While the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “pole dancing” may be the seedy strip club with the blacked out windows that you drive by once in a while, recent years have made it anything but. This sport, although not common knowledge, has an ancient history in both Indian and Chinese culture as an art form. Today, pole fitness classes are making their way into the mainstream of the fitness and weight loss industries, and challenging their participants to attempt some truly stunning feats of physical ability.
In researching for the origins of pole dancing, we must travel a little bit. An Indian sport called Mallakhamb and Chinese Pole both play a part in the origins of pole dancing, and both are predominately male sports. In Mallakhamb (which translates to ‘gymnast’s pole’) , the pole is made of wood with a wooden ball on top of it, and is of a larger diameter. The Chinese Pole is approximately 20 feet high, and dances consist of two poles side by side, which the men will jump back and forth between while performing various gymnastic tricks. While both sports have poles with undeniable differences, they are both used in similar ways, and Chinese Pole is still popular today.
Western pole dancing was developed in the 1920’s during the American depression. Women in traveling fairs would entertain crowds by dancing suggestively using the tent pole. From there, pole dancing evolved from tents to bars as burlesque dancing became more widespread in the 1950’s. In the 1980’s, pole dancing and strip clubs became popular in Canada, and the United States followed suit shortly after. Then, in 1994, Fawnia Mondey Dietrich produced the first instructional pole fitness video for non-performers and everyday women. Since then, pole fitness has expanded and evolved into what it is today. The number of participants has increased dramatically, and the first United States Pole Dancing Championship was held on the East Coast in 2009.
Students of pole fitness as we know it today range in age from 18-70, and men are joining in the population of people quickly gaining interest in the sport. A pole fitness class provides an aerobic fitness workout and strength training combined in one.
With the evolution of pole fitness, many professional organizations have formed. The United States Pole Dancing Federation (USPDF) was formed in 2008, and has worked to unite and guide individuals in the pole fitness community offering trainers, competitions, hosting workshops, classes, and teaching not only dance techniques but safety as well. The International Pole Dancing Fitness Association (IPDFA) places their emphasis on gymnastics and athletics in conjunction with artistry, and cites studios in over 50 countries. Other organizations include The International Pole Federation, the American Pole Fitness Association, and the International Pole Sports Federation. All of these organizations are working to benefit the pole community and provide standards and unity from studio to studio. Pole dancing is even currently being discussed as a possibility for future inclusion in the Olympic Games, which attests to the strength, agility, and grace the sport requires. It is likely that the sport would draw great attention during the Olympics, as the 2010 IDPDFA Championship Competition was covered in 120 countries by over 4000 media outlets.
Still not convinced? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) releases an annual report of the Top 10 New Fitness Trends for the coming year. Of the top 10 trends for 2014, pole fitness incorporates nine of them:
bodyweight training – many tricks and spins in pole fitness require lifting or supporting your own bodyweight.
educated and experienced fitness professionals – pole fitness instructors have sport-specific certifications and trainings allowing them to teach classes.
strength training – pole fitness develops strength, but specifically upper body strength.
exercise and weight loss – many students report dramatic weight loss as a result of participating in pole fitness.
personal training. while class sizes are small, private and semi-private lessons are also often readily available.
fitness programs for older adults – as mentioned above, participants range all the way up to 70 years old.
functional fitness – balance, strength, and stamina are all components of pole fitness.
group personal training – classes are typically small in size, resulting in more one-on-one attention for the students.
yoga – pole incorporates many yoga poses and flexibility moves, and can even include a class called Polga, which consists of yoga poses that integrate the pole.
Pole fitness classes are growing exponentially in both popularity and number. With all the benefits reaped from these classes, there is no doubt pole fitness is here to stay. As Elizabeth Liden outlines in her article about pole fitness, “A striptease is a sexually-oriented dance that takes place in exotic dance clubs and may use a pole for very basic moves. Conversely, pole fitness includes a multitude of tricks, climbs, spins, inversions and so forth on the pole that demand a high level of skill, precision, strength and flexibility.”
Inversions Pole Fitness is working to break the stigma of pole dancing and provides daily pole fitness classes to the community. Studio owner Lisa Gaultney and her staff of pole fitness instructors lead classes seven days a week that include not only pole fitness classes but specialty classes as well that focus on specific areas, such as core strength, flexibility, and dance. The studio also offers private lessons and private parties for those who wish for a more discreet environment or additional personal attention. Students at Inversions range widely in age and skill level, but one thing is constant–the students’ passion for pole fitness. In reviewing the testimonials, you can see how enthusiastic they are. They claim muscle definition, inches lost, strength, confidence, and rave about the instructor’s knowledge of and passion for the sport. If the students at Inversions are any indication, it looks like pole fitness is here to stay. In fact, the studio and it’s dedicated clientele were recently featured in the Post & Courier. Check out the article here!
Want to take a spin? Check out Inversions Pole Fitness, LLC at www.inversionspolefitness.com for a full calendar of available classes or call 843-460-0654 to register. Inversions is located at 3377 South Morgans Point Road, Suite 401, Mount Pleasant, SC 29466.