So first and foremost let me put it out there that this was probably one of the last things I ever expected myself to do, yet probably the most fun I have ever had! I also think it is super important to fully understand what pole dancing entails and develop a perspective of this practice as a sport and less so as the stigmatised strip club variation that first comes to mind.
This 800yr old art first emerged in India as the sport of ‘mallakhamb’, utilised to demonstrate endurance and strength whilst performing on a wooden pole. This manifested in China as ‘Chinese pole’, which involved leaping back forth from two poles at a dangerous height above the ground. When the art took to America, belly dancing performers used pole dancing within traveling sideshows whilst cloaked in bedazzled corsets, short skirts and adorned in jewellery to attract the crowds. Soon after, pole erupted in the world of burlesque as a more sensual performance, but still incorporating as many climbs, inversions and spins to demonstrate athletic ability.
Today, there are multiple forms of pole which are practiced in a multitude of settings; Pole sport (or fitness pole) is a variation of the art which primarily focuses on the precision and execution of moves and stunts which demand years of conditioning to master. Artistic pole requires a lot of creativity and is described as a somewhat storytelling performance, the same manner as contemporary dance or other expressive forms of performance. And last but not least, Exotic pole, the kinky one. Exotic pole is perhaps the first image that comes to mind when mentioning pole dancing, and without actually educating anyone then that is how it stays, hence my extensive elaboration. Exotic pole involves as much athleticism as any other form, but is generally performed in a set of high heels and utilises a lot more legwork!
I was lucky enough to attend a fitness pole class with my badass bestie, Kelsey. Now Kels has been involved in everything from pole dancing, to lyra, to silks to wrapping it up altogether as a full-on circus performer. She has the flexibility of an elastic band with the strength and agility of a spider-monkey… so when Kels first asked me to come along to a lesson, I was already mentally preparing to have minimal capability and contemplated how to make a face-plant look as if it was purposefully done. Fitness pole is practiced in nothing more than a sports bra and a cute pair of what I like to call ‘pole panties’, to ensure that your body has optimum traction and grip on the pole when performing any tricks or moves. A quick stretch and warm-up, and already sweating myself stupid, our intimate class of 6 then went on to practicing a few basic beginner moves and climbing techniques. I’ll be honest, I was pretty impressed with how much upper body and leg strength I actually mustered up, and looking at Kelsey spinning around upside down in full splits immediately put into perspective just how physically competent these women actually were.
In an environment with zero body shaming, maximum encouragement and nurtured assistance as the natural vibe of the class, this is really something I could see myself trying out a few more times without any hesitation. A massive thank you to my gorgeous friend for pulling me out of my comfort zone and showing me an entirely new aspect of fitness, it was nothing short of inspiringly impressive to get a glimpse into your world of backbends, falling stars and martinis. To The Poling Station, thank you for your warm and welcoming studio and thank you for growing my the opportunity to exponentially grow self-confidence with you!