With recent promotional through the Superbowl Halftime show, pole dancing has been thrust into regular homes on a greater scale than ever before. The pole dancing world itself has moved through some significant changes over the last 30+ years, with the last 10 ensuring heavy expansion and recognition across various mediums. Once only the professional club dancer would be found throwing themselves around a static, 50mm steel pole, but such days are almost a distant memory as anyone over the age of 16 can find themselves being taught how to make pretty shapes on a metal pole, and without having to hike to the city’s club district.
Poles generally range from 38 to 50mm in diameter, come in a variety of materials (chrome, stainless steel, brass, silicone and powder coating), and are generally adjustable from static to spin. Yep, that’s right! Sorry to bust your bubble, but club poles these days are self-spinning. New pole technology means some poles can change with a quick flick of a switch from static to spin – perfect for changing styles mid-performance, and there are LED poles (like seen in the JLo performance).
Now, unfortunately, in the pole community there still lies a great divide between recreational/hobbyists and professional club dancers, with some feeling it necessary to adamantly distinguish themselves from the other. This has almost always been the case with anything vaguely related to the adult industry, but it is certainly an underlying issue in some polers’ minds. Sadly, it has caused an unnecessary rift and furthered isolation for professional dancers. Having said that though, there are still plenty out there however that have long since blurred the line; taking their professional stripping career to the recreational market and successfully setting up their own studio, competition career, and/or clothing company for it. While it seems important to a few to define their poling as pole fitness, you will find the pole community is a vast and varied pool of people, with all genders, ages, abilities and backgrounds blended together eager to nail the next move, and further develop their strength and flexibility.
- AGE IS NOT A FACTOR – There’s no age restrictions on recreational pole, although most studios will only allow people over the age of 16 to enter adult classes, and clubs are bound by the law with 18+ being the absolute earliest you can start training/working.
I, personally, have taught a wide variety of ages in pole – literally from 16 up, and I have known dancers of all ages and backgrounds, although most have moved into teaching, professional competing (yes, there are international comps), or have retired in their 30’s only to return later in life. Pole can be a little addictive in its skill, strength, and confidence building. When you find a studio or club that you like, the other dancers are like a second family and the relationships developed there can withstand a large passage of time.
- STRENGTH IS EARNED – Most don’t start recreational, or even club poling, strong. Yes, in the club scene there is a general aesthetic standard that needs to be met, in recreational pole there is absolutely no pre-requisite to begin (only to move up levels). So if you are feeling like you possess noodle-arms and certainly do not have the capabilities to pole dance, don’t stop before you start! All polers started somewhere and MOST will have started where you are at now. (When I first started poling, I had thigh strength for days, but my arms were glorified sticks). Strength is gained progressively over time, the more classes you attend as a student, or more shifts you work as a professional, the more strength you will develop allowing for easier progression into more advanced moves, or greater stamina, or even easier transitions between moves when lacing together a beautiful combo.
Professional poles have very high weight/force ratings. The thinner ones will flex more, as will grid mounted poles, but ultimately professional poles are designed to withstand multiple users, over extended time periods doing insane flips, spins and tricks.
- SKIN – We have all seen pole dancers prance around in their almost-nothings (or in the case of some clubs, just nothings) and most have assumed this to be only stripper related. I mean, more skin more money right?! To physically grip the pole you have to use skin-to-pole contact. The friction generated stops you from sliding off, and assists the muscles clamping on to the pole to grip appropriately. In a studio environment, most start off with minimal skin showing – nerves and all that, but as you progress through levels, the move the coverings will lessen and soon wearing a bikini when performing will not even draw a second blink. If you are just starting out, turning up in bike shorts and singlet top is perfectly fine, but keep in mind your instructor might have their ass out (this is the case in my classes).I should take this moment to mention grip aides. If you are new to pole you likely have minimal grip strength in your hands. When starting out, it is commonplace to utilise grip aids (such as liquid chalk, etc.) to aide in preventing sweat interfering with skin contact, or until your hand/finger strength is strong enough to overcome any slip. In a club scene, this is not even an option, so please keep that in mind (Botox can be an option for excessive sweating and there are exercises out there for the development of hand/finger strength). There are plenty of brands and types of grip aides, it is super important to know that they are not all the same and some may not be allowed at certain studios for how they might damage the pole surface.
- IT’S NOT A COMPETITION – Unless you are dancing in a club for client attention, or competing in one of the thousands of competitions happening worldwide, pole dancing isn’t designed as a competitive sport. It is human nature to get competitive to some degree, but you can get more from recreational pole dancing if you check the ego at the door, and get real comfortable with your body and your progress.
- THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS – Pole dancing is no longer restrictive to only exotic styles. That definitely does not mean you can’t learn exotic styles or routines in a studio environment, studios often host courses/workshops for chair dances, stripteases and varied exotic styles (including Burlesque – a pet favourite). Professional ballerinas have made the move to pole dancing, adding highly posed elegant elements, extreme flexibility/strength and offering other options for pole dancing styles. There are Russian gymnasts (both male and female) that train in pole, and have created their own takes on a vast variety of styles. There’s famous burlesque performers and Pinup models that incorporate pole into shows, and many aerial artists that have made the move from trapeze, circus performances and the like to expand their skill set, into pole dancing. You can pole dance for fitness or for fun… to learn something you never thought you could do, or to spice up your sex life. It might be the beginning of a long and prosperous career or something you just do to relax, or be social.
Autumn is a consultant at the Oh Zone Stores.