I introduced pole dancing to Zim: Zoey

Zoey Sifelani

SNEAK PEAK Tafadzwa Kachiko

Norleen “Zoey” Sifelani is one of the country’s top pole dancers, who claims to have brought the art to Zimbabwe, and has for a long time been engaged in a tussle with competitor Beverly Sibanda over the dancing honours.

Sifelani (NS) speaks to NewsDay Life & Style correspondent Tafadzwa Kachiko (ND) about her work. Below are the excerpts of the interview:

ND: How did you become a pole dancer?

NS: The decision to be a pole dancer came in 2009 when I was in South Africa. I got impressed by white ladies whom I saw doing this, so I asked them to teach me. I trained in Johannesburg and Pretoria. That’s how it all started. I am the one who introduced it in Zimbabwe.

ND: What was your family’s reaction then? And now?

NS: I was in trouble with my family during the early days because they did not understand what it was. They thought it was stripping. But after realising that it was all about arts, they began to support me. My dad even started to buy me uniforms.

ND: Pole dancing is often mistaken with strip-tease. What can you say about that in relation to your work?

NS: They are quite different. In strip-tease, you will be naked while in pole dancing, it’s playing around the pole.

ND: Dancing in itself, especially where women are involved, is often frowned upon. How have you managed to keep standing against such attitudes?

NS: I am now used to women’s attitudes. Men are even afraid to come to shows with their wives because the latter will be just criticising. I tried to make them understand that it is
only about work and not about snatching their husbands. I won and eventually, I was prompted to establish the Zoey Chinamwari Academy.

ND: How has it been at the academy?

NS: Everything is going on well. It is growing big and very soon, we will be opening a new branch. A lot of women are coming for lessons with an interest to improve their sex moves when they meet their husbands.

ND: Traditionally, Chinamwari lessons were offered by elderly women qualified by experience in sexual relations. What qualifies you to offer such lesson?

NS: I am a qualified Chinamwari teacher because I went for lessons and passed. I also come from Malawi. Under our culture, every girl child should pass through that.

ND: To what extent has the current economic hardships affected the growth of your sector and how are you coping?

NS: This has hit us hard, to the extent that some of my competitors are charging ZWL$40 per show. Can you imagine? Think of it, if they will be three in a group. They will have to share that amount. However, I have been thriving under these tough moments because I get gate takings and have other businesses that I do. The general overview is that the trade has been affected by the current hardships.

ND: What’s your current relationship status?

NS: I am very single, but not searching. If I have a boyfriend, we end up fighting because of failure to understand and appreciate what I do for a living. Boyfriends don’t understand that pole dancing is merely an art.

ND: Is there bad blood between you and Bev or it is just part of the game to keep things are little exciting?

NS: Not even. The past is past. We have no grudges.

ND: The Censorship and Entertainments Control Act bars entertainers from stripping to their skin or coming into contact with patrons. But often, we see this happening. What do you say
about that?

NS: I have not seen anyone being stripped naked. I value my body very much, so I won’t allow that to happen even to myself. However, to spice up performances, I plant some male dancers
that I work with in the crowd and, as I perform, I call them on stage. These may come into contact with me just to spice the act.

ND: What happened to your plan to open a massage parlour in Bulawayo?

NS: We haven’t dropped it. We are still to establish the parlour.

ND: The excitement brought about by pole dancing in the early years seems to be wearing off slowly, what options do you have?

NS: Pole dancing has been destroyed by newcomers who lack a sense of directions. They have brought confusion which makes other people think it’s stripping. I was called recently by an
officer in Muzarabani warning me that my fellows had been exhibiting immoral performances and I clarified that those were not under me. I am going to approach the Dancers Association of
Zimbabwe with that issue and bring sanity to the field. Very soon, I will soon be starting competitions and festivals, where I will also take the opportunity to clarify what pole dancing is and what it is not.

ND: How best can pole dancing be promoted in Zimbabwe?

NS: Promoters need to value dancers seriously, that’s the starting point. The little amount I have spoken about earlier on won’t take the dancers anywhere. Introducing competitions and
festival should promote pole dancing.

ND: Thank you Zoey.

NS: Thank you as well.


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