How pole dancing turned Allan Reinikka into a TikTok sensation and united him with his Finnish family – ABC News

How pole dancing turned Allan Reinikka into a TikTok sensation and united him with his Finnish family
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When newspaper photographer Allan Reinikka was sent to cover a local pole-dancing studio, little did he know what life would have in store 11 years later.
The 61-year-old Rockhampton man is not shy of adventure — he's tried his hand at roller derby and mountain bikes on adrenaline-inducing trails — so his interest was piqued.
"There, girls used to say, 'Have a go'. Eventually I crumbled and booked a class, and I haven't stopped since," Mr Reinikka said.
It's the combination of strength, flexibility and determination that has him hooked.
And there's a little element of fear.
"Some of it when you're learning is downright scary. When you fall off, it's a long way to the ground, and if you're upside down, your face is the closest thing to the floor," he laughed.
Pole dancing — or pole fitness — attracts people from all walks of life, and there was more to it than "high heels and stripping", Mr Reinikka said.
"That is one aspect of it, but for the majority of people, it's an athletic thing; if you turn the pole that way [horizontally], we'd all be gymnasts, and nobody would have a problem with us."
The secret is skin. You need lots of it exposed to grip the pole, and this only adds to the stereotype.
For him, it is a great work-out and it beats going to the gym.
"One of the good parts of pole is that a lot of people have body issues when they start, but soon they think, 'My body's a pretty cool thing. I can do good stuff and who cares what it looks like,'" he said.
It is one thing to love the sport, and another to perform in public.
"We have been trying to get him to do a routine of some sort for years, and every year he'd come up with another excuse," teacher Tamara Mackenzie said.
Ms Mackenzie, whom Mr Reinikka photographed all those years ago, has been running Full Metal, an airy pole-dancing studio that sits above the main street of Rockhampton's CBD.
When Mr Reinikka was approached by a national talent show to appear on television, "my jaw dropped to the ground" and she was not going to let him escape.
"I thought, 'This is fantastic,'" she said.
In October, Mr Reinikka – clad in tiny shorts and a singlet – walked onto the stage to snickers from the crowd.
But after his 90-second performance on the pole, he received a standing ovation and one of the judges even stripped down to his jocks to give it a go.
"When I was walking out on stage, I knew they weren't expecting to see me," Mr Reinikka recalled.
"Then everybody got behind it."
Ms Mackenzie, who accompanied the reluctant star to the competition and waited in the wings, couldn't be prouder.
"Just seeing him nail everything that we had spent six weeks perfecting, it was very, very emotional," she said.
Life has taken a sharp turn since that whirlwind 24 hours in which he flew from his home in central Queensland to Sydney.
"The TikTok is crazy," said Mr Reinikka, who is still trying to work out how the social-media platform works.
"There's one clip on there, and it's now at 7.3 million views in about four or five weeks."
It's a clip of Mr Reinikka mucking around in a lesson where he "just climbed on the pole, did a move and somebody took the video".
Mr Reinikka's appearance on national television also resulted in another pleasant surprise.
He's reunited with family in Finland, where his grandparents emigrated from in the 1920s.
"A reporter over there did a quick interview on the internet and it made it into their biggest newspaper, and then I had a few people contact me saying, 'I think we could be related.'"
It's a small world.
Since the competition, Mr Reinikka has received "mild celebrity status", Ms Mackenzie said.
Some newbies to her classes have asked in whispered tones whether he was "that guy", followed by excitement when it's confirmed.
"But we've always thought him to be a legend here, even from the first time when he took my very first photo shoot, and from there we literally got him on the pole, and he's been hooked ever since," she said.
And he's not the only bloke in the class – there are six other men who have joined the women from all walks of life to take up pole fitness.
"Some people want to compete, some people want to perform, some people want to get fit, and some people just want to have fun," Ms Mackenzie said.
As for Mr Reinikka, he's still trying to get the hang of TikTok and is in talks with people overseas about doing some public routines.
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