Hustlers: There’s One Pole Dancing Move Jennifer Lopez Had To Master

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers
(Image credit: (STXFilms))

At this point, it looks like Jennifer Lopez can do just about anything she puts her mind to. The newly 50-year-old pop sensation, actress, producer, fashion designer and entrepreneur was tasked with adding pole dancing to her skill set for Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers. In the film, J.Lo stars as Ramona, a seasoned stripper who is supposed to really know her moves.

When Hustlers pole dance choreographer, Johanna Sapakie trained Jennifer Lopez for her big opening dance number to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”, she had the actress master one particularly advanced move that would have her bottoms up on the pole with only her arms to hold her up. Here’s what Sapakie said:

I wanted to make sure we could get her upside down. We needed to nail this [move] to show that Ramona is a woman who masters this art form.

And it was no easy feat. Johanna Sapakie worked with J. Lo for almost three months on the sequence ahead of the day-long shoot during the last week of Hustler’s filming. Jennifer Lopez had poles installed in her homes in Los Angeles, New York and Miami during the period so she could practice the choreography in her downtime up to the shoot and racked up bruises and a torn shoulder from learning about the athletic art form.

The signature scene was filmed in an actual strip club in Long Island City. However, a rotating pole was placed instead to help the filmmakers for editing purposes. Johanna Sapakie, who has over 20 years of pole dancing experience under her belt, acted as her stand-in for the benefit of the director and cinematographer, before the cameras started rolling and J. Lo performed her big “Criminal” number.

Jennifer Lopez filmed the sequence in one day after performing the 4-minute sequence six to seven times. Sapakie remembers the moment on set with these words to THR:

It was pure enjoyment… It just came naturally and organically because she was so successful at what she was doing. There was a lot of pride in that. It was such a proud coach moment.

Along with Jennifer Lopez’s hard work on Hustlers, the packed female cast including Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart and fellow pop chart queens Cardi B and Lizzo also had to learn how to convincingly play strippers in the movie centering on an actual heist that a group of dancers pulled off on their greedy Wall Street clients.

Hustlers exceeded expectations in its opening weekend with a $33 million debut at the No. 2 slot, under It Chapter Two’s $40 million. It’s Jennifer Lopez’s most successful opening weekend of her career for a live-action movie and the actress is getting early Oscar buzz.

Check out Hustlers in theaters now!

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.