A 64-year-old mum and her 38-year-old son have spoken of the unlikely hobby they share – pole dancing.
Meet Robyn Warrener, an office worker who took up pole dancing 11 years ago to channel her “inner goddess”.
So when son Mark McLauchlan’s acrobatic career as a performer with Cirque De Soleil was ended by an injury in 2013, she thought it would be the perfect tonic for him.
Pole dancing has given McLauchlan, now a psychic and gymnastics instructor, a way to use his skills and enjoy his passion for movement, while his mother loves the hobby because it keeps her moving.
And despite living 1,000 miles apart in Australia – Warrener in Brisbane, and McLauchlan in Melbourne – the mother/son due train together using video-calling apps.
“Not many mothers do this with their sons,” Warrener said.
“I started pole dancing later in life, in my 50s, so I also want to show people that it’s never too late to try something new.
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Still enviably supple, Warrener says people are often surprised when they learn her age.
“People can never believe I’m the age I am, but I’m stronger than ever and can keep up with the youngsters in my classes,” she says.
“I never want to be still for too long. You’ve got to keep moving.”
Since Warrener suggested her son join her at a class seven years ago, the pair have never looked back.
“I love telling people that Mum and I pole dance together,” McLauchlan says.
“Luckily, we’ve never had any negativity. People think it’s really cool, and they cannot believe she’s my mum when I show them her picture and tell them how old she is.”
Despite now able to perfect complex moves, Warrener admits she was initially surprised by the athletic demands of the sport.
“I thought I’d be learning to prance around a pole and look all pretty – but I quickly learned that it was all about strength,” she says.
But after having regularly attended classes for 11 years, she can now compete with pole dancers decades younger and proves a worthy dance partner to her son.
“My world came crashing down after my injury,” McLauchlan says.
“I came back to Australia after travelling the world and Mum encouraged me to come along with her to a class.
“She thought it would be a good way for me to play, dance and do something for my mental energy. I had no idea then that I’d continue it, but I found a real joy in pole dancing.”
Six months later, McLauchlan left Brisbane to move to Melbourne, but he and his mother continued to train in their respective cities, sometimes even working out together virtually.
And the duo have now became skilled enough to start competing, with Warrener having taken part in one competition, while her son has a string of second and third place wins under his belt.
Despite gyms and studios remaining closed because of COVID-19, the duo are training three times a week on poles they have in their homes, and taking on other at-home workouts to build strength and stamina.
By sharing their story, the pair hope to dispel myths that pole dancing is the reserve of exotic club dancers and to encourage anybody curious to shake off their inhibitions and give it a go.
“At my age, I don’t think anybody is looking at me as a club dancer, but I hope people out there who have been toying with giving pole a go will decide now to try it for themselves,” Warrener says.
“In a class, you won’t be asked to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, and before long, you will be too focused on mastering moves to notice your nerves.
“It’s the only sport I’ve ever found that never gets boring. You get strong and stay strong – all while having fun. What could be better than that?”
And though McLauchlan admits that being a man in such a female-dominated space can be daunting, he stresses that pole is open to everybody – no matter their size, shape or gender.
“I can understand why men may feel hesitant to try pole-dancing when all the stereotypes say it is either a girly thing or a stripper thing – but really, it’s whatever you want it to be,” he said.
“With other sports, the rules are strict and there’s usually one way of doing things, but with pole, there are unlimited possibilities with moves, tricks and choreography.
“You have the chance to perform to audiences who may never have seen proper pole-dancing in action, and to challenge their perceptions of it.”
Training and performing together has had a positive impact on McLauchlan’s relationship with his mother too.
“Pole dancing has been so bonding for us,” he says. “Throughout my life, mum has done everything she could to give me the best opportunities.
“She’s my biggest cheerleader, and it’s awesome to train together. I push her because I know what she’s capable of, but sometimes I stand back and think, ‘Wow, she’s almost 65 and look what she can do.’”
Follow Mark on Instagram @mark_acrobatpoleguy and www.markcircusartist.com or www.markmclauchlan.com and Robyn at @robyn_pole_puma
Additional reporting PA Real Life.