Wednesday, 5 June 2013
The Evolution of Pole and Pole in the Olympics
So here is a blog that is bound to cause controversy but that is not my intention. Pole Dance, Pole Sports or Pole Fitness (whatever you like to call it) has evolved so much since I started teaching back in 2004 and generally I have seen a big improvement in the industry with better teaching standards, better insurance, an improved syllabus, the use of risk assessments, limited numbers of students per pole etc. This is all great but it is where the industry goes from here that is starting to worry me.
I feel that Pole dancing is currently in a place where it is finally respected as a way to keep fit and have fun by the mainstream and that perhaps it is just the minority who assume that pole dancing has no skill involved. My concern is that as the industry moves forwards we may start to lose some of the fun that initally drew us, and our students, to this amazing art form. Whether you teach stripper style or pure pole fitness I am sure that the majority of instructors like to make their classes fun and this is the main reason why students keep coming back. If we make the environment too sterile then surely we lose the very thing that makes pole classes special. I have heard talks of schools in Russia and former Russian states requiring classes to be carried out in silence, whilst that may fit with the gymnastic model, for me, this goes against the very ethos of pole fitness for recreation, fitness and fun.
As you may know there is a move to get pole into the Olympics, the IPSF set up by PDC Pioneer KT Coates has done admirable work but is that where we want to see the industry going? Don't get me wrong the WPSC 2012 event was admirable and I was very proud to be involved but since then I have looked further into the world of gymnastics and Olympic standards and I am not sure I like what I see.
What I fear for our industry is that ultimately we could end up with a situation where pole becomes elitist and if you haven't started pole dancing from the age of 3 then many clubs won't be interested in training you. Most recently I watched some of the children performing in Miss Pole Dance Russia and their performances had me cringing, whilst the youngsters displayed amazing strengthand flexibility there was something false about their performances which reminded me of some of the more dodgy elements of freestyle dancing where young children are dressed up like beauty pageants, covered in fake tan and heavy make-up and told to force a smile throughout their routine.
For me one of the biggest joys of teaching is working with those who haven't done much exercise previously, those who may be overweight or have body confidence issues. I love watching those individuals exceed their own personal expectations, achieving their very first pole sit or invert. These students don't want to compete or necessarily partake in gradings but they love pole and I love teaching them pole.
The other worry about pole dancing becoming a gymnastic discipline is that we will lose our roots, pole dancing did evolve mainly from western (mainly Canadian and US strip clubs) and we have learned much from this exotic dance style. Rather than degrading women this dance style has allowed everyday women to feel more confident and more in control of their bodies. I hope we can continue to allow the different genres of pole dance to evolve allowing each individual, whether male or female, to choose to move their body in their own unique way without facing critiscism. Check out this amazing video from US Champion Pole Dance Michelle Stanek showcasing two very different styles. Both styles are equally beautiful in my humble opinion. If you like this subject then check out the marvellous post "No funny businesss, Please, we're British" by the gorgeous Miss Glory Pearl.
My final concern for the industry is that if we become too gymnastic we risk becoming very competitive, we also risk going down a road where dancers over-train, over-bend and actually damage their bodies rather than enhancing them. I know this is rather a sweeping statement but I am already seeing the industry move towards this harsh training regime with dangerous diets, the use of steroids and damaging stretching/contortion techniques.
I want to hear your thoughts. What do you love about pole dancing and what do you hate? where do you want to see the industry going? Do you want to see pole in the Olympics?
Please reply here and, if your comment is genuine and not some spam selling viagra, then your comment will be posted within 24 hours :)
Pictures courtesy of Leigh Drinkwater Photography (bottom left), Ozzie Glover Photography (top right) and 360 Pole dancing (top left)