Pole dancing saved me

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Queenstown dancer Raha Sangsari is heading all the way to the top of the pole. 

Sangsari, 28, and Queenstown Pole Fitness Studio owner Anna Ashton are two of five finalists who’ve been selected in the Miss Pole Dance New Zealand elite category. 

Next month the pair dance off in the finals at Auckland for a chance to represent the country and win a trip to the worlds. 

For Sangsari, it’s been a whirlwind two years since she first turned up at Ashton’s studio after seeing an ad for lessons. 

“Personally, pole dancing has changed my life,” the Iranian-born hospitality worker says. 

“‘I’ve gain lots of self-confidence and it’s been good for my mind. Before I wasn’t really sure of myself and now I’m much better. I’ve learned a lot about life and it’s given me so much to work towards.” 

And it’s done wonders for her fitness – Sangsari trains five to six days a week for up to four to five hours a day. 

“When I first started I had no upper body strength. I couldn’t do anything. Now I can go upside down and do lots of crazy tricks.” 

Sangsari, who also now instructs pole dancing part-time, praises Ashton as the “best teacher I’ve had in anything” and for the supportive environment she’s created at the studio. 

The pair had to submit a four-minute DVD each and Ashton – who has competed before – says she’s so proud of Sangsari, even for getting this far. 

“She started from scratch and trained so hard and loves it and made it all the way to the top,” Ashton says.