At the moment there seems to be a battle going on within the pole world and it doesn't seem to be an argument that is going to be settled any time soon. As an avid fitness pole dancer and a staunch supporter of the fitness pole dancing movement I had mixed views on the current campaign by the United Pole Artists to hold a week of events called 'Bringing Sexy back', could this campaign, and similar campaigns, jeopardise the work that many of us have done to make pole dancing acceptable as a mainstream fitness or is it OK to be sexy?
If you want a good read about the current debate check out Jennifer Michelle's blog on strippers and pole dancing.
Despite my concerns about the UPA campaign I decided to submit my own picture to the 'Bringing sexy back week' project to challenge my own perceptions and feelings. Above is my photo entry - photography courtesy of Global Eye Photography (AKA Chris Trent) - I question what, if anything, is wrong with this picture? Would you be concerned if your children saw this picture? Would this be an inappropriate images to advertise my adult pole classes? For the purposes of this debate please note I am not wearing heels and I am not wearing lingerie. Having viewed some of the other entrants there are some stunning pictures that display the amazing bodies that pole dancers have, these bodies do not come from quick fixes but from hours of training and performing, from eating well, from staying hydrated and from sheer guts and determination. If you haven't ever tried doing a 4 and a half minute pole dance I suggest you make to one of those things you should do before you die although if you are generally unfit or have a medical condition this might be the last thing you do before you die!
In some ways I am sat on the fence in the sense that I fully appreciate that the modern fitness pole dancing trend has evolved directly from the strip clubs and lap dancing clubs although we now teach a blend of exotic dancing, pole fitness, Mallakhamb and Chinese pole. However I do feel we need a way to separate the genres so that individuals can pick the niche that is right for them as an individual and to be able to have equal respect for all genres. Just because I choose the fitness pole dancing route as my main genre it does not mean I have any disrespect for those in the adult industry.The problem I have is that some people whom I teach do not want to called a stripper just as a doctor would not want to be confused with a dentist, we want respect for what we have learned without being wrongly stereotyped.
There are definitely differences in what we teach and how we teach it. I teach children to pole dance but would never encourage children to try to be more sexy whereas I might teach body rolls to adults within my classes and I reserve the right to be able to switch between the genres depending on my clientèle.
The big problem for me is how quick people are to judge me and my chosen activity and I wanted to share a few examples with you that I hope will outline my concerns:
I choose to dance in bare feet and all my classes are taught in bare feet (with the exception of some of our pole portrait sessions) but I see nothing wrong with dancing in heels and I fail to understand why dancing in heels on a pole is so wrong when other accepted dance forms encourage the use of heels; have you even seen Strictly come dancing carried out in bare feet? I once attracted criticism from a lady who commented on a picture of me where I was wearing heels, she said "that's why people don't accept what you are doing is fitness based, the heels just make it look sleazy", I looked down and noticed that the lady herself was wearing heels and asked her if she felt sleazy "it's different" she replied. Well for me it is not different just because I don't like glass stripper heels does not mean I should go around slating those that do choose to wear such items.
Why is pole dancing still so controversial when compared to other activities, as I type there is an event going on in Plymouth City Centre that promotes inclusion and and promotes many dance genres including Salsa and Belly dancing - these activities are accepted by the public so why not pole?
Stripping vs burlesque:
When is stripping OK, the answer is when it's burlesque. Burlesque is the new socially acceptable form of stripping where it seems Dita Von teese and other stars can undress with dignity - take your clothes off anywhere else and you get labelled as a whore.
For the big critics of pole dancing and in particular those that critisise my children's pole dancing lessons I would like to put the following point up for discussion. Who would you rather your kids aspired to - a pole dancer or a pop star? No one seems to mind children watching pop music videos with images of anorexic celebrities and fame seeking reality TV stars yet show them an image of a pole dancer and suddenly the child is doomed to a world of destitution!
Compare the following 2 images:
Former Celebrity singer Amy Winehouse - pictured above and International Gymnast Oona Kivela - pictured below.
Which image is a better role model for your child? Do you want your child to be healthy, want to eat well, work hard, respect themselves and have great body image - then pick the pole dancer!
Pole dancing vs Pole fitness:
Is there a difference? - yes, of course there is as I explained when I mentioned that I teach pole dancing to children, the course content is different to what I might teach to a hen party or adult class.
Pole dancing has evolved into different categories and there is a place for each whether it's pure pole fitness (check out the JW method), pole dancing, exotic pole dancing/stripper style, exotic floor-work (this seems to be a fast growing activity), and Extreme Pole (pole dancing now seems to have developed an edge where everyone wants to be doing the most extreme tricks, there is a worrying trend for pole dancers to want to do all the big tricks before their bodies are ready - I expect to see a lot more injuries within the pole world over the next year or so!).
I am not going to summarise as I want to leave the debate open to encourage more discussion and to try to find solutions to some of the problems we face as pole dancer but not just as pole dancers but as women, is part of the problem that there is still inequality for women, if a guy says he pole dances does he get the same reaction that a women does?
Your thoughts please?