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Wellington ballerina turned pole dancer combining passions to create genderfluid dancewear

From the age of two Wellington woman Anna Baines has been dancing. She started with ballet and jazz, then turned to ballroom dancing and Latin when she was at university.

Syko offers genderfluid dancerwear. Source: Olivia Lamb.

But a spur of the moment decision during the Covid-19 lockdown last year saw 22-year-old Baines take the plunge and give pole dancing a go.

"After the first class I felt so happy and elated, it was pretty cool," she told 1 NEWS.

Baines said the classical style of dance she'd known for 20 years was actually very similar to pole, with slower music and graceful moves among the many styles the sport has to offer.

However, she noticed a lack of dancerwear for performers, with many instead having to dance in swimwear or underwear.

The dancerwear is specific, as performers need to have their legs, arms and midriff exposed to stick to the pole for certain moves.

Baines found, though, that most dancerwear only catered to small women, up to a size 12, and there was minimal options for men.

So Baines, who has a Bachelor of Design with Honours, majoring in fashion design and minoring in marketing at Wellington's Massey University, is combining her passions of dance and fashion to fill the "gap in the market".

"Dancewear wasn't reflecting the wide variety of different body shapes, sizes, genders and ethnicities of pole dancers around the world," she said.

"Syko is genderfluid, which is not really a thing in the dance community.

"As inclusive as the pole dance world is, I created Syko for pole dancing humans because I recognised there were limited pole wear options available in the market.

"As New Zealand continues to evolve and become an increasingly inclusive environment, I believe now is the time, if ever, to talk more openly about this fantastic fitness craze and its positive effect it has on communities, mental health and fitness."

Anna Baines. Source: Supplied

Baines explained how she uses a female sex pattern block, but with material with a 75 per cent stretch to "cater to all the bits". She also lets customers know which items have more support than others.

Baines also uses unedited "raw" photos of people of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities in her marketing and social media.

"I just want to prove dancing isn't limited to one size, one gender, one body type," she said.

"The intention was stripping away the sexual aspect, showing the fitness and strength and power these performers have."

While Baines admits pole dancing has been a controversial topic, she said she couldn't be more pleased with the feedback from the dance community.

When she gave the sport a go she expected to gain fitness and strength, but said the biggest benefit had been the community of pole dancers around the country.

"It's massive. I was really surprised with how big it is ... there are lawyers, people from every walk of life. It's a form of self expression."

Baines knows pole dancers aged between 16 and in their 70s.

"It's very diverse with age and every gender under the sun. It's totally diverse."

The community is growing, though, with Baines saying the Covid-19 pandemic had given people the push to explore fitness options outside the traditional gym setting.

Syko dancewear caters to a range of body shapes and sizes.

"It's like anything, just tell someone to just give it a go. You don't have to be exposed, it's just going in and letting yourself go."

Baines said the line was "100 per cent a work in progress" and that the brand was relaunching on June 1. 

Her products will be sold here and overseas, with lot of customers in Australia.

"This community welcomes you in with open arms and the clothing should too."

Send your news tips to Rebecca.Moore@tvnz.co.nz