Meet the Women Who Brought Pole Dancing to Invercargill

Morina & Saniya portrait.

Morina & Saniya

Morina & Saniya may be two of Invercargill’s busiest (and most inspiring) women. As co-owners of the only women’s pole dancing studio in Invercargill, they host classes four nights a week while juggling full-time jobs, families, and pole dance competitions.

Interview by: Caitlin Brown

Photography by: Nancy Zhou 

We sat down to learn a bit more about what you can expect from a class at South Pole Dance Studio, and we have to admit: if you weren’t already intrigued by the concept of pole dancing, you just might be whistling a different tune by the end of the interview.

What inspired you to open the studio?

Saniya: After we met we started training together and both Morina and I did pole dancing prior to moving to Invercargill. I did it in Moscow and Morina did it in Christchurch. We were missing pole dancing so much that we thought we should share our love of it with the city. Initially it was just pole dancing, and it evolved into aerial and stretching as well.

When people come to take the class, how do you help people work through their nerves? I’d imagine that this feels out of a lot of people’s comfort zones.

Morina: I always try to make people feel relaxed. The first class is always the scariest. A lot of people think, “I'm not very fit” or “I need to lose weight first.” I’ve always felt that you can’t prepare yourself to do pole. You just need to bite the bullet and give it a crack. I always make sure they realize that everyone else in the class feels the exact same way. 

Saniya: I get why people are nervous. They’ve probably seen pole dancing online, where you see this divine looking creature moving so confidently without fail and you think “Wow, I want to be there!” When you come into a class, we break down the simplest moves into steps, and it all becomes less scary and easier to understand.

What made you fall in love with pole to start?

Morina: The grace of it all. You know that every muscle in your body is screaming, yet you can still make it look effortless.

How long have you lived here in Invercargill?

Saniya: I’ve lived here for 6.5 years. I came straight from Moscow. I never thought I would live anywhere else, but I really enjoy living in Invercargill and can’t imagine myself living anywhere else now. The lifestyle it offers is quite unique. I would never have been able to have a full-time job, do pole dancing at the level we do it at the moment. The quality of life is incredible because it’s reasonably small, it’s affordable, yet it has everything you need. 

Morina: I’ve lived here since I was 5. We moved to Christchurch for a short period for my husband's job. I love how it takes 7 minutes to get anywhere. To be able to have the time to put into our passion on top of our full-time jobs outside of this is incredible.

What do you each do for your day jobs?

Saniya: I’m a librarian!

Morina: I’m an executive assistant for our legal teams at Council. 

That’s amazing! So then, how many days a week do you have class here?

Morina: We run classes Monday-Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30, and usually we have classes running in both rooms. Including us, our instructor team is 7, and we’ve trained each of them. We are just really lucky that we have really supportive families and our husbands help prop us up and encourage us to keep going.

What would you want people to take away from your story?

Morina: We pride ourselves on a safe environment for people to express themselves through movement and dance. That’s a huge part of what we do. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you do, what size you are, none of that matters to us. As long as you come along to have fun, work hard and be respectful to others, we encourage and empower our students to be the best that they can be.