The Tale of the Pole and the G-String.

So to christen my blog with its first post, I’ve decided to write on a slightly unconventional topic, one that may catch the eye of some guys around here… Pole Dancing. Yep, that’s right, Pole Dancing, but not in its original G-strings and dollar bills incarnation, but ‘Pole fitness dancing’.  That’s right, Pole is coming out of sleazy strip joints and making its way into many mainstream gyms and studios in the form of a fitness class! It is becoming very popular in both the UK and the US, many European countries and even as far afield as Japan, indeed the next world Pole Championships are being held in Tokyo. This phenomenon is probably new to most people so I’ll attempt to enlighten you. What better way to start, than with some pretty pictures?

This move is often known as the ‘Scorpio’ and requires considerable upper body strength, strong grip and flexibility to achieve.  However, this is nothing compared to what some ladies get up to…

And I couldn’t possibly introduce  this new era of Pole Dancing or ‘Vertical Dance’ as some like to call it, without directing you to a video of  the world champion, Felix Cane, in her winning routine back in February of this year.

I challenge anyone, regardless of whether they have knowledge of gymnastics, dance or sports, to stop their jaws from dropping at  her incredible air shoulder mount at (0:46) and the breathtaking series of transitions from (2:00 to 2:20). She displays a degree of strength, grace and flexibility worthy of most Olympic gymnastics.

Now, I hope you’re impressed with what you’ve seen but you may also be thinking ‘Um, what’s the difference? They still look a bit like strippers.’

Well yes, that’s kind of the point of this post.  Although I do challenge anyone to pull off those high-octane tricks while wearing 7 inch boots, it aint easy!  However, what message is this sending out? If, despite displaying a high level of skill, these ‘pole fitness’ dancers are sporting the same lack of clothes as strippers and often intersecting their moves with similarly provocative dancing, ultimately what’s this new ‘Pole revolution’ about?

Before I go any further, I should point out that I have nothing against strippers, nor am I insinuating that strippers can’t also be talented or even that Pole now belongs to non-strippers and they should find something else to grind up against when they’ve been making a living from Pole for years..that would hardly be fair would it?!

I will also mention that there is a very important reason for not wearing much on the pole, no really! Virtually every advanced move in pole relies on some part of the body being on the pole to maintain grip, which would be next to impossible if you didn’t have your skin on the pole to cause friction and maintain that grip. And any moves that only involve contact on the pole from the legs or feet just wouldnt be possible if the legs were covered up. Similarly, a lot of moves utilise an under-arm grip or the abdomen against the pole so a fair amount of skin on show is necessary for those too. But this still doesn’t equate to a need for G-strings and bikinis.

Some girls also claim the reason why they wear such high heels is because it protects the foot when they’re climbing the pole or  hanging from the foot (yes, some moves do involve hanging from just one foot!) Now, this is where I  start to get annoyed. Yes, you will bruise your feet when you start to learn Pole, but there are a number of sports/types of dance that involve conditioning and strengthening the foot, there is no reason why this can’t be done with Pole.

But more to the point, how can wearing shoes like that ever benefit someone when doing such a demanding type of exercise? I can’t think of any other legitimate form of exercise that involves wearing heels, and for good reason.  Wearing high heels shortens the hamstrings considerably not to mention how easy it would be to slip in them and really damage your ankles. …Just to put it out there, I’m as capable of getting a shoe fetish as the next girl, but there’s a time and a place people, and this is not one of them!

So, to get to the point of why I really object to ‘the stripper uniform’. Well, for whose benefit did strippers start dressing this way? Alright, it may make some of them feel sexy too, but by and large, strippers dress that way because the men watching want them to. And even if it makes some girls feel sexy dressed that way, I would argue that a huge part of that is because it fits the male-perpetrated definition of female sexuality.

And that is the root of the problem, while it would be nice to even see the odd stripper representing a different ideal of female sexuality, the huge majority of  consumers in the exotic dance industry are men, so the appearance of women working in it will be defined by the male consumers. But if Pole is moving out of the strip clubs then surely there is no reason for women to still dress the same way. It’s about variety. Women after all, come in many shapes and sizes and I object to any standardization of female beauty ideals especially if it is mostly perpetrated by men.

But, this does not mean that I am saying Pole should never be sexy, or perhaps sensual. I don’t think some people are ever going to get away from the associations that come with Pole or even the unavoidable phallic symbolism of a girl dancing on a pole. Oh well. However, I have seen performances of talented Pole Dancers on YouTube who look just as in touch with their self and their sexuality while still looking tasteful and making the distinction between stripping on a pole and using it as a form of dance/exercise obvious. (I’d point readers in the direction of http://www.poleexercise.co.uk for some very talented ladies (and men!) showing just what can be done on a pole without high heels to weigh you down.)

I also think it’s hypocritical for some women to be calling Pole a sport ‘that empowers women’ when they are dressed in a way that, im sorry, just does not bring empowerment to mind. And how can we expect Pole to be seen in a new light if  the emphasis is still on how sexy a woman looks when she is on the pole, instead of how talented her performance is. Again, I’ve already said that there is nothing wrong with looking sexy or attractive on the pole, it is a visual performance after all and aesthetics play a big part in it, but the focus is ultimately supposed to be on what the woman is doing not how she looks when she’s doing it. What’s more, I think a woman looks no less attractive with artistically pointed toes which takes much more skill to maintain throughout a performance anyway.

To be honest, I don’t think it makes any difference if women see Pole as a fitness form or an art form, as Felix Cane herself does, there is still no need for the standardized definition of female sexuality that a bikini and high heels provide, and I have presented several reasons as to why it actually places Pole Dancers at a disadvantage.

To sum it up,  there are so many dancers out there showing just how versatile Pole can be; the many different styles on show, the vast repertoire of moves and the different things that inspire women to dance on the pole (if you don’t believe me, prepare to be amazed by ladies such as Studio Veena, Mai Sato and TaraKarina ) that it seems such a shame that the ‘stripper uniform’ is so widespread. Nor do I have any right to get up on my soap box and say that women shouldn’t be allowed to dress that way on the pole, even if they’re not strippers, but I would hazard a guess that a lot of women dress that way because that’s what they see other dancers doing and maybe they haven’t completely thought through the implications of dressing in such a manner. Unfortunately, for some people it is going to take a lot to convince them that Pole has a purpose, and a totally different one, from the one seen in  strip clubs.

Ultimately, if Pole is to become an example of how women can be empowered through the expression of their bodies and their impressive skill, grace and strength, then perhaps dancers should start dressing the part.


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