Since I’ve begun to pole dance, I’ve received a LOT of questions – some legit, some concerned, some a bit bonkers. I’ve decided to answer those questions to enlighten y’all about the magic world of pole dancers, as a a pole dance instructor, competitor and performer.
The Fitnessy Questions
How do you go upside down on the pole?
It’s all due to upper body strength – e.g. arms and shoulders – and core strength. When you go upside down (or straddle, a sort of upside down box split) you have to hug the pole with your armpit, roll your shoulders back and either tip back in a frog-like shape or go upside down with straight legs. The straddle is a key pole dance move that leads into many other ones. Some studios teach it quite early on, others are more conservative and wait longer. Either way, if you do it for the first time have someone around to spot you. DON’T JUST DO IT IN A CLUB CAUSE THERE’S A POLE THERE if you have never done it before. You will injure yourself.
Can you do it even if you don’t have much upper body strength?
Body strength can be built. If you’re born with it, lucky you, but I’ve never been as strong as I am now and I couldn’t be like this if I hadn’t started small. We all start small, so everybody can do it.
Do I need to be a good dancer to do pole?
No. Of course it helps if you are, but yours truly was the world’s worst dancer and an even worse twerker before starting and now I’m doing ok. If I can do it – and, according to my first twerk teacher I was a lost cause – you can too.
Do you need to be incredibly fit to pole dance?
When you look at the most famous pole dancers’ Instagram shots you do get body envy, but it doesn’t mean we all have to look like them. A six-pack might help, but then again most sports engage your muscles and body in a different way than pole, so even if you’re super fit you might struggle initially. Case in point: this video of body builders trying pole dancing and falling down.
Some of the coolest, strongest polers I know don’t look like fitness models – because the way your body looks doesn’t mean it can’t achieve things. We’ve been brainwashed to think that thinness is the be all end and all of sport, but actually, being stronger is a better goal to achieve than looking like a fitness model. Read this post about pole dancing for beginners here – a lot of help about starting with different experiences and body types.
The Practical Questions
What does a pole dance class look like?
If you’re wondering what studios look like, every studio is different. Some of them are bare and look like a normal gym, some of them are extra AF and beautiful.
If you’re wondering what you actually do in a pole dance class, it starts with a warm-up, followed by conditioning up the pole and then the teaching of actual moves and a cool down sesh – or at least that’s what pole fitness looks like.
If you’re into pole dance choreography, exotic pole dance, contemporary pole, pole classique, then you often learn a short choreography after a warm-up.
Every studio is different and will teach in different ways, often calling moves with different names and allowing a different number of people to go to a class. Sometimes you have to share poles, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you might see student dancing in heels, sometimes you might not.
*Find my pole dance warm up tutorial via Buy Me A Coffee and in this snippet below.
What type of pole-related classes are there?
Aside from the ones mentioned above, pole dance schools often also teach aerial hoop, aerial silks, aerial fitness, aerial yoga and a bunch of strength-related and stretch-based classes to improve your pole performance. Fun studios also have chair and lap classes and twerk classes, both great workouts that make you feel sexy AND kill your thighs worse than squats.
Can you just teach yourself?
You can, provided that you do so safely and you follow guidelines from tutorials. Don’t just jump into an invert in your first class.
I would also recommend, after a while, to go to a studio even just once a month to be seen by another pair of eyes. It helps in every case to get advice from someone else.
How expensive is pole dancing?
Preeetty expensive. It’s my only guilty pleasure. Most classes I’ve seen in London go from £15 to £18 per hour, while in Australia it was kind of similar, but in dollars.
What are those things you spread on your hands and legs before climbing the pole?
It’s probably Dry Hands gel or another similar brand. It’s a chalk-based gel that dries your hands up (shocker) and helps you go up without slipping down. Sadly, that’s now as expensive as liquid gold and not as available, so we’re settling for other gels. Depending on the weather and the type of pole, some pole dancers also use shaving cream, or hairspray, or both.
How long have you been doing it for?
My pole anniversary is at the end of July 2016.
How long does it take you to become a good pole dancer?
Becoming “good” is very relative. I am a perfectionist and I probably will never feel “good”, but slowly I’m starting to get some compliments from pole mates and some paid work (e.g. music videos). Some polers see going upside down as a milestone towards progress – and in a way it is – but you can be good as a beginner too. Sometimes you see really confident people who don’t need to pull weird tricks to look great. So this is pretty much a non-answer. Sorry.
The Sexy Questions
Are you a stripper?
No, I’m not. This is no #notastripper post – it’s just a fact. I don’t have that experience and I can’t claim it, or appropriate it. Strippers have invented our sport though, and the least we can do is acknowledge it.
Pole dance was created by strippers, who opened the first pole studios, so I am really grateful to them – they are my daily inspiration!
If you’re asking this and judging, please remember that this blog stands with the view that if someone strips for money because they prefer doing that instead of any other job, or if they enjoy stripping, it’s nobody’s business or place to judge them. Sex work is work.
You can read more about stripping from the lovely Stacey from the East London Strippers Collective here.
Why do you wear so little clothing?
Partly, I’d like to think, it’s the stripping legacy. Partly, it’s the fact that staying up the pole is a matter of friction. You need so many bits of your body to stay up! Initially it’s just forearms, inner thigh and knees, then it moves onto armpits, belly and even your butt crack. There are grip aids that come in the shape of grippy leggings from brands like Creatures of XIX, or Mighty Grip Gloves, but I personally prefer using my own body because I want to train it to be stronger and resistant in every circumstance. Moving to the colder side of Europe does challenge you though, so I might have to experiment with grippy polewear. Anyway, chances are that once you’ll start doing pole you’ll feel more confident and will be happy to look at and show your body instead of covering it. With reason!
Why do you wear high heels?
As I mentioned above, pole dancing studios were first opened by strippers and our sport owes a lot to sex workers, who pioneered these types of shoes. So, particularly in Exotic Pole / choreo classes / performaces, recreational pole dancers wear them.
High heels help you engage your leg muscles way better AND they’re sexy AF. They make lovely sounds when they clap. They make you feel gorgeous, enhance your moves and are heavier to lift when you go upside down, challenging your core strength even more. Most pole dancers buy Pleaser Shoes and my birthday is on 9 December, and I’m an American Size 9, a UK 6 and a EU 39-40 in case you want to make a pole dancer happy (WINK WINK). Also, I’m not one of those people who don’t like surprises so if you want to surprise me outside my birthday, be my guest. But anyway, if you want to read more about pole dancing shoes, click on my post about them here.
Do men do it? Are they gay?
1) Is it any of your business whether they’re gay or straight? 2) I’ve met both heterosexual and gay men that do pole and they are all really strong and beautiful. The great thing about pole is that everybody can make it theirs and choose their style, so whether you’re a man, a woman, bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, transgender or none of the above… it doesn’t really matter. I’ve been lucky to go to extremely welcoming and safe pole dance studios where you can be yourself and enjoy pole no matter your age, gender, background and the like, and I believe diversity should be celebrated.
How much of your moves do you use in a club on a night out?
…I am guilty of showing off in a club. I’m sorry. Not all pole dancers do it but I do, ’cause I’ve always been a show-off. My friends are mostly proud (I think) and say: “It’s amazing, considering how bad you used to be at dancing.” So yeah come the second beer I’ll be split dropping and twerking on the floor. It’s ok if you don’t wanna go clubbing with me – I’ll probably have fun on my own anyway.
Can I come watch?
You can come to showcases, competitions, performances. Not to classes. Soz. If you’re lucky, sometimes Sardegna Pole Dance Fitness in Olbia does pole classes on the beach.
The Existential Questions
What do your parents think of you pole dancing?
My mum is mostly OK with. She is weirded out by the sexy moves but respects what I do. My dad is impressed by the strength involved, but sometimes feels awks about the sexiness aspect. He still put up a pole in our garden though! I keep sending him pics of my moves and he once answered the translation of “I can literally see everything love Dad,” bless him.
Why do you do it?
I started to pole dance at a really bad time in my life when I felt I was a bad, weak, useless person. Pole gave me back my strength and my confidence. You can read more about it in this post.
How can you be a feminist and a pole dancer?
Uhm… Yes! You can also be a feminist and a stripper. And as a feminist, in fact, you should support strippers because sex work is work and if it’s done consensually, we should really focus on improving working conditions rather than worry about whether it’s the right thing to do.
I believe that being a feminist means 1) having equal rights to men 2) being allowed to be your own person and make your own choices despite what the patriarchy says.
I chose my moves, my choreographies, my clothes I believe I am in control of myself and my image and I find pole empowering. People are free to see me as an object, but that doesn’t mean I am one or behave like one. I actually quite enjoy being many people at the same time – a PhD student/academic, a blogger, a pole dancer, a nerd, a metal-head, whatever. So go on thinking I’m an object, I just won’t hang out with you. More info here.
Aren’t you worried about your job/life/getting a partner?
I sometimes worry about jobs, but I’ve received support from colleagues who understand that pole is a sport and a hobby for me. Potential partners who don’t approve of me being a pole dancer will be taken off the list. They can fuck right off.
Why do y’all overshare so much on social media?
The pole dance community is very active on social media and uses it to find gigs, inspiration, like-minded individuals and studios to practice in. I found the London Dance Academy and my London twerk inspiration Twerkology Nation on Instagram. I also found my current studio via IG. Plus, OH MY GOD I AM UPSIDE DOWN – wouldn’t you share that too?
That’s pretty much all I can think of in terms of questions I’ve been asked since becoming a pole dancer. I’d like to finish this article with a hilarious and quite poignant video by my former studio, Sydney Pole, giving you a pole dance translation of the expectations vs. reality scenario. Watch it, it’s only a minute long!
Pictures: Carolina, The Black Light Sydney, Lioness Photographer