From Cambridge Mathematician to International Pole
By Guillaume Jean Lefebvre
Julianna Yau's journey is a captivating blend of academic brilliance, athletic prowess, and a passion that defies stereotypes. Born in Canada and named after the month of her birth, Julianna's multicultural upbringing in Hong Kong laid the foundation for a life that seamlessly integrates intellect and artistry.
Growing up as a runner and later a university rower, Julianna's introduction to pole dancing was an unexpected detour. In 2013, she explored a variety of fitness classes at a new gym, stumbling upon pole dancing among them. With a background in neither dance nor gymnastics, the experience was novel and challenging. However, the camaraderie in the class and the dual benefits of strength and flexibility drew her in.
What began as a casual exploration soon transformed into a profound passion. Julianna discovered that pole dance wasn't just a physical activity; it was a form of self-expression, a way to convey emotions through movement and music.
Parallel to her pole dance journey, Julianna pursued academic excellence, earning a degree in Mathematics at the prestigious University of Cambridge. Returning to her alma mater, she contributed to the Pole Sports Society, showcasing her commitment to both her academic and athletic pursuits.
In her professional life, Julianna is not only a pole dance enthusiast but also an educator, running an education center for children. Her approach to pole dancing goes beyond personal fulfillment; she actively works to break the stigma surrounding the art form. Through her Instagram and Youtube channel, @julianna_pole, she shares informative tutorials and lighthearted dance videos, inviting others to appreciate the beauty of pole dancing.
Julianna's accolades in pole dancing competitions reflect her dedication and skill, earning her multiple awards. As 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of her pole dance journey, Julianna celebrates by hosting 10 international pole dance events, ranging from retreats in Bali to workshops in Brussels, showcasing her global influence.
Balancing her roles as an educator, pole dance ambassador, and mathematician, Julianna remains humble and approachable. Her future ambitions include traveling the world, teaching pole dancing, and connecting with inspirational pole dancers from diverse cultures.
Julianna Yau is not just an accomplished mathematician; she is a pole dance ambassador breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and spreading the joy of movement and self-expression across the globe. Her story is a testament to the transformative power of pursuing one's passions with dedication and an open heart.
1. You have a background in mathematics from the University of Cambridge. How do you see the intersection between your academic achievements and your passion for pole dancing, and how has each influenced the other in your life?
The problem solving skills I learnt in university are highly applicable to many aspects in life, for example figuring out how to enter a particular pole dance move is like solving a maths problem. There are often many methods to do it and not just one way.
2. Growing up as a runner and later a university rower, how did your athletic background shape your approach to pole dancing, an art form that might seem unconventional in comparison?
Running and rowing are mostly leg workouts, but pole dancing requires more upper body. Before I started pole, I had no upper body strength (I was never able to climb monkey bars in the playground even as a kid), so it was a very steep learning curve at the start. Luckily my athletic background meant that I am disciplined and have the consistency to train myself regularly in order to acquire the upper body strength needed for pole. Furthermore, rowing and running are very rhythmic sports - they are all about setting a good pace. Whereas pole is not about speed at all. It is about expression of feelings and emotions, and using it as an art form to tell stories.
3. You've mentioned that pole dancing is not just a sport but a way of expressing emotions through music and movement. Can you elaborate on how you use pole dancing as a form of self-expression, and what emotions or messages you aim to convey through your performances?
I often use pole dancing to tell stories, especially to raise environmental awareness. I have partnered with loads of eco-brands and made creative dance videos and photoshoots to promote clothes made of synthetic waste, biodegradable eco-straws made of sugarcane, wheat, and even edible pasta to promoting eco-shoes made of all-natural materials, like tree fibre, beans, and algae.
For 3 years running, I collaborated with a local upcycled artist to spread the joy of a green Christmas.
Model: JULIANNA YAU - @julianna_pole
Photographers: WARREN ADRIEN TANG - @warrenadrientang / DANIELA K - @danielakphotography
JASMIN WATTS - @wattsjazzy
ANJAS PREMANA - @anjaspremana
Upcycled Artist: MICHAL HOCHBERG @upcycled.by.michal
Clothes: JUST FLY @justfly.polewear
Studio: STUDIO HOLLOW - @studiohollowhk
4. As an educator running an education center for kids, how do you integrate your passion for pole dancing into your professional life, and do you see any intersections between the two realms?
I have learnt a lot from children. They are not afraid of falling, nor are they afraid to try new things, and their imagination is limitless. All these qualities are very important for pole dancing and for life.
5. Returning to the University of Cambridge to teach at the Pole Sports Society is a unique journey. How has this experience been, and what role do you think institutions like universities play in promoting unconventional forms of sports and arts?
It’s great that our community is becoming more open-minded and accepting. Institutions play a big role in promoting diversity and encouraging young people to follow their dreams.
6. Winning multiple pole dancing awards is a significant accomplishment. Can you share some key moments from your competition experiences, and how have these victories influenced your perspective on pole dancing?
The last moments of each competition is particularly touching as they are testaments to months of hard work.
7. Your 10th-anniversary celebration involves hosting 10 pole dance events internationally. Can you provide insights into the planning and significance of each event, and what message or experience you hope to share with participants?
I really hope to share my love for pole dancing with dancers from around the world through these pole events. The two retreats were hosted in Bali and the Canary Islands – both places renowned for their beautiful beaches and relaxing vibes. I hope our travellers can recharge and bond with other like-minded souls. For the pole workshops in Berlin, Brussels, Cambridge, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, I have met pole dancers from these locations online previously and have always wanted to meet them in person, so it was a wonderful opportunity that we can unite through pole. I also did a photoshoot for a Budapest-based eco-friendly pole wear brand which creates active wear using synthetic waste.
The final workshop will be held in my home town, Hong Kong, where my pole journey began 10 years ago.
8. Your online presence, particularly on Instagram and YouTube, is marked by informative tutorials and comedy dance videos. How do you believe social media platforms contribute to breaking the stigma surrounding pole dancing, and what responses have you received from your online community?
I have seen many responses from the general public saying that they thought pole dance only exists in clubs so I think social media platforms provide a great opportunity to let people know that it’s not just an adult entertainment but it is also a sport, a dance, and an art.
9. Balancing roles as an educator, pole dance ambassador, and mathematician is undoubtedly challenging. How do you manage these diverse responsibilities, and what advice do you have for individuals trying to balance multiple passions in their lives?
Remember why you started and you will find the will to power through.
10. Looking ahead, you express a desire to continue traveling the world, teaching pole dancing, and meeting inspirational pole dancers. How do you envision the future of your journey in pole dancing, and what impact do you hope to have on the global perception of this art form?
Pole dance is a great sport that can tone the whole body and it’s also an excellent way to express one’s emotions through the dance side but it’s a shame that some people might even be afraid to try it because of the stigma around it.
I think it’s important to raise awareness and educate people about the benefits of pole dancing. It’s definitely changed for the better as more people are now aware of the different aspects of pole dancing. I hope we can continue to raise the awareness so that others can appreciate the beauty of pole dancing.
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