Pole dancing has gained popularity as a form of exercise with increased awareness of the benefits to general strength and fitness. These forms of exercise increases core and general 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, squats, push-ups, and sit-ups and gradually works its way up to the spins, climbs and inversions which are the métier of the exercise. Pole dancing is also generally reported by its schools to be empowering for women in terms of building self-confidence, in terms of which its erotic components are still the subject of some controversy. Some feminists argue that sexualized dancing of this kind cannot be seen as empowering because the choice to participate is not made in freedom from constraining power structures, especially given the performative aspect of many classes.
Pole dancing is a full-body workout. It is resistance training and cardio in one. Flexibility is improved as well. Pole dancers perform acrobatic tricks either suspending their weight or propelling it around a metal pole. The simple act of climbing a pole is an incredible display of strength. It is no surprise, then, that most pole dancers insist they have never looked or felt better. Natasha Wang is a world champion pole dancer who didn’t even start until age 29. Greta Pontarelli is a champion pole dancer at age 63—and she only began a few years ago.
I started pole dancing after I saw it at a live event in New York City. The women mystified me with their grace, strength and sensuality. I wanted to learn how to move like them. I was convinced it wouldn't be too difficult to learn since I was in relatively good shape. I was proven wrong after my first class, however. Every muscle in my body ached for days.
Pole dance in America has its roots in the "Little Egypt" traveling sideshows of the 1890s, which featured sensual "Kouta Kouta" or "Hoochie Coochie" belly dances, performed mostly by Ghawazi dancers making their first appearance in America. In an era where women dressed modestly in corsets, the dancers, dressed in short skirts and richly adorned in jewelry, caused quite a stir. During the 1920s, dancers introduced pole by sensually gyrating on the wooden tent poles to attract crowds.