A masterclass in empowerment from South Africa’s top pole dancer


Julie Fowler twists around the pole, reaches out, and holds her pose in mid air. Each moment looks effortless. Yet Fowler’s ease is an illusion. Her hands are iron grips, supporting a body wrought with strength. She’s the embodiment of a woman freed by her own power. Fowler is a champion pole dancer whose life revolves around carrying the sport to new frontiers. But first, she has to reframe her passion – as a respected competitive discipline, rather than the sexualised art it’s assumed to be. “A lot of people misinterpret my craft,” Fowler says, “but very little know the work that goes into it.”

Fowler began pole dancing with weight loss in mind. “I had no idea I would be gaining confidence,” she says. More than just an enthralling art, Fowler discovered that pole involves intense skill and dedication. “Pole dance is empowering mainly because you learn that your body is capable of anything if you set your mind to it,” she says. Those who see it as sleazy need only experience the workout that comes with training to understand. By teaching the art of pole in her studio, Fowler is raising her own movement against stigma. “When people see how much practice, flexibility, and core strength is required, they will fall in love with it as much as I have,” she says.

In 2018, Fowler was ranked as the number one pole dancer in South Africa, in addition to being placed in the top 50 worldwide. In the future, she’d like to see the sport represented at the Olympics. Despite her tenacious climb to the top, Fowler’s ultimate mission is for people to take charge of what makes them feel good, and to love themselves as they are. “I want others to feel the empowerment and liberation,” she says. In her class, real power is built by doing what makes you happy. “Pole dance like no one is watching you,” Fowler says.