Throughout history there have been many forms of dance emerging. Many formed from sensual roots and bringing with them much controversy. Sensual Artistic Dance has been around a lot longer than many of us would think, but how did pole dancing originate and where did come from? The form of pole dance we know today and its origins can be traced back to exotic performance dance arts.
The first recorded striptease dates back to a myth from ancient Sumerian times involving Inanna, the Goddess of Love, and her descent into the underworld to find her lover Damouz. At each of the seven gates, she removed an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry. As long as Inanna remained in hell, the earth was barren. When she returned, the earth again became abundant and fruitful. Some believe this myth evolved in the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ of Salome from the bible.
The bible records Salome’s dance but the first mention of removing veils rises from Oscar Wilde’s play of ‘Salome’ in 1883. Some have claimed this to be the origin of modern striptease, but other influences may have come from Parisian times and the Moulin Rouge striptease through to Middle Eastern belly dancing and American burlesque.
Early stories tell of African tribal rituals in which betrothed women would dance provocatively around a wooden phallus. The dance was designed to show their future husbands how they wanted to be made love to.
Another example of ancient pole dancing is the Maypole dance, which dates back to the 12th century. Originally a pagan celebration of fertility, the Maypole is also a phallic symbol. Brace yourselves now, but Maypole festivals typically included an orgiastic feast at which lovers were encouraged to make love in public! The Maypole tradition lives on, but the public sex bit is usually omitted. When the Victorians got their hands on it, they transformed it into something a little tamer. It was performed by young girls performing circle dances around a pole decorated with garlands of flowers and emblems. The younger girls involved danced in the inner circle while the older danced in the outer circle, all holding ribbons. The dancing itself involved circular steps which allowed the ribbons to intertwined and plait round the pole and then be unravelled while the girls retraced their steps. The festival, in which the maypole dance was performed, marked the beginning of the pastoral summer or Beltane. It is also connected to the Roman worship of Flora and the festival of Floralia which was celebrated at the same time.
The Ancient Greek’s also had their own form of maypole like dancing in the Daphnephoria. Eutychius Proclus discusses the pole in the Daphnephoria in his Chrestomathy written in the second century AD:
This is the Daphnephoria: They wreathe an olive-wood pole with laurel-branches and colorful flowers, and on top of it they fasten a bronze ball, and from this they hang smaller ones. And, onto the middle of the pole, they attach purple fillets of wool, and put them around a ball smaller than the one at the top. And they wrap around the [bottom] end-parts of the pole with saffron-dyed material.
To the people the highest ball represents the sun (with which they also associate Apollo), and the one lying beneath [represents] the moon; the hanging balls [represent] the planets and stars; and, indeed, the purple fillets [represent] the yearly cycle – for they even make exactly 365 of them.
A boy with two living parents starts/leads the Daphnephoria; and his closest relative holds up the wreathed pole, which they call the kōpō.
And the Daphnephoria himself follows and holds onto the laurel, with his hair let down, wearing a golden crown, bedecked in bright clothing down to his feet, and shod in Epikratides; Kahoros of Parthenoi accompany him, holding out sprigs in supplication singing hymns.
And they escort the Daphnephoria to the temples of Apollo Ismenios and Khalazios.
The ancient Middle Eastern belly dance was thought to induce fertility in women and to strengthen their bodies in preparation for childbirth. Today many women learn the arts of Belly Dancing and dancing with Veils. Belly Dancing has been carried over from these legendary events. The skill have traveled from ancient Sumeria and into the Asia counties. It is understood to have been picked up by the gypsies who brought Belly Dancing through Europe.
Another sensual form of dance, Rumba, is a dance of enticement and teasing. The tango originated in brothels of ancient Argentina. ‘Gouchos’ would arrive after working in the fields and the girls would entice them into going upstairs through dancing with their heads turned slightly to avoid the smell.
The earliest recorded pole dance was in 1968 with a performance by Belle Jangles at Mugwump strip joint in Oregon. However, pole dancing in it’s modern form didn’t become popular until Canadian strip clubs introduced it in the 1980‘s.
Pole dance is a form of performance art which is a combination of dance and gymnastics involving dancing and acrobatics around a vertical pole. It is an increasingly popular form of fitness and dance, practiced by many enthusiasts in gyms and in dedicated dance studios. A wide range of amateur and professional competitions are held in many countries around the world.
Before the mid-2000s, pole dance mainly took place in strip clubs. Since then, promoters of pole dance fitness competitions have been trying to change peoples’ perception of pole dance and to promote it as a non-sexual form of dance and acrobatics. Pole dance has furthermore been influenced by Chinese pole, a form of acrobatics that is performed in cabaret, circus and stage performances in a non-erotic environment. Competitive pole dance competitions are by and large performed in a non-prurient fashion which combines a range of dance styles and/or gymnastics.
Pole dance requires significant strength, flexibility and endurance. In a commercial pseudo-erotic setting, however, pole dance is often performed less gymnastically and striptease, Go-Go, and/or lap dancing are the predominant parts of the performance, to the extent that the pole dancer(s) may simply hold the pole or move around it without performing acrobatics. Pole dance proper involves athletic moves such as climbs, spins, and body inversions using the limbs to grip. Upper body and core strength are required to attain proficiency, and rigorous training is necessary.
Pole dance is now regarded as a recognized form of exercise and sport and can be used as both an aerobic and anaerobic workout. Recognized schools, studios and qualifications are now common.
Pole dancing can be traced back more than two thousand years, to sports that were only participated in by men and women. Mallakhamb is an Indian sport, which utilizes the same principles of endurance and strength as pole, using a wooden pole, wider in diameter than a modern standard pole, which has a large wooden ball at the top. Chinese pole, originating in India, also has a male dominated history, using two poles, on which men would perform “gravity defying tricks” as they leap from pole to pole, at approximately twenty feet in the air. The dancing, which has been utilized in strip clubs in the erotic version of the sport, was initially part of dances performed in matriarchal societies, performed by women for women, and not as an erotic act for men. In the 1920s, traveling circuses and side shows would utilize pole dancing with a pole in the middle of a tent. Eventually the activity moved from tents to bars, and combined with burlesque dance aspects, but did not move into erotic or strip tease territory until the 1980s, first in Canada, then the United States.
Fawnia Mondey, originally from Canada, was one of the worlds first pole dancing champions and in the 1990’s Fawnia produced the very first instructional pole dance DVD which was the first step towards pole dancing becoming the International fitness craze that it is today. In the last twenty years, pole dancing classes have emerged as a popular form of recreational and competitive sport. K.T. Coates, a famed competitive pole dancer, 1996 Exotic Entertainer Lela HollyWoods Robinson began creating films called sexy dancer, teaching a mixed curricula of erotic dance pole fitness and TWERK glutei muscle isolation skills similar to belly dancing and launched Pole Control Studios in 2008. The International Pole Dancing Federation, are currently behind a campaign to include competitive pole dance in the Olympics in 2016. Numerous competitions exist, including the World Pole Sport Championship, U.S. Pole Federation Championship, and International Pole Masters Cup Championship.
The standard dance pole typically consists of a hollow steel or brass pole with circular cross section, running from floor to ceiling. Affixing at the ceiling gives more stability, but is not always realized, especially at night clubs with higher ceilings or at transportable devices. In the United States, the diameter is usually around 5 cm (2 inches), allowing it to be gripped comfortably with one hand. In Asia, the diameter is usually slightly smaller at 4.5 cm or less.. The most common pole diameters are 50mm, which is often found in strip clubs, and 45mm, which is slightly smaller and can be easier for small or sweaty hands to grip to.
Another common pole is the spinning pole; , it is similar to a standard dance pole but spins using ball bearings. The purpose of this pole is to create better momentum and higher rates of speed to have a greater dramatic effect,which is best for growing with the sport.
Home versions and custom poles are available which may be used for practice or aerobic exercise. Materials of which poles are made include polished stainless steel, chromed steel, brass, powder coating, and titanium coating. Poles can also be made of acrylic glass which allows use of “glow poles” with LED lighting effects. Each material surface has different gripping properties. Polished steel is one of the slickest materials, which provides for a faster, more fluid dance, and is great for spins; brass poles provide more friction, allowing for an easier hold during inverts and poses and creating a slow, sensual dance style. Products such as chalk, “Mighty Grips” or “iTac” may be used to help “stick” to the pole.
Poles can be held in place by using threading to brace them against a ceiling joist. There are also poles that do not require construction and can be set up using tension. Stationary, rotating, and switchable versions are available.
There are now poles available for use in clubs that provide visual effects. These poles are made with clear plastics and contain water, glitter, and special reflective materials which stand out when used in conjunction with strobe lighting, as well as lighting hidden in their base joists. However, these poles are not favorable to a dancer wanting to achieve better pole technique, as they bend slightly and have a tendency to create a friction burn when slid down with any sort of controlled speed.
Pole dance as exercise
Pole dancing has gained popularity as a form of exercise with increased awareness of the benefits to general strength and fitness. This forms of exercise increases core and overall body strength by using the body itself as resistance, while toning the body as a whole. A typical pole dance exercise regimen in class begins with strength training, dance-based moves, (Carousel) squats, (Z press Teddy) push-ups, and (Chair reverse) sit-ups and gradually works its way up to the spins, climbs and inversions which are the metier of the exercise. Pole dancing is also generally reported by its schools to be empowering for women in terms of building self-confidence.
Pole dancing as an exercise is very similar to Mallakhamb, an Indian men’s sport with no erotic component.
A growing number of men are incorporating pole dancing into their fitness programs. In Australia, the UK and the US, dance studios are beginning to offer classes just for men. And in China, 2007’s National Pole Dancing competition was won by a man. Dance instructor Zhang Peng, 23, beat a host of women dancers to the top prize.
Pole dance competitions
A wide range of amateur and professional competitions are held in many countries around the world. They are strictly non-nude and focus on pole dance as an athletic and artistic form of dance and fitness. The first “Miss Pole Dance World” competition was held in November 2005 in Amsterdam and Elena Gibson from the UK won the championship. The following day Elena was disqualified by the organizer John Benner amongst much controversy and the title went to the runner up Reiko Suemune from Japan.
A group of advocates are even pushing for pole dance to be represented as a test event in the 2012 London Olympics. But because this is a relatively new trend, scoring for competitions is not standardized, while names of the techniques vary among different studios in different regions.
In Australia, “Miss Pole Dance Australia” was started in 2005. Felix Cane took home the first prize in the latest 2010 (named Miss Pole Dance 2011—for the coming year) competition. The first US Pole Dance Federation (USPDF) Championship was held on March 19, 2009, first place was taken by Jenyne Butterfly. The 2010 winner of “Miss Pole Dance Canada” was Crystal Lai, who went on to win the People’s Choice Award at the worlds. World Pole Sport & Fitness 2009 (World Pole Dance), which was held in Jamaica and opened to all nationalities, was also won by Australian Felix Cane. World Pole Sport & Fitness 2010 which took place in Switzerland and was opened to all nationalities, was again won by Australian Felix Cane. World Pole Sport & Fitness 2011, which took place in Budapest and was opened to all nationalities and all continents, was won by Alesia Vazmitsel representing Belarus.
Pole dance in the media
Pole dancing, which has been featured on Desperate Housewives and The View, like other exercise trends has its share of celebrity following. Jennifer Love Hewitt had a short pole stint dancing in an episode of “Ghost Whisperer”. Actress Sheila Kelley was so taken with the sport, which she learned whilst preparing for her role in Dancing at the Blue Iguana, that she launched her own pole-based exercise program.
Rima Fakih’s victory at Miss USA 2010, including the fact that she had won a pole-dancing competition three years earlier, attracted media attention.
Pole dance fitness community has its own media, the magazines Free Spin, Pole Spin and Vertical Dance.
Pole dance is also the main subject of a popular web comic titled, “Pole Dancing Adventures”.
In the video game Bayonetta the titular character use pole dancing in means to advance to the next area or combat her foes. In the ending credit to the game, she is seen dancing on the pole. If you get a platinum award you’ll hear her say “I should have been a pole dancer”.
There are many celebrities who have endorsed pole dancing as one of their fitness regimes. These include;
Terri Hatcher – Star of Desperate Housewives – Famously attends classes in LA.
Danni Minogue – Singer – Pole danced in her music video ‘Put the Needle on it.’
Kate Moss – Supermodel – Performed on the pole in a ‘White Stripes’ music video
Demi Moore – Hollywood Actress – Starred as a pole dancer in the movie ‘Striptease’
Christina Aguilera – Singer – Performed with the Pussycat Dolls Burlesque show in LA
Daryl Hannah – Hollywood Actress and star of pole dancing movie ‘Dancing at the Blue Iguana’
Kelly Brook – Model/Actress – Starred as a pole dancer in the London stage production ‘Eye Contact’
Sadie Frost – Actress/Fashion Designer – Busy working Mum who loves pole dancing for fitness
Kevin James – Actor-Star of The King Of Queens shows up his wife on the pole
Jenyne Butterfly- Polefessional- rocks the pole in Rock of Ages