By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung

POLE dancers show off their AQUA-batic skills as they run through their routines underwater

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Videographer / director: Brett Stanley
Producer: Crystal Chung, Nick Johnson
Editor: Sonia Estal

Brett wanted to capture pole dancing as a beautiful sport not just an erotic performance

Professional photographer Brett Stanley, 40, set out to capture the grace of the dancers' moves when taken out of the context of a strip club.

The elegant images feature a mixture of amateur pole dancers and novices keen on grappling with the logistical challenges of pole dancing underwater.  

The models used for the shoot are a mix of amateur performers and private people who loved the idea of the underwater shoot

Brett, who is based in Los Angeles, said: “Whilst working as a professional photographer I had been photographing dancers and aerialists and I started to wonder how beautiful it would look to shoot this underwater.

He said: “I asked a friend, who is also an amazing aerialist using chains, if she would work with me on a test. 

Shot over a few months, Brett worked with the dancers to create the series, teaching them how to hold their breath underwater

"Whilst the results were amazing, we did run in to a few problems so it was a massive learning experience. 

“I then expanded the idea to pole dancers, as a way of showing it as a beautiful sport, not just an erotic performance.”

One of the dancers, April Stanley, 42, from San Diego agreed to take part in the shoot for that reason.

She said: “I do it because I want to get rid of that stigma that everybody has about pole dancing that it’s from clubs and all that. I love it because it’s beautiful and athletic and artistic.”

Brett also collaborates with the dancers on which poses look the best
The Los Angeles based snapper wanted to showcase how difficult it is to pole dance underwater

The pole dancers were a mix of amateurs and professionals. April is an account executive who teaches pole dancing in the evening.

She said: “I’m a water baby: I’m a surfer, I love the ocean and I also pole dance so why not combine these two loves together?

Not all of the dancers were keen swimmers though.

Stanley said: "Everything is much more difficult under the water, from communication to lighting, it's just harder"

Brett said: "A few of the dancers couldn't even swim, so I was really in awe of their dedication.”

Professional pole dancer Anastasia Skukhtorova, from Moscow, admits she was afraid of the water but thought the project was too beautiful to turn down.

She said: “I didn’t swim for many, many years and I’m really afraid of the water but I wanted to do this shoot because the pictures I’d seen before were so beautiful.”

A typical shoot lasts around an hour per model, although Brett's record for the longest time spent in the water is 10 hours

‘The most difficult thing about pole dancing underwater is definitely that you can’t breathe! You need to hold your breath when you go under the water to make all these poses.”

“But under the water it’s much easier to do all the tricks. When you’re out of the water you need to be really strong but under the water it holds you and helps you.”

Brett said: "A few of the dancers couldn't even swim, so I was in awe of their dedication"
The photoshoot takes three times as long to get the shots than a dry shoot would

Australia-born Brett has been diving since he was sixteen-years-old and as he got older he decided to merge his two hobbies together.

“I wanted to take my cinematic style and see if it would work under the water and it did - I was hooked,” he added.

Shot over a few months, Brett worked with the dancers to create the series, teaching them how to hold their breath under the water and collaborating on which poses worked best.

The models and the photographer don't use any scuba gear, instead shooting for one breath and coming up for air

He said: “I stay under the water as long as the model can.

"We don't use any breathing apparatus like scuba gear as I find it more cumbersome than just free diving, so we shoot for one breath and then come up and talk about what we need to change or do better.

“I can hold my breath for over sixty seconds generally, which is usually long enough to get the shots, but I did have three amazing models from Japan who could stay down for three times that long. I tried to keep up and it nearly killed me!

“A typical shoot lasts around an hour per model, although my record for the longest time spent in the water is 10 hours non-stop.”

To see more of Brett’s incredible photography, visit his website at: www.underwater-photographer.com