Pole dancing has come a long way from its sleazy, seedy club origins and could become an Olympic sport, writes Abi Jackson
IF you still think pole dancing is all about seedy clubs — and even seedier clientele — then you’ve got some catching up to do.
Firstly, it’s boomed in popularity as a workout method in recent years (and a demanding one at that). Secondly, it’s now looking like it might become an Olympic sport.
Last month, the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) confirmed it’s given observer status to the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF), which hopefully means a ‘clear pathway’ towards full Olympic recognition eventually.
It’s exciting — and well-deserved — news for thousands of pole fans, who know exactly how brilliant and beneficial it can be, both physically and psychologically.
Here, pole aficionados Sarah-Jayne Bell and Tara Margulies tell us what’s so great about it.
Sarah-Jayne, who runs Huddersfield University Pole Dancing Academy, explains that pole helps improve both strength and cardio. “The main physical benefits include core work, cardio, muscle strength and conditioning and increased flexibility and endurance. The moves incorporated really target the whole body, working with your body weight as resistance,” she says. “The spins, lifts and holds target the core, while putting together and performing a routine brings the cardio element.”
“Increased flexibility, co-ordination and balance come from regular practise. While a strong core can help with a bad back and reduces your chance of injury, during exercise and in your daily life,” adds Sarah-Jayne, who has “fought for acceptance and respect for pole dancing for nearly 12 years”, so is thrilled by the news that it’s in the running to become an Olympic sport.
“It’s important to remember the mental and emotional benefits too,” says Sarah-Jayne. “I love the fact that you don’t have to be good at pole to enjoy it. The excitement of nailing a new move, combined with the endorphins from exercising make pole a really happy hobby. Perfect for well-earned stress relief after a long hard week.”
Pole fans often sport seriously impressive physiques and moves — but even they had to start somewhere, and probably struggled to hold a spin in their early attempts. “You’ll learn to move your body in ways you may not think are possible, improving your strength, movement and flexibility along the way,” says fitness instructor and pole fan Tara, who wrote a blog post about her ‘pole journey’.
And this, along with the fact that it’s a welcoming community and you’ll see a range of shapes and sizes taking part, can be a real confidence-booster too. “Laughter and friendship come hand-in-hand with pole classes,” says Sarah-Jayne.
“It can help with self-confidence and body confidence — you learn to love your body for what it can do and to be genuinely proud of your achievements.”
The routines can be complicated, balletic and technical — and it’s basically very impressive gymnastics, on a pole.
“You’ll even put your brain to work, learning choreography and remembering all of the steps you need to get into the beautiful shapes you learn,” says Tara.
“As well as working wonders for your body, you’ll experience an inevitable boost in confidence when you start to flow with grace and realise that your tricks look beautiful.”
While pole is now widely recognised as a seriously impressive and skilled workout, there’s still a big element of performance. For some, the sexiness is part of the appeal.
“Once you forget about society’s opinion, finding your inner sexy is so unbelievably empowering,” says Tara.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved