Pole dance and fitness is an athletic discipline that combines dance routines, acrobatic stunts, and a vertical pole. Pole dance performance requires significant muscular endurance, coordination, and flexibility for the movements and spins. It can be considered both an aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Upper body, core, and lower body strength, along with proper instruction and continuous training and conditioning are essential to the process.
Over time, pole dance has grown into a discipline and a sport practiced at numerous dance and fitness studios in many countries. Pole athletes can even participate in national, international, amateur, and professional competitions around the world. Considered a leisure activity and a performance art, all performers are motivated by the benefits provided by its practice.
POLE DANCE GENRES
- Pole fitness: Concentrates mainly on physical strength and technical aspects for each of the movements and stunts with conditioning-focused exercises
- Artistic pole and acrobatics: Emphasizes dance and expression, and focuses on movement and music, including choreography and acrobatic stunts. Different dance styles might be incorporated in this category according to the performer’s preferences.
- Exotic pole: Possesses a more sensual approach. The performer usually incorporates high heels to the choreography which stresses movements requiring flexibility, as well as grounded transitional movements, commonly known as floor work.
Pole dance has grown in popularity over the years in many countries around the world. Its existence dates back to the twelfth century with 9-meter poles used by Chinese circus performers. Full-body outfits and costumes were used to grip the rubber-covered poles. Performances were less fluent and choreographed, and performers mainly executed aerial stunts, flips, jumps, climbs, and contortions, as well as holding suspended positions, usually performed by more than two challengers at once. Nowadays, spectators around the world can appreciate performances of Cirque Du Soleil which is very much influenced by these Chinese circuses.
In India, the traditional Maharashtra performances are over 800 years old, and are still practiced in competitions around the country, using a tapered wooden pole with a base diameter of 55 cm and 35 cm diameter at the top. As in modern day pole dance and fitness, skin exposure was required to provide proper grip to the pole. Although there were pole dance competitions, it was mainly used by wrestlers as a training practice to improve speed and develop coordination, reflexes and concentration. Because it requires agility and precision and increases the performer’s endurance, strength, flexibility, and stamina, pole dance has proven to be beneficial for other athletic activities.
In the 1920s, during the Great Depression in the United States, travelling fair performers known as the Hoochie Coochie would dance around a tent’s support pole, entertaining spectators with fluent hip movements and body exposure. Pole dance is commonly mistaken for an exotic dance form due to its use in adult entertainment establishments, but in reality, this is far from the true essence of pole dance as an athletic discipline. Pole athletes who perform with an exotic approach require as much practice, training, and dedication as those in other pole dance disciplines.
There are pole dance recordings from 1968 in the U.S., and by the 80s, it was popular in Canada, as well. By 1994, the first pole dancing school was created by Fawnia Dietrich, along with instructional videos to teach pole dance exercises.
In modern day, pole dance and fitness classes are held in private studios, academies, and gym facilities worldwide, providing guidance in the practice of this discipline, as well as workshops and programs for specific and general training on the pole. Being a discipline combining Chinese circus performance, ancient Indian traditional performance, and dance and fitness skills, pole dance has grown into an internationally recognized activity for men and women alike, participating in high-standard competitions in many countries. Organizations such as the International Pole Dance and Fitness Association (IPDFA) and the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) are working hard to make pole dance an official part of the world’s major sports competition, the Olympics.
Health Benefits of Pole dance
Motivation and variety: There are large number of moves and acrobatic tricks in pole dance and different skills to be improved for each according to their level of complexity. This guarantees the performers have a variety of challenges throughout the process, and does away with tedious, repetitive routines thereby highly increasing their motivation in each session.
Flexibility: Pole dance improves flexibility and joint mobility, as many tricks and stunts require a wide range of movements and splits. Stretching exercises prepare the body to achieve a safe and progressive improvement of performance. It is important to develop flexibility skills in a cautious manner to avoid injuries.
Self-confidence: Pole dance allows challengers to motivate themselves while observing the natural results of their performance. Seeing direct results increases expectations for new challenges with a higher level of complexity.
Suitable for all: One of the best attributes of pole dance practice is that reaches all kinds of individuals that wish to improve their lifestyle and develop new skills by practicing a sport or physical activity. Regardless of age, body structure, physical characteristics, background, or sports experience, skills will improve progressively.
Toning: Pole dance develops muscle tissue in specific areas, such as biceps, triceps, legs, glutes, hips, chest, shoulders, abdominals, and back, increasing strength while performing numerous exercises using the challenger’s body weight. It also improves physical endurance and respiratory system function, and increases body stamina. With the intensity of pole dance conditioning and cardiovascular and isometric exercises, performers perceive noticeable changes regarding weight and fat reduction.
Posture: Pole dance training improves posture and body alignment by teaching performers to distribute their weight and support on muscles and ligaments in the course of each movement.
Neurological: Through the performance of sports drills and high-intensity intervals, pole dance exercises involve body movements that stimulate the prefrontal cortex of the brain which involves complex thinking, reasoning, and multi-tasking abilities, as well as problem-solving skills and attention. Various stretching exercises are similar to those found in yoga; relaxing involves the frontal lobe of the brain, which integrates thoughts and emotions. The parietal lobe is one of the most important for visual and spatial processing for all pole dance exercises. Finally, all aerobic exercises involve the hippocampus which is in charge of memory, and required for remembering the various movements, sequence of steps, and dance routines.
Stress release and expression: Dance has proven to be a most successful therapeutic tool for physical, emotional, and psychological improvement through body language, communication and expression. Aerobic exercises stimulate the release of endorphins in the bloodstream, causing a euphoric reaction and a state of physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Health prevention: Aerobic activities strengthen the heart and improve the respiratory system, decreasing the probability of heart disease. With the execution of different pole dance exercises, skin elasticity increases, preventing varicose vessels and osteoporosis. It has also proven to be very effective in the pre- and post-maternity process, reinforcing back and abdominal muscles.
Coordination and balance: Pole dance is intimately related to movement stability and control, through the mental and physical realization and performance of each exercise; a challenger’s improvement is based on different aspects, such as body position, strength focus, weight distribution, support, and grip, as well as momentum.