. Photographed by Filipe Matos

If you thought pole-dancing was only for high-heeled, g-stringed strippers at clubs like Ménage in Cais Sodré, think again. Pole classes are being taught in fitness studios strictly for exercise purposes (no heels and no costumes—just some spandex and a water bottle). Also commonly taught is the dance-based pole technique that involves acrobatics combined with conventional Latin, jazz, or hip-hop dance moves. And then there’s the traditional sensual pole-dancing we all know and love. All of these styles are taught in and around Lisbon by a rather surprising number of schools and gyms.

And it’s gaining more and more notoriety. There’s already talk of pole-dancing being instituted as an event in the Olympics by 2020 by the World Pole Sports Federation…yes, it exists.

And it makes sense. Besides being far sassier than yoga or Pilates, pole-dancing is one hell of a workout. It requires strength training and an enormous amount of stretching and dedication to be able to dance on the pole properly – no wonder pole dancers are in such excellent physical condition. They have to be. For example, just look at the extreme side of the sport, circus pole, which is highly acrobatic and can be seen in Cirque du Soleil-style shows by champion dancers like Felix Cane. This one is not commonly taught to people who didn’t grow up alongside the bearded lady as only a handful of people can actually bend that way, but it’s certainly something to strive for.

And it isn’t just for the ladies anymore. Hugo Matos is one of the first males in Portugal to attempt the splits, kicks, and back-bends necessary to dance on the pole, and now he’s being called to perform at clubs around the country. Atlas caught up with Hugo to find out what it’s like to bring a little testosterone to the sport. Watch him dance here and see what he thinks is the best thing about each of the training spots around town.



How did you get started pole-dancing?

I have a friend who dances in several clubs, and when I saw him doing some pole tricks I fell in love with pole-dance and said to myself that I would have to do that too. After three years of training, working on technique, and finding my strengths, I can say that I channel two characters: There is the Hugo who likes to tease and do sexy moves and there is the real Hugo who is very sensitive and incorporates the music as if no one else is there.

What was it about pole-dancing that drew you to take a class?

People still think pole-dancing is a “cabaret” thing, but I see it as an art and a sport (I can say this is much better exercise than you would get at ANY gym). Because I’m a male in a typically female artform, I have suffered reverse-discrimination, but only at first…only when I tried to get some information at one or two pole schools in Lisbon. (“It’s only for girls”, they said…) I think I may have laid the groundwork for men to pole-dance. These schools are used to seeing me now!

What is your training schedule like? Do pole-dancers have to eat a certain way?

I train four times a week (pole classes and stretching classes). I’ve only trained at pole gyms, I never took dance or gymnastics classes before I started. In terms of the best diet, I am not the right person to answer this (laughs) because even though I am vegetarian, I like to eat rubbish food. I like to eat everything! But, there is one thing I do after my workout – I always drink a protein milkshake.

Where can we see you dance? What are your plans for the future?

It depends. I used to go to the Casino in Estoril and Parque Nacões with Academia de Pole Dance for a school show. I have also danced in several clubs around Portugal. Recently I was asked to dance in Madeira – I was invited by a friend of mine, who has a studio in Funchal. Ultimately, I want to improve more, and, who knows? In the near future maybe I will take part in some competitions.

What’s your favorite soundtrack to dance to? What songs get you inspired?

I prefer classical and more dramatic tracks, especially Ólafur Arnalds. He’s an Icelandic mulit-insturmentalist who really inspires movement when you hear his work. It’s beautiful in a chilling way.

Want to learn to pole-dance? Here are some places you can go.
Have your own pole and want to train at home? Click here, you naughty thing.

Academia de Pole Dance
Rua do Embaixador, 30B, Belém
914 488 929
Hours vary
Specialty: Sensual Dance

Pole Heart
Calçada Marques de Abrantes, nº115, Santos
969 090 881
Hours vary
Specialty: Acrobatic and Sensual

Pole and Aerial
Villa Helena
Travessa da Escola Araújo nº24, Estefânia
914 520 831
Hours vary
Specialty: Floor Work

Dance Factory Studios
Rua Soares dos Reis 11A, Campolide
211 317 549
Mon – Fri, 10h – 23h; Sat, 9h30 – 18h30;
Last Sunday each month, 10h – 18h
Specialty: Acrobatic Movement

Jazzy Dance Studios
Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa, Santos
213 950 763
Mon – Fri, 10h – 23h; Sat, 10h – 19h
Specialty: Acrobatic Movement

A Pompodourette
Rua Pinheiro Chagas 99A, Avenidas Novas.
São Sebastião
916 652 377
Hours vary
Specialty: Floor Work

Bown Sugar Art ‘n Pole Studio
Travessa das Mercês nº22A, Bairro Alto
916 287 368
Mon – Sat, 10h – 22h
Specialty: Sensual Dance

Deep Dance
Rua Amália Rodrigues 21A Quinta daParreirinha
Sacavém, Bobadela (Azambuja line)
937 621 649
Hours vary
Specialty: Sensual Dance

Estúdio F, Sintra
Rua Volta da Quinta, Sintra
916 206 111
Mon – Sat, 10h – 22h
Specialty: Acrobatic Movement


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