Traditionally performed in Gentleman’s Clubs and Burlesque Bars, today Pole Dance is fast gaining popularity as a fun and efficient form of exercise. Oprah Winfrey has featured Pole Dance on her iconic television talk show, while recent reports have Paris Hilton teaching Brittney Spears how to Pole Dance.
There are different theories about the origins of Pole Dance. The first postulates that this exotic dance has developed from one of the oldest festivals in the Western hemisphere, Mayday. On this day till date, young girls dance around a decorated Maypole. This pole, many believe, represents the masculine; and the women dancing around it represent the feminine.
Another theory about Pole Dance origins draws attention to its similarity to two forms of Yoga practiced in India -- Mallakhamb (meaning "man of power" or "gymnasts pole") which is yoga practiced on a wooden pole and on rope; and Mallastambha (meaning "gymnasts pillar") using a mainly iron pole was used by wrestlers to build up strength. Mallastambha seems to be no longer practiced. Today pole Mallakhamb is practiced by men and boys and rope Mallakamb (aka Indian rope trick) is practiced by women and girls.
The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first use of "pole dance" meaning an erotic dance or striptease while moving around a specially constructed pole in the Chicago Tribune in 1992.
How to do it
Pole dancing relies on sufficient grip of the metal pole in order for moves to be executed successfully. For this reason, bare arms and legs are necessary during studio lessons. Appropriate clothing, thus, would be shorts and t-shirt or something similar, with split sole jazz or ballet shoes (or even trainers). The dancer’s skin must be free of oils or lotions, and free of any jewelry.
The standard pole used for pole dancing is 2 inches in diameter, allowing it to be comfortably grasped with one hand. It can be of copper, brass or steel and ideally attached to both the floor and ceiling.
Proper full-body warm ups are highly recommended before beginning a Pole Dance session.
Basic Pole Dance Moves
The Walk Around -- Stand tall, shoulders back. Hook arm around the pole and tip toe slowly and sexily round the pole.
The Bridge -- From the Walk Around hold the pole with one hand, place legs around the pole. Still on tip toes, slowly drop backwards towards the floor, curving spine as far as it can go.
The Body Ripple -- Holding pole with one hand, move shoulders into it. Stick butt out, ripple inwards until stomach is on the pole. Then pull out shoulders, bringing pelvis towards pole. Repeat several times so the movement flows.
The Straight Leg Grip -- Jump onto pole holding with both hands. Grip pole between legs. Release one hand and lean away from pole, straighten one leg and spin around slowly in this position.
The Reverse Hold -- Stand side-on to pole. Hold pole with both hands straight and arms above head. Bend legs and hook right leg around the pole so it rests in the crook of the knee. Cross both feet spin around slowly.
Pole dancing exercises every part of the body – sliding up and down the pole works the quadriceps and the gluteal muscles; holding oneself against the pole works the biceps while the continuous hip movement whittles the waist. Apart from toning muscles, Pole Dancing also increases upper body strength and works the entire body. However, unlike other more rigorous dance forms, pole dancing is low on impact and can be practiced even by people who’re not in top condition.
Each session with the pole can burn between 250 to 350 calories per session, and boost one’s confidence and self image as well. London newspapers recently reported that a doctor there even prescribed pole dancing lessons to a patient suffering from depression.
The Art and Soul of Pole Dance
Pole Dance aficionados describe this exotic and sensual dance as a vertical ballet requiring strength, coordination, grace, and agility; they say it provides a conduit for individual creativity and “free form” interpretation of established movements. The true sensuality of pole dancing lies in the awesome and seemingly effortless body control the dancer portrays.
Feminist Sheila Jeffries, author of Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West, argues Pole Dance has nothing to do with fitness. She sees it as degrading to women and an excuse to allow pornography into the mainstream. "Often when pornography is normalised it comes in the form of art. The same has happened with burlesque. We are now in what I call the 'pornographication' of culture," she writes.
Learn Pole Dancing
For classes in UK and USA, visit these sites –
- Pole Dancing Lessons in London
- Pole Dancing
- Pole Dancing Lessons in the USA and Canada
- For classes in Bangalore, India go to Lourd Vijay’s Dance Studio
Sources and links
- Goddess Art Academy
- The Pole Dance Directory
- The Studio