What To Bring To & What To Know About Your First Exotic Pole Class

So you’ve signed up for your first exotic pole dance class. What do you bring to it? What do you wear? What can you expect from it? In case you missed it, I became a pole dance instructor last Autumn, so here’s a quick post to clarify your exotic doubts if you’ve been wanting to try one of my classes or exotic in general.

What Is Exotic Pole Dance?

I didn’t invent exotic pole, and while you could say that, generally, exotic dancing is about dancing with heels, it gets so much deeper than that. It has a history that precedes pole dancing as a sport.

According to an interview my mate Eilish from Chrome Chronicles did with some of the world’s coolest exotic dancers, exotic dancing originates from Vaudeville and circus acts from US circuses, which then was censored during prohibition and ended up being a staple of speakeasies and striptease bars. In the interview, Jordan Kensley says:

Because space was limited, many performers would have to perform on a bar or a raised platform and the pole was added as a safety precaution so the performers would have something to hold onto while they stripped. Once prohibition was over, some performers went on to hold shows more similar to the vaudeville life before they were forced underground (now known as burlesque). Enough people enjoyed the sexy table dance so much that bar and restaurant owners converted their interiors to host girls to perform strip dances in their bar, these conversions were made both with and without a pole. Since then, we’ve seen crossover in all three mediums- burlesque, circus and striptease to create what is now the pole industry.

Jordan Kensley
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#ipolebecause I fucking want to. I pole because other women paved the way for me. I pole because strippers started creating tricks and meshing them with sexuality, flow and dance so that I could one day do the same. I pole because I had a non-judgmental friend that showed me what pole could be (shout out to Youtube before it got sassy about censoring us) and gave me courage to try it. I found confidence in the skin I’m in at a strip club in AZ with my friend and that confidence helped me continue to pole for fun and for work. I pole because I want other people to find what I did- themselves. I pole because I love dancing and being sexual and strong and challenged and emotional and free. I pole because society tells me not to. I pole because my mom tells me she’s proud of me. I pole because my dad has said he’s not. I pole for myself and I pole for my students and I pole for my customers and audience, live and online and in videos. I pole because sexuality and sensuality comes in many forms and pole is not defined by that but rather helps us find our own definition for ourselves. I pole to make a difference. I pole to help other pole dancers recognize and respect the strippers that came before them. I pole so that history will remember us. I pole so that movies will be made about us, and will inspire more people to try to find their version of this cycle. I pole because it’s my body and my choice….. why do you pole? • In light of the @hustlersmovie premiere today, let’s remind society and social media why we pole and how we support sex workers and strippers. • As an act of protest against the unfair treatment (online and in reality) of sex workers, strippers, pole dancers, minorities, POC and womxn and to protest the blatant misogyny and hypocrisy of the promotion of this film, and it’s affect on strippers everywhere (esp in filming locations and the woman who’s life has been stolen from her to make a profit for the men who stole it). Protest SETSA/FOSTA, Protest CENSORSHIP, Protest those who would try and wish for us to be silenced. And through your protest, show your support. #hustlersmovie #jordankensley 📸: @theblacklightsydney

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Recently however, it has been pointed out by Pole Positive that the term ‘exotic’ – meaning from a far, foreign country – might be racist when it comes to pole. She suggests it’d be more appropriate to replace it with ‘erotic’ and ‘erotic dancing’ – so, related to arousing sexual desire. I haven’t seen this shift happen in the pole community where I am at the moment, and Pole Positive herself seems to wonder what to do about the specific style of “Russian Exotic”, but it’s a conversation worth having.

If you take away anything from this post however, I want it to be that exotic pole does come from stripping and that just because you are not a stripper, you should not appropriate a style that comes from that line of work to then differentiate yourself from sex workers in order to sleep at night about your pure, innocent set of morals. If you like exotic, respect its founders and creators.

Read more about exotic pole origins in the post below.

How Does An Exotic Pole Dance Class Differ From A Tricks Class?

While you may learn some combos that require strength and stamina in an exotic class, generally you won’t need to do more than one climb up the pole.

Exotic pole dance classes generally focus on learning a routine – usually around a minute long – incorporating floorwork, spins around the pole and some tricks that don’t require gripping with more than your hands. This means it’s not unusual for people to take an exotic class in their leggings, as they rarely need their knees or hips to grip.

That being said, there are different levels of exotic where this might change. I teach Exotic Basic at Exotica Pole Dance in Hackney Wick – which has still proven to be quite hard for some people 😛 but then you can find exotic hard classes, or Russian Exotic classes, which are even more challenging than that and include actual tricks. More to come below.

One thing is certain: the fact you’re not climbing up the pole doesn’t mean you won’t get tired. Running a routine over and over again, on your toes, in heels makes you sweat like crazy 🙂

Is Exotic Just One Style?

No! In a fantastic blog post explaining the difference among styles of pole dancing in heels, Peach Lee Ray splits exotic into three categories:

  1. Stripper Style (characterised by heel clacks, body rolls, twerking, touching your body, filthy sexy faces, clothing removal and eye contact);
  2. Russian Exotic (all about strength moves, handstands, leg waves, power spins, accented tempo changes and other specialties associated with the Russian school of pole);
  3. Classique (a ‘cleaner’ side of sexy pole featuring splits everywhere, multi-trick combos, spinning pole, coy audience engagement, floor work shapes).

New styles are also developing, incorporating all sorts of dance styles, from burlesque to strip plastic, from commercial heels to hip hop and twerk.

Peach says it’s not all that clean cut: many pole dancers travel among those definitions and categories. I myself like to incorporate all of those styles in the routines I teach, having started pole in the very “Classiquey” Australia, to continue in the pole fitness obsessed UK learning from stripper style and classique instructors to then teach at a Russian studio.

Think about it: if at exotic pole competitions like Exotic Generation you have as many divisions as Exotic Hard, Exotic Old School, Exotic Theatre, Exotic Flow etc, it means exotic pole dancing is not that black and white. And that’s the beauty of it: exotic pole is about you and how you can use your own body to feel sexy, without trying to be someone you’re not.

And as performer and creator of the XPert Heels training Tiff Finney told me in a recent interview:

Exotic to me is appreciating the beauty of the body and watching it moving and twisting in beautiful ways. It involves ultimate muscle engagement. In order to engage every muscle in your body, you have to stand tall with gorgeous posture. This exudes a look of confidence and control over your own body. Control and ownership of your own body is the most beautiful thing. It’s not about pushing your body to uncomfortable extremes, it’s about using it to show proudly who you already are. 

Tiff Finney

Do I Need To Be A Pro Pole Dancer To Try An Exotic Pole Class?

No! In fact, all the pro exotic dancers in the blog post by Chrome Chronicles I quoted agree that being a good exotic dancer has nothing to do with being able to do a Rainbow Machenko.

Some people start out with exotic even just a few months after learning how to pole. Others prefer to wait because they’d rather build up their upper body strength to manage some of the trickier grips.

My advice is: the earlier you start, the better. Sure, make sure you feel confident about spinning around the pole, but after a few months of beginner classes where you learn basic pirouettes, step-arounds, body rolls etc. you should totally give exotic pole a try. It’s the fun bit of things! And every decent instructor will give you variations if the moves in the routine are too far above your level and/or if you’re injured and can’t do them.

What Should I Bring To An Exotic Class?

My two essentials are heels (of course) and kneepads. Heels because, while you can do a choreo class without them, exotic is about dancing on your platform (so on your toes), about drops, kips, heelbangs and pirouettes – and these all require heels. In fact, heels help protect your feet and toes from smashing on the floor, and they help you get up and enhance your movements in an easier and more fun way!

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💥👠HEEL BANGS 👠💥 Where do they come from and what are they for? _ _ For those who don’t know, Heel Bangs are when you bang the platform of your stripper shoe into the floor (not to be confused with Heel Clacks, which is when you hit the platforms of your heels together which makes a different sound – lighter, more clicky than the thunderous vibrations of a Bang) _ _ Heel Bangs originated with strippers in strip clubs. Dancers would be on stage performing, and heel bangs were the perfect way to attract attention to their stage shows. Bang bang! Over here! Look at me! Tip me! So the dancer was asserting herself, drawing attention to her show and getting customers to come and watch her slay the stage and throw some money 💸💸 The dancer is the queen of the stage, every time she bangs her heels into the floor she’s reminding you who’s boss, enforcing her goddess power! _ _ Some people don’t understand Heel Bangs at all…. “Is all that banging around necessary? Why do you keep hitting your shoes onto the floor?” … I think it frightens them a little, and I think heel bangs should be a little bit frightening. The shock factor of crashing your heels into the stage and watching the front row jump out of their skin or scream with delight is probably one the most satisfying experiences there is. _ _ Heel Bangs represent feminine power, and asserting yourself as a woman. Every time you bang your heels, you are demanding to be heard, you are allowing yourself to take up space and be visible, you are embracing yourself. Things we don’t always allow ourselves to do in every day life. _ _ So go forth and bang to your heart’s content. Stripper Style Exotic is more than just feeling a bit sexy, it’s a revolution!💥👠 What do you love about Heel Bangs?

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Now, if you’ve watched my performance videos and have noticed I’m not wearing kneepads, please understand that I am a crazy bitch, and that my thighs are chunky yet funky so I feel like I look like a leg of ham if I add kneepads to them. Secondly, that performance is ONE run-through. Imagine doing a WHOLE exotic class with drops to the floor and pivoting on your knees for a WHOLE HOUR without kneepads. Kneepads are life. Kneepads are safe. Kneepads are a MUST. So invest in a pair and WEAR THEM TO CLASS! Your knees will thank me.

Meme credit: @polelols

What Should I Wear?

This is entirely up to you and to your studio. Some studios welcome you dancing in lingerie, some prefer activewear.

I’m a sucker for a good sexy thong, but I must admit that good polewear, or sometimes even leggings, are much easier to dance in. Why? Because you don’t have to flap check or worry about nip slips every damn time. So dance with something you feel comfortable in. Ideally though, something that doesn’t cover your arms cause you’ll be using those A LOT.

Can I Dance In Heels If I’m A Boy/ Non-Binary?

Hell yeah. If you ever get turned down from an exotic class because of your gender or gender identity please stir up a shitstorm because that is bollocks. Exotic is a style. It’s not about what you have between your legs or what you identify as. Plus, the more boys or gender non-conforming exotic polers we have, the more interesting things we’ll be able to see on stage. It’s a win for all of us.

Even Voldemort has been allowed on stage at a pole dance competition, so if villains are allowed, so are you. (JK, Jakub is my idol).

Will I Suck At It?

It depends. You might be a trained dancer and know how to carry yourself even when you don’t get the move. Or you could be a complete newbie when you start.

In any case, while previous dance experience might help your poise, exotic is its own beast and you might find it really difficult at first. God knows I struggled – I was APPALLING. I could not point my toes to save my life. I could not make movements flow. But don’t worry: people are not looking at you in class. They’re not thinking: “OMG look at that troll over there!”

More often than not, they’re looking at themselves (and if they bully you or judge you, they have no place in my class). Not trying something out of fear to make a fool of yourself isn’t the way to learn new skills. Make a fool of yourself. I did it for quite some time before picking exotic up – and I still struggle when I learn someone else’s choreography, because everyone’s different and so are their dance styles.

So try it. Be brave. You’ll pick it up in no time – and you’re guaranteed to have fun!

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