Benson Ang
Tue, Oct 28, 2008
The New Paper
Is that my housing agent dancing on the bar?

Dancing is their secret, something they don't even tell to their friends and relatives, which is why many did not want to reveal their real names.

Mr Jeffrey Chung, whose company provides models and dancers for events, said bar dancers have a variety of day jobs. Some, he claimed, are engineers, lawyers, secretaries, and even teachers.

Said Mr Chung: 'They are dancing discreetly. The more established their jobs are, the more fearful they are that their image will suffer if they are exposed.' When pressed, he declined to offer their contact details.

Mr Aaghir Yadav - a partner at Buttcheeks Entertainment, a company which produces shows for nightclubs and fashion brands - also claimed to have professionals among his dancers. He has, he said, a lawyer, a teacher and secretaries among his part-time dancers.

Eve, 25, for instance, is a yoga consultant.

For eight hours a day, she sits in an office, counselling people about their health and recommending yoga classes to them. In the day, she is dressed in 'smart casual' wear - a shirt, skirt and heels - when meeting clients.

Few clients know she is a bar dancer four nights a week. On these nights, she shakes her booty to the latest beat from 10pm to 2am, dressed in little more than a bikini and boots.

Between sets, she moves from table to table selling shots of alcohol, which cost $10 to $25. She drinks, sings and plays games with customers.

Eve has danced in more than 200 venues - pubs, bars, hotels, stage shows - at Orchard Towers, Tanjong Pagar, Mohamed Sultan, Clarke Quay and even Geylang. She makes about $150 a night. This amounts to more than $2,000 a month - twice her day salary.

But she says her day job is more important because it puts money in her CPF account.

'There's also more responsibility, and I'm more comfortable being identified with it. Dancing is a proper job, but people may not understand that I do it out of interest.'

Dancing has been Eve's passion since secondary school, when she became interested in hip-hop, Malay and contemporary dance.

Val, 23, another bar dancer, has been a property agent since 2006. She did not want to be identified because 'I don't want to spoil my goody-goody image as an agent'.

'I have two personalities, but people who see both tend to remember me only as a party girl.'

By day, she's seen in formal suits; by night, in a spaghetti-strap top, miniskirt and leather boots.

She's not into dancing for the money - she can make up to $80,000 a year through property deals. Dancing, for her, 'is leisure'. 'I get to burn fat, exercise, and drink for free when customers buy me shooters.'

She claimed the most she drank a night was two bottles of tequila.

'Clubbing can cost $100 a night. But, as a dancer, I can dance and drink for free, and I get paid.'

Because most bar staff know her, Val gets admission into clubs even when they are full. She also doesn't have to pay cover charges, and usually gets a free beer.

Dancing helps her day job

Her night job has also expanded Val's property clientele. Through dancing, she once met a male customer who eventually sold his HDB flat through her.

'He just had one condition - I couldn't tell his wife I saw him in Geylang.'

With her combined earnings, Val has $30,000 in savings.

But not all dancers are so fortunate. Val said one of her friends is divorced, has three children, and she dances because she has no money for their education.

She said nobody in her day job has recognised her from dancing. 'People accuse us (dancers) of being high-class prostitutes, but it's just because of a small minority who sell themselves.'

Val, for instance, does not dance at private functions. She only does wet T-shirt dances when she has a bra on. Still, she gets her share of indecent proposals.

A man offered her $800 to have sex with her. She declined. 'When he asked me for my rate, I thought he was referring to my dancing rate. When he asked if he could 'do anything he wants', I got suspicious.

But she says her 'traditional' family will never get used to her dancing, which is why she does not live with them. She rents a room in the west. 'They just know I'm in property. If my grandma knew I was dancing, she would probably have a heart attack.'

Her current boyfriend of two months said he doesn't mind her dancing because 'it's her passion'. Indeed, the 28-year-old civil servant said he first met Val in a pub where she was dancing. But two of Val's ex-boyfriends have broken up with her because of her job.

She plans to keep dancing for at most another five years.She said bar dancers usually quit when they focus on their day jobs, or get married.

And, despite the shady implications of her night job, Val, who is a Christian, describes herself as 'a good girl'.

'It's not like I have no money, and therefore must do this job. Dancing is just very cool. When I'm dancing on a pole, I feel as powerful and flexible as Spiderman.'

This article was first published in The New Paper on Oct 27, 2008.

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Is that my housing agent dancing on the bar?