FROM strip clubs to sports arenas, pole dancing has come a long way from its less-than-high-brow roots. Amanda Yap gets to know the dance as both a sport and an art form.
It’s difficult to believe up until a few years ago, pole dancing could only be found in strip clubs, and hence, was stigmatised as something that was highly sexual.
Now, the dance seems to have evolved into an art form of sorts. Just look at award-winning show Polecats, which stylishly combines elements of physical theatre, burlesque cabaret and pole-dancing into a visual spectacle.
But even this show found its roots in a strip club.
Polecats creator and artistic director, Cathy Adamek, was inspired to reinterpret pole dancing after watching a strip show.
“Because it was sort of associated with strip, [pole dancing] kind of hasn’t been recognised,” she says.
I saw this pure art form and the artistic and physical potential for it to be developed, but also how much fun it looked as well.”
In recent years, pole dancing has become well-known among women as a highly respectable fitness activity as well. In fact, Cathy even describes it as an “extreme sport”.
“You have to develop your upper-body strength first, and your core,” she explains.
Pole Divas Marketing Manager, and regular pole dancer, Ceri Kidby-Salom, further elaborates that arm strength, upper-body strength, and abdominal muscles are required so you can hold your body away from the pole, flip upside down, or even hold yourself out sideways.
“It includes an all-over body workout, and many pole dancers personally train for many hours a week in addition to teaching classes, meaning that they may be on a pole for 15 to 20 hours per week,” she says.
Because of the strength, flexibility, and endurance involved in pole dancing, there has even been a push for it to become an Olympic sport.
Yet Ceri maintains “it’s a performance art as well as a sport – more like circus and other aerial arts”.
“It’s about music and costumes and shoes (or no shoes!),” she says.
Ceri notes that pole dancing students wear short shorts and crop tops, and can feel self-conscious about baring that much skin.
But “there’s something still innately sexy about it, without the sleaze factor, and it really inspires confidence and positive body image”.
Ceri also agrees pole dancing, over the last 10 years, has been reappropriated by women for female self-empowerment.
There’s as much pleasure gained by performing and doing it, and the challenge involved in doing it yourself, and women become both practitioners and spectators of the sport.”
She says most of the audiences at pole dancing competitions are – perhaps surprisingly – women.
In fact, many pole dancing studios in Australia hold pole dancing classes which are strictly for women only, creating a friendly, encouraging environment, and not the traditional “muscle-men rooms that gyms often are”.
“It’s really important for women to have a safe space that they feel comfortable in without thinking about men being in the room for things like this,” says Ceri.
Have you ever had a go at pole dancing at your gym or dance centre? What did you think?