I started pole dancing after I saw it at a live event in New York City. The women mystified me with their grace, strength and sensuality. I wanted to learn how to move like them. I was convinced it wouldn't be too difficult to learn since I was in relatively good shape. I was proven wrong after my first class, however. Every muscle in my body ached for days.
I was inspired to get better and keep learning. I first hid my hobby from friends and family, but as it slowly became a bigger part of my life, I felt less need to hide it and more desire to share it with the world. Read on to discover the 11 things I wish more people knew about this fitness form.
1. Most pole dancers, regardless of age, are in the best shape of their lives.
Pole dancing is a full-body workout. It is resistance training and cardio in one. Flexibility is improved as well. Pole dancers perform acrobatic tricks either suspending their weight or propelling it around a metal pole. The simple act of climbing a pole is an incredible display of strength. It is no surprise, then, that most pole dancers insist they have never looked or felt better. Natasha Wang is a world champion pole dancer who didn’t even start until age 29. Greta Pontarelli is a champion pole dancer at age 63—and she only began a few years ago.
2. There are many different types of pole dancing.
When most people think of "pole dancing," they tend to think of the kind performed in strip clubs. While the sexy side is still very present, there are actually three main branches of pole dancing: sport, art, and sexy.
3. Some are pushing for pole to become an Olympic event.
These are the serious athletes performing death-defying tricks and displaying unfathomable muscular strength. Then there are also those who embrace the artistic side pole has to offer. The simplicity of a vertical apparatus is appealing in that so much can be created and so many stories can be told. Many of these dancers perform barefoot and have been known to incorporate modern dance, props and costumes into their routines. Finally the sexy side of pole is still practiced by many. These dancers usually wear heels. And although there is some debate within the community about which direction pole is heading, all three forms flourish, and many pole dancers enjoy all styles. There is something for everyone.
4. You need your skin exposed to grip the pole.
I am still surprised that people don't understand this concept. In order for skin to grip the pole, pole dancers must have their legs, arms and stomach exposed. This is a safety concern. There are some grounded spins, poses, and floor work that can be performed while wearing pants. But in order to perform more advanced moves, we must have the proper amount of skin exposure. Most pole dancers do not have an issue with this at all, since our focus turns away from what our bodies look like and onto what they can do.
5. It can be dangerous without proper training.
Although pole dancing is fun, it is still a serious athletic endeavor that should not be taken lightly. Some people do not realize how challenging it is when first starting. In addition to the bruises, pole dancers can experience shoulder and/or back pain with improper technique or overtraining.
Some people don't learn from from certified instructors and instead try to figure it out with an improperly installed home pole and a YouTube instructional, which is a recipe for disaster. Some people can be too eager to flip upside down. This can be especially dangerous and can lead to head or spinal cord injury. This caution isn’t meant to scare away hopefuls, but rather to encourage everyone to go through gradually progressive training.
6. Men can (and do!) pole dance.
The number of men pole dancing continues to grow every year. There are men’s divisions in competitions now, and I usually have at least one man in all the classes I take or teach. Men’s natural inclination toward upper body strength makes them ideal candidates for the sport. There are many ancient forms of pole dancing such as Chinese pole and Mallakhamb, which have been performed throughout history and almost exclusively by men.
7. “Not having upper body strength” is not an excuse to not try it.
This is quite possibly the most irritating argument I hear against wanting to try pole dancing. There will always be hundreds of reasons not to try. Maybe you aren’t at your ideal weight, or you have two left feet, or you think you're too old. Why not stop creating roadblocks? You'll build skills as you grow and learn. That is part of what's so inspiring and empowering about it.
Whether you’re uncoordinated and can’t lift your own body weight or you're an athlete with gymnastic capabilities, there is always a new trick or transition to learn with pole dancing. The process of growth never ends and the possibilities can be as creative as your imagination allows them to be.
8. Even though pole dancing is growing in popularity, we still can be judged.
Despite progress in the public’s understanding of what we do, many of us still fight stereotypes. Some of pole dancing’s loudest critics have never tried it themselves. Just last year, Marina Heck, a schoolteacher, was forced to resign from her position following controversy that she is a pole dancer. Even if what we are doing is completely athletic and far removed from the type of pole dancing performed in strip clubs, we still need to explain ourselves. Many times when revealing to strangers what it is I do, I find myself hesitating because I don’t feel like justifying my passion to a skeptic.
9. It’s not always so sexy. (And our significant others don't get free shows all the time.)
Don’t get me wrong; Pole dancing can be very sexy. But it is not always as overtly sexual as people may believe. We end up with bruises, burns and scrapes from trying new moves. And although we may wear sports bras and tiny shorts when performing, we opt for comfort over fashion in between training sessions.
Our partners soon become all too familiar with pole dancing. We bring them to competitions, we send them videos, we practice the latest tricks at home, we talk about which grip aids work best. Many spouses are affectionately referred to as “pole husbands.” They are supportive. But do they feel forbidden allure? Not so much.
10. The community is very tight-knit.
Because what we do is still considered taboo by many, there is a unique closeness that bonds us together. There are pole dancers of all professions, ethnicities, religions, cultures, sizes, and ages. I have friends all over the world because of pole dancing. I have friends who have been able to travel the world because of it. We support each other through learning new moves. We share each other’s videos. We watch each other perform. This shared interest bonds us with a special understanding.
11. Pole dancing is emotionally healing.
This is one of the biggest reasons I've stuck with pole dancing as long as I have. The physical benefits are great, but the feeling you get from mastering a move or expressing a particular emotion is indescribable. Just the other day, I assisted a student in her first climb. It was a huge deal for her and the expression of joy on her face reminded me why I do what I do.
You can dance out any emotion in class, whether joyful, angry or sad. The combination of athletic skill and artistic influence makes it incomparable to any other form of dance or sport. To me, it is both dance and sport woven together into one beautiful, athletic art form.