Pole dance is a form of performing art, historically associated with strip clubs and night clubs, which combines dance and acrobatics centered on a vertical pole. This art form has recently gained popularity as a form of fitness and mainstream entertainment, practised by many enthusiasts in gyms and in dedicated dance studios. Amateur and professional pole dancing competitions are held in many countries around the world.
Since the mid 2000s, promoters of pole dance fitness competitions have been trying to change peoples’ perception of pole dance and to promote it as a non-sexual form of dance and acrobatics.
Pole dance requires significant strength, flexibility and endurance. Pole dance proper involves athletic moves such as climbs, spins, and body inversions using the limbs to grip. Upper body and core strength are required to attain proficiency, and rigorous training is necessary.
The use of pole for sports and exercise has been traced back at least eight hundred years to the traditional Indian sport of mallakhamb, which utilizes principles of endurance and strength using a wooden pole, wider in diameter than a modern standard pole. The Chinese pole, originating in India, uses two poles on which men would perform “gravity defying tricks” as they leap from pole to pole, at approximately twenty feet in the air, further information can be seen in the old vintage documentary series of mallakhamb, by yasho purush film on YouTube.
In the 1920s, traveling circuses and sideshows would utilize pole dancing with a pole in the middle of a tent. Eventually the pole dancing moved from tents to bars, and combined with burlesque dance. The earliest recorded pole dance was in 1968 with a performance by Belle Jangles at Mugwump Strip Club in Oregon. Since the 1980s, the art of pole dancing has increasingly been incorporated into striptease routines, and Go-Go or lap dancing, first in Canada and then in the United States. In the 1990s, pole dancing commenced to be taught as an art by Fawnia Mondey, a Canadian who moved to Las Vegas, USA. She created the first pole training video to use in fitness exercises. Since then, pole dancing classes have become a popular form of recreational and competitive sport. K.T. Coates, a famed competitive pole dancer, and the International Pole Sport Federation, are currently promoting a campaign to include competitive pole dance in the Olympics in 2016. Numerous competitions exist, including the World Pole Sport Championship, U.S. Pole Federation Championship, and the International Pole Masters Cup Championship.
The standard dance pole typically consists of a hollow steel or brass pole with a circular cross section, running from floor to ceiling. Affixing at the ceiling gives more stability, but is not always realized, especially at night clubs with higher ceilings or at transportable devices. In the United States, the diameter is usually 50mm (2 inches), or the now more popular 45mm (1.75 inches), allowing it to be gripped comfortably with one hand. In Asia, the diameter is usually 45mm or less.
There are a variety of different dance pole types to suit different performance situations. Dance poles can be permanent or portable, be different sizes, have spinning and/or static modes and they have different coatings or made from different materials.
Dance poles that are permanent are fixed to the ceiling supported by a beam located the roof and they are fixated to the floor by different brackets and bearings. The way poles are fixed to the ceiling and the floor varies by which pole brand is purchased. Portable poles are attached to a base or a portable stage and do not need to be attached to the ceiling. These poles can easily be removed, dismantled and transported into cases to different locations.
Poles come in a variety of diameters - 50mm, 45mm and 40mm. Diameters normally depend on personal preferences and what the pole will be used for e.g. competitions or studio use.
Dance poles have two different modes, spinning and static. The spinning mode is when the pole uses ball bearings to spin. This mode can be used to complete more experienced pole moves, make moves easier to complete and to add a more dramatic effect to the move. Most spinning poles can be fixed to static too. The static mode is when the pole cannot rotate and is in a fixed position. The static mode is regularly used when pole dancing is first taught as beginners have little confidence.
Poles come in a variety of materials and coatings where each material possesses its own properties, advantages and disadvantages. The materials poles are made of are brass, titanium – gold, stainless steel and chrome. The brass and titanium – gold poles are gold in colour and are used to enhance the grip between the pole and the dancer, these poles are normally used by more advanced dancers. The stainless steel poles aren’t as popular as the other types as they do not have the finest grip however, they are used by dancers who have sensitive skin. The chrome poles are silver in colour and are most popular amongst beginners. The finishes some dance poles may possess are silicone sleeves and powder coatings. Silicone sleeves can provide maximum grip, however, there are safety precautions dancers must take and consider before using silicone sleeves. These measures can include a great amount of clothing to be worn by the dancer and only static moves can be performed. Poles that are coated in power can provide the best friction and maximum grip for dancers.
Products such as chalk, "Dry Hands" or "iTac" may be used to help "stick" to the pole.
There are now poles available for use in clubs that provide visual effects. These poles are made with clear plastics and contain water, glitter, and special reflective materials which stand out when used in conjunction with strobe lighting, as well as lighting hidden in their base joists. However, these poles are not favorable to a dancer wanting to achieve better pole tricks, as they bend slightly and have a tendency to create a friction burn when slid down with any sort of speed.
Pole Dance as Exercise
Pole dancing has gained popularity as a form of exercise with increased awareness of the benefits to general strength and fitness. These forms of exercise increases core and general body strength by using the body itself as resistance, while toning the body as a whole. A typical pole dance exercise regimen in class begins with strength training, dance-based moves, squats, push-ups, and sit-ups and gradually works its way up to the spins, climbs and inversions which are the métier of the exercise. Pole dancing is also generally reported by its schools to be empowering for women in terms of building self-confidence, in terms of which its erotic components are still the subject of some controversy. Some feminists argue that sexualized dancing of this kind cannot be seen as empowering because the choice to participate is not made in freedom from constraining power structures, especially given the performative aspect of many classes.
A growing number of men are incorporating pole dancing into their fitness programmes. In Australia, the UK and the US, dance studios are beginning to offer classes just for men. And in China, 2007's National Pole Dancing competition was won by a man. Dance instructor Zhang Peng, 23, beat a host of women dancers to the top prize.
Recreational Pole For Women
Since 2003, pole dancing has been transitioning from an exotic performance to a recreational activity. Pole dancing as a sport differs from pole dancing as a recreation as recreational pole dancing is undertaken mainly for enjoyment rather than fitness. Recreational pole dancing can be seen as empowering to women as it can make women feel positively about themselves. This is because pole dancing builds confidence, power and is a way to express one’s self. When pole dancing is undertaken for enjoyment the idea of an exotic performance specifically for men is enhanced. Whilst undertaking pole class women will learn a variety of different ways to use the pole to execute spins, tricks, climbs and hangs. It is common knowledge that as the pole level increases, so does the difficulty.
Pole Dance Competitions
Pole dance competitions began in the United States with the Deja Vu chain of strip clubs in 1991 with an event called the Po'Lympics which was held annually throughout the decade. These competitions led to the creation of numerous other competitions that followed, both in the strip club industry and fitness.
A wide range of amateur and professional competitions are held in many countries around the world. They are strictly non-nude and focus on pole dance as an athletic and artistic form of dance and fitness. The first "Miss Pole Dance World" competition was held in November 2005 in Amsterdam and Elena Gibson from the UK won the championship. The following day Elena was disqualified by the organizer John Benner amongst much controversy and the title went to the runner up Reiko Suemune from Japan.
A group of advocates even pushed for pole dance to be represented as a test event in the 2012 London Olympics. However, since this is a relatively new trend, there is no standardized scoring for competitions and technique descriptions vary among clubs in different regions.
In Australia, In 2005, the “Miss Pole Dance Australia” competition commenced. The latest competition winner was Carlie Hunter from South Australia, who took home the championship title in 2016. The next championship will be for Miss Pole Dance Australia 2017 will be located in Sydney on the 12th of November 2016.
The Australian “Mr Pole Dance” competition commenced in 2013. The latest competition winner was Adam Lin from Australia in 2016. This competition is the only male pole competition in the world, however, “Mr Pole Dance America” is soon to commence its first competition from the 4th to the 6th of November in Massachusetts.
The “Double Vision” Pole Championships in Australia are the only doubles pole competition in the world which can feature female, male and mixed pairs. The latest competition was held in 2016 where an all-female pair Narelle and Charlie took home the championship.
The first US Pole Dance Federation (USPDF) Championship was held on March 19, 2009, first place was taken by Jenyne Butterfly. The 2010 winner of "Miss Pole Dance Canada" was Crystal Lai, who went on to win the People's Choice Award at the worlds.
World Pole Sport & Fitness 2009 (World Pole Dance) is a competition opened to all nationalities and all continents. The 2009 event in Jamaica was won by Cane, and she successfully defended her title in the 2010 Swiss event. For 2011 the event took place in Budapest and was won by Belarusian Alesia Vazmitsel.
Pole dance in the media
Pole dancing, which has been featured on Desperate Housewives and The View, like other exercise trends has its share of celebrity following. Jennifer Love Hewitt had a short pole dancing stint in an episode of "Ghost Whisperer". Actress Sheila Kelley was so taken with the sport, which she learned whilst preparing for her role in Dancing at the Blue Iguana, that she launched her own pole-based exercise programme.
Taiwanese pop singer Jolin Tsai showed her pole dancing skills in the music videos of "Agent J" and "Beast". She also gave a double pole-dancing live performance during her Myself World Tour in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Pole dance is also the main subject of a popular webcomic titled, "Pole Dancing Adventures" created by artist, Leen Isabel.
In the video game Bayonetta, the titular character use pole dancing in means to advance to the next area or combat her foes. In the ending credit to the game, she is seen dancing on the pole. If you get a platinum award, you'll hear her say "I should have been a pole dancer".
Pole dancing has been incorporated in the performances of some K-Pop Idols. Ga-In of the Brown Eyed Girls included a few shots of her pole dancing in the music video of her 2012 solo single 피어나 (Bloom). Girl group After School used pole dancing extensively as part of the dance routine for their 2013 song 첫사랑 (First Love).
In 2015, Celebrity Health & Fitness magazine reported "royal bodyguards" as saying that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge took pole dancing lessons to lose weight after giving birth to Prince George in 2013.
In 2016, Daily Dot ran a story which covered the attempt by some pole dancers to distance themselves from strippers, with their story "Strippers Talk Back to the hashtag #Notastripper". The story utilized the hashtag "yes a stripper" in support of the origins of pole dance. On the social media platform Instagram, some pole dancers try to differentiate between their exercise method, and the origin of the method, by using "not a stripper" as a hashtag. The hashtag can be viewed as derogatory, and pole dancing strippers utilize "yes a stripper" as a defense against the denigration of their style of dance, which is created and used in strip clubs.
Males in Pole Dance Competitions
Although mostly associated with fitness classes for women, pole dance or pole sport has been gaining popularity among males and many competitions include a male division, including the highly prestigious PoleArt and World Pole Sports Championship.
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