Monday, 30 September 2013

Why pole dancing isn't just for strippers


by Emma McGarthy.


When people are asked about pole dancing the immediate picture is of half-naked women in heels, dancing provocatively in seedy clubs for gawking men.

There is, of course, truth to these images: strip clubs use poles and there is no denying the use of pole dancing to titillate.

But that is not to say all pole dancing should be put into this category.

Visit a pole dance class and you will see it is about a sense of community, of women coming together to increase their fitness, strength and confidence in an interesting and creative way.

This is happening alongside an increasing recognition of the skill, strength and athleticism involved in pole dancing.  

Gemini, a class in Brighton, set up by Amy Darby and Natalie Farmer, is an example of pole dancing being used for fitness and creativity.

When asked why she originally began pole dancing, Amy said that it was partly the burlesque and fun side of it. What kept her interested, however, and persuaded her to become more involved, was the physical challenge.

Amy said it keeps her stimulated in a way the gym can't, as it involves “being creative and being challenged mentally.”

It is this ability to be creative and make up your own dance routine which Gemini member Charlotte Simms said, “keeps people coming back.”

And there is no doubt that pole dancing is challenging, holding your body on a pole by just your thighs is by no means an easy feat.

Learning to pole dance takes patience, determination and a high pain threshold, but the feeling of accomplishment when you achieve a move is apparently like nothing else.

The increased flexibility, awareness of your body and the movements it can do make pole dancing addictive.

When speaking to the Gemini members, there is a common theme of pole dancing giving increased confidence.

And not just in women, but men, too. Thomas Bullivent said of pole dancing: “It's made me feel a lot more confident in myself.”

Having previously been overweight, Tom has battled with his body image for years but pole dancing vastly improved his self-confidence, as it has for many women.  

“My core strength vastly improved," he added. "There’s not a lot else that works your entire body.”

Getting the perspective of a man who has tried pole was enlightening as Tom says he only sees an “athlete” when he watches the girls dance. Yet he also believes the majority of men see pole dancing as “sexual torment and cock teasing.”

Pole might never lose its stereotype and there may always be those who are adversely against it.

However, after visiting Gemini and interviewing its dancers, it is not difficult to understand why a growing number of people are taking it up.

The supportive atmosphere, inventiveness and fitness you gain from pole dancing classes certainly oppose the stereotype of heels and seedy clubs.  

It's fun. And anyway, as Amy said: “expressing your sexuality isn’t a bad thing.”

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