Workouts Across the World: Pole Dancing

| Fitness

world workouts

If we were to ask you to name the first thing that pops into your head when we say "pole dancing," there's a good chance it would be something along the lines of "strippers," "prostitutes," "strip tease," or something equally unpleasant. No one stops to think about what the actual origins of pole dancing were, or whether it was always intended as a sexually stimulating, erotic dance performed by women for men's entertainment. In recent years, however, a whole new side of pole dancing has been revealed: pole dancing as a form of fitness. Now pole dancing studios and gym classes are popping up all over the world as a new, intriguing kind of total body exercise.

(Photo: pole dancer Photo Credit: Charleston Pole Dancing Classes)

The art of pole dancing is actually over 2000 years old, and although its origins are not entirely known, it was widely practiced by many countries like India, China, Africa, and others. Some of the origins include the belief that it used to be a form of dance that was practiced by women for women. The sultry hip movements that we generally associate with explicit sexuality today were never intended to be erotic or titillating for men - they were supposed to be an expression of the female body's power to promote fertility. Pole dancing also appeared in Indian culture as a sport called Mallakhamb, and in Chinese culture as a sport commonly referred to as Chinese Pole. Ironically enough, both of these sports were practiced only by men. In Mallakhamb there was one thicker pole that bore a wooden ball on top, and in Chinese pole there were two poles, which men would hop between in a series of gravity-defying tricks.

Here's an example of how Chinese Pole might look:

 [fvplayer src='http://youtu.be/EsiPGGC2rBs' width=640 height=480]

These two sports ultimately spurred the introduction of pole dancing into circus acts. Pole dancing arrived in America in the 1920's, in the midst of the Great Depression, as an act in traveling circuses. The majority of these acts were performed by women, and eventually pole dancing began to develop its more sexualized nature. Women dancers were soon delegated to tents where men would come in to watch, and by the 1950's pole dancing had merged with burlesque and had permeated bars and clubs, rather than circus tents. By the time the 1980's hit, pole dancing was associated solely with stripping.

It wasn't until the 1990's that a woman by the name of Fawnia Mondey Dietrich finally broke through the negative stereotypes associated with pole dancing and began to make it a more widely acceptable form of exercise and sport. She set up studios in order to teach pole dancing to everyday women, and eventually the sport gained enough popularity so that events like the Pole Dancing Championships were introduced by the late '90s.

Today, pole dancing is quickly gaining steam as a popular form of exercise and sport across the world. There are 3 general categories:

  • Exotic dance -  which is what most people still think of when pole dancing comes to mind: strippers, clubs, erotic dance, etc.
  • Pole fitness -  which is taught primarily in gyms or studios by highly trained professionals
  • Pole sport -  which highlights the competitive side of pole dancing, and consists of trained athletes traveling around the world to compete

Here's what competitive pole sport looks like today:

 [fvplayer src='http://youtu.be/rh0zoxpGfo0' width=640 height=360]

So if you are looking for a new workout routine that will target every part of your body and make you feel sexier than ever, why not give pole dancing a try? For more information on pole dancing, check out these links!

International Pole Dance Fitness Association, The Pole Power Studio, and PolicyMic