Dance and don’t care

When we boast about our success in dance competitions, we are praised by everybody we know. If we add that our achievement is connected to ‘vertical dancing’, the majority of our friends and family is still proud but with a little bit of confusion. But just try mentioning ‘pole dancing’, you will automatically be disinherited, your friends will cancel your BBQ weekend plans and your grandma will call the exorcist. 

“So, why did you become a stripper? I could lend you some money!” are the words every pole dancing hothead has been getting throughout his pole adventure. Contrary to the common belief, exercising on the pole is not necessarily connected to sexuality. A pole fitness website differentiates between pole dancing and pole fitness, noting that “Pole dancing is a form of entertainment, with the goal to amuse others. There is a misconception that pole fitness is associated with stripping, which definitely is not the case. At Pole Fitness (keyword being fitness) we focus on the true athletic side of working with a pole. We strive for strength (…)”.  Other sources even discredit the critique of pole dance, calling it a form of performance art, which is only historically associated with strip and night clubs.

The body exposure is also not connected to pole dancers’ promiscuity: in order for skin to grip the pole, it is necessary to have legs, arms and stomach exposed. The short pants or skirts are just for the dancers’ safety!

Undoubtedly, pole dancing requires significant strength, flexibility and endurance for even the easiest athletic moves. Learning all the fancy climbs, spins, and body inversions involves nothing sexy: bruises, blood and excoriation are the norm. It is also important to remember that a pole dancer uses her or his limbs and thighs to hold his or her whole weight up in the air. Some people get really discouraged when they see the damage that a regular metal pole can do: for me, however, every bruise is a milestone and is connected to some achievements!

Why would you then even think about taking up pole classes? If it is only sweat, tears and constant criticism, why would you bother? Pole fitness,  practiced in gyms and in dedicated dance studios, has recently gained immense popularity. Those who have already become involved with this form of exercise list many reasons for their enthusiasm.

The most prominent benefit is the physical one. Pole dancing can build muscle with fairly fast results. It also focuses on the so-called “problem areas” like hips, arms or waist and makes it supersexy. Pole dancing involves the work of the entire body which leads to  significant weight loss over several months. It also improves balance, coordination, flexibility and helps prevent such problems as back pain, stiff neck and muscle soreness. What is more, pole dancing promotes blood flow, which makes it a perfect exercise for anyone with a sedentary lifestyle.

Another advantage is emotional expression. While exercising their bodies, pole dancers boost confidence (and the production of endorphins!), learn about sensuality and empower themselves. Whether the emotions filling you are positive or negative, pole dancing relieves pressure and stress. The satisfaction due to mastering a move is incomparable to any other feeling and makes you strictly motivated to develop even more! Just imagine being able to hang upside-down, holding yourself only with your thighs’ skin! And if you are not doing so great? Well, recently I have found a funny meme on the Internet with a chubby girl on a pole, signed “you do not have to be high: you are still higher than those who sit on the couch”. For me, that was one of the most motivating in term of practice words. Now, whenever I fail, I remember this and tell myself that my failure is still an achievement. Moreover, as promised by some pole-related websites, “(…) [the] skills on the pole will translate into real life and you will be able to move with the nimbleness and graciousness of a cat.”.

Pole dancing classes are full of positive, encouraging people who are everything but judgmental. No matter whether you know them or they are complete strangers to you, it is certain that you will soon develop many friendships! You will motivate one another, hold one another up in the air, help with stretching or even practice together on the pole! Many moves require the cooperation of two people and give incredible visual results. Regardless of the fun that I had mastering new complicated moves during pole classes, I had the biggest satisfaction when I discovered how cool duets on a pole can be!

The last benefit from working out on the pole is not the least important but is sometimes hidden in exchange of arguments. After mastering a certain move, one can certainly show it to ones partner in a sexy situation. Pole dancing can be erotic and it absolutely can spice up the atmosphere in the bedroom. Except for showing off the moves, a pole dancer is more confident and open about his or her body and needs. And there is nothing wrong with that!

However, for it to be sexy, a dancer needs some limits in his or her involvement. Irmingard Mayer, a NYC-based pole dance instructor and performer warns that “[o]ur 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.”.

Competitions are not only for amateurs that took up pole classes. There are athletes displaying unfathomable muscular strength and performing serious tricks, synchronising them with music and making jaw-dropping performances. Why not make it an Olympic discipline? Some conservatives might say that this would be too much but there is growing support for the idea worldwide, especially from the Russians and Chinese. It actually will probably be a trial sport in 2020, after the debate whether to treat it as a gymnastic discipline or as a sport on its own is solved.

Another interesting fact connected to pole dancing is that it attracts not only women. The number of men pole dancing continues to grow every year. Pole competitions have special men’s divisions and almost every pole class has at least one man in it. It is usually quite shocking when a man who was a permanent member of a strip club discovers how physically demanding it is to gyrate around a metal pole. This usually motivates them to work on their bodies as well. However, the greatest impact on the popularity of vertical dancing among men is the Hollywood actor Jude Law, who admitted attending pole dancing to get in shape for his newest role in “Closer”. One of the most famous male pole dancing activist is Travis Scott, better known as “That Pole Guy”. He is a pole fitness instructor, presenting new routines for his students and performing in competitions… In high heels!

Pole dancing has also taken some extraordinary forms, mostly to show the sceptics its advantages and the happiness and positive way of thinking it brings. One of these forms is using the street signs’ poles to practice. Young men and women go out on the streets of big cities, choose the most crowded junctions with heavy road traffic and entertain drivers in traffic jams with extraordinary poses.

Are you persuaded to try by yourself? Do you feel the hype? That is good! You can either take classes with a professional instructor or buy your own pole and install it at home. I would say the beginning should be experienced with professionals: pole dancing can be dangerous and the adventure might end quickly and unpleasantly in a hospital or even on a wheelchair. Once you know how to grip, swing and hold yourself up during a certain move, you can try it out at home, work on your posture or point your fingers. Nevertheless, every new move should be learnt under the watchful eye of a professional.

Nothing comes easy, especially not the pole fitness skills. But the happiness of continuous achievements, a sense of self-fulfillment, new friendships and many more proves it worth! Open your internet browser, find the nearest pole dancing school and check it yourself! And do not care about other people’s opinions: be proud of yourself and dance! I can guarantee you that poles on means of public transport will become strangely attractive and tempting and will no longer be just to secure passengers from falling over: I can feel it every time!

Kasia W.

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