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How Jennifer Lopez Trained To Pole Dance In ‘Hustlers’ | Movies Insider

Seeing Jennifer Lopez performing the role of a dancer in a movie may not seem that surprising. She’s known for her moves. But knowing how to dance and knowing how to do this are two very different things. Turns out, even J-Lo needed some help to get ready to assume her role as an experienced pole
dancer in “Hustlers.” That’s where 10-year
veteran of Cirque du Soleil Johanna Sapakie comes in. Johanna Sapakie: By the time
we were done working together, even though it was just
a short period of time, she’s throwing out these moves without even thinking about it anymore. Narrator: So how did Sapakie
get Lopez to the point where she was doing upside-down
splits in just two months? Lopez took her training so seriously that she moved a portable pole
into each one of her houses in New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami, so that she could continue to practice wherever she happened to
be living at the time. While Lopez was already
in fantastic shape, pole dancing requires
certain muscle groups to be extraordinarily strong. And because there are no
body doubles in the film, she had to do everything herself. So, to get her ready for the role, Sapakie first made sure that Lopez was exercising the muscle
groups that she’d need to pole dance like a pro. Lopez worked with her personal trainer to strengthen her core and upper body. She had to make sure that
she was strong enough to perform certain moves, like the inverted splits, where she’s supporting
her entire body weight with just her arms and shoulders. As Lopez continued to
strengthen her body in the gym, she also began her
pole-dancing training sessions with Sapakie. Sapakie says that each training session always started with stretching. It’s important to loosen the
spine, shoulders, and hips in order to provide a
wider range of motion for the undulating movements that are essential to pole dancing. After stretching, Sapakie
slowly introduced Lopez to the principles of pole dancing, such as basic spins and climbing. Sapakie: When we started, you
know, the trainings are slow. You do one movement at a time. You rest in between. If you’re not used to a lot of rotation, getting the feeling of
spinning around the pole takes a little bit of practice. There’s a lot of
conversation about, you know, how to do the movement and what the movement is. Narrator: Sapakie also emphasized improving Lopez’s pole-dancing endurance. She knew Lopez was going to have to do her pole-dancing scenes
over and over and over again throughout the day when they were filming. Especially because her main routine was a full four minutes long. Sapakie: You’re not just
doing one trick at a time. You’re linking things together into, you know, two, three,
four minutes’ worth of movement. She’s doing takes from different
angles over and over again, and she has to nail it every single time. Narrator: Because Sapakie
also choreographed all of the pole-dancing
scenes in “Hustlers,” she knew exactly what moves Lopez was going to have
to perform for the film. There were several
particularly difficult moves in the choreography, but Sapakie was confident
in Lopez’s abilities. Sapakie: There’s one where
she actually wraps her legs around the pole and just
squeezes with her inner thighs, and that’s all that
she’s using to hold on. And that definitely took some practice because you really have to
engage those inner-thigh muscles in order to hold yourself on the pole. So that’s not one that came on day one. We definitely had to work up to that in order to gain that
feeling and that strength. Narrator: Once Lopez
started to get confident with her pole dancing, the last thing for her to master was flipping upside down. Sapakie: You wanna make
sure that physically you’re really capable
before you’re inverting. It takes a lot of core strength, it takes a lot of grip strength, and it takes a lot of upper-body strength to physically pull yourself up and then maintain that position safely. Narrator: When Lopez was
first learning the move, Sapakie would provide a spot for her, making sure she was safe as she tried to master the movement. But it wasn’t too long before she was able to do it on her own. Sapakie: She really became
comfortable with it quickly because of her work ethic and
because she was so diligent and determined to get it right. She was able to achieve
her goal by the end, which was turning upside down and ultimately looking
like she’s been doing this her whole life. And that was really exciting
to see and really satisfying.


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