TW: body issues
It's an art that comes with a lot of built in controversy, with its most popular historical reference dating back to strip clubs in the 80s. But modern pole dance pulls a lot more from circus aerialists, the Indian sport of Mallakhamb, and contemporary dance. That isn't to say there's still things borrowed from the strip club culture, shoes being one example. There's a lot of in fighting and discussion among the pole community regarding whether or not it should be considered an Olympic sport or taught to children. With its reputation of being highly sexualized, it's having a hard time legitimizing itself in the arena of athletics. It can be sexy, it can be poetic, it is what you make of it. But it's a long road before we do away with people only envisioning it something primarily sexual.
Heidi Coker makes pole edgy without being highly sexual.
I started pole dancing on a whim, looking for something to cross train with the circus aerial classes I was already taking. Circus school is 6 blocks away from the pole studio, and children as young as 6 attend to learn how to work on silks and ropes just like the adults. Pole came with a strict 18+ restriction unless the student had a parent sign off on the class first, then it's 16+. The only difference I could tell was the level of clothing you'd need to wear in order to work on the apparatus. You'd never want to go bare legged on silks or rope unless you want permanent rope burn, but you'll never be able to stick to a pole if you showed up wearing pants. The tricks are very similar, to the point where one of my instructors explained certain moves to me in circus terms so that I'd understand how to translate that same movement to the pole. Now when someone clicks their tongue at me to suggest I'm participating in something scandalous, I assert that it's pretty much a one person jungle gym and shouldn't be judged as anything more.
9 year old Olia Trifonova making me feel like the total amateur I am
I've been a pole dancer for a little over a year now and it has made me more body conscious, mostly in a positive way. When I land a particularly hard or painful trick, I feel completely empowered and superhuman. When I move through daily life, I am more graceful simply because I am more aware of what my body is doing. In my year of pole, my weight has fluctuated up and down by many sizes. I've gained more than lost, due to adjusting to a new job. It's difficult to reconcile both the joy I get from dance and body consciousness, and the insecurity due to being so acutely aware of my body and the changes its gone through. My muscles aren't as conditioned as they used to be, and it's really painful to know the mechanics of what I want my body to do while physically incapable of accomplishing it. Most of the dancers at my level are strong and graceful, and yet I can't seem to get myself to that level of discipline.
So it was really inspiring for me to wake up to this video, which has since gone viral throughout the pole community. This is Emma Haslam's submission video to compete in the Lincolnshire Pole Championships this year. Dare I say, she fucking killed it! I've been inspired to get back on the pole, weight gain be damned. And I hope to set an example for other dancers and prove that body weight and skills have nothing to do with one another.