When I tell people I pole dance, I’m met with a number of different reactions. Some people say “You mean, you’re a stripper?” Women will often say, “Good for you, that’s awesome.” And men…well, men get that sly grin on their face and manage to look lustful and embarrassed at the same time. It’s exciting that pole dancing is no longer chained to the province of strip clubs, and it’s important that people understand that. It’s exciting because women get to experiment openly with their erotic side with less of the stigma and shame that working in a club can bring. It’s exciting because the deeply sexual side of women, the side that for so long was oppressed, repressed, criticized and shamed, is actually beginning to be celebrated instead. This is good news for all women, whether they pole dance or not.
One of the major reasons that pole dancing is beginning to be taken seriously is because of the growing number of athletic pole competitions happening around the world. The strength, grace and coordination of these women is being recognized more and more as a type of athletic talent, much like gymnastics. This athleticism has given pole dancing a certain kind of legitimacy within society as a whole, and renders it an acceptable form of exercise for people who might otherwise find the subject too risqué or distasteful.
On the other hand, if pole dancing becomes mainstreamed as just another athletic sport, we run the risk of it losing the sensual, sexual side of the movement in the effort to make the tricks come out perfectly. Executing a series of pole tricks in rapid succession takes stamina and skillfulness. But what makes a dancer interesting isn’t just her skill; it’s the emotion in her movement, the story she tells with her body. And what makes a pole dancer riveting is that the story is, more often than not, a sensual one. As women, it’s important that we keep telling this story with our bodies. It’s important because it gives other women permission to do the same. And because it brings out deeply entrenched biases and prejudices that are embedded into the fabric of our society, people are forced to confront their opinions and emotions in a conscious way.
Moral obligations aside, a woman who stays connected to her sensuality during a show is more likely to give a stronger performance. Her transitions will be smoother, her tricks will be stronger, and her overall performance more vibrant. Why is this? Because by staying connected to her sensuality, a woman will stay connected to her body. It’s one thing to get on the pole and throw a bunch of tricks like a gymnast. It’s another thing entirely to turn that into a beautiful, flowing performance that drips with emotion and intimacy. One of the key differences is the presence of sensuality in your movement.
Here are some tips for developing sensuality in your pole dancing:
1. When you move, see if you can stay aware of how things feel in your body. Are there areas that come alive? Are there areas that you don’t feel at all? Learn to be aware of these areas without trying to fix or change them.
2. Close your eyes and let your hands explore your body while you move. Pay attention to how your skin feels underneath your fingertips, the way your hair feels brushing across your face, the way your clothing clings to your body.
3. Take real pleasure in your movement. Do what feels good in your body and let that pleasure come through in your movement. There is something very powerful about a woman who can experience and share her pleasure without feeling shame.
4. Play around with floor work. Pole requires a great deal of technical skill with a relatively high risk of hurting yourself if you make a mistake. Floor work is the perfect way to get out of your head and back into your body without risking injury. And you don’t necessarily need to choreograph your movement.
5. Explore your clothing options. It’s great to practice in booty shorts and a tank top, but see what happens when you put on a sequined bikini top or some fishnet thigh highs. Does your movement change? How? Do you feel different? In what way?
6. Try dancing without a mirror. S Factor studio is famous for this. It forces you to stop paying attention to what looks good, and instead focus on what feels good. This can help your movement become more sensual.
In order for pole dancing to continue to gain acceptance in the mainstream, there will initially need to be certain differentiations put into place so people can distinguish it from it’s strip club counterpart. As Pole continues to evolve in the competitive sport arena, there will be rules and regulations that develop, like any other sport. It would be a shame, however, if the cost of mainstream acceptance is the loss of the sensual, sexual side of pole dancing. So much of a woman’s sexuality today is already contained, reined in, controlled. Pole dancing can provide an outlet for women to explore their sexuality in a safe environment. The beauty of pole is not just the incredible strength and grace that it requires, but the overt sensual display of female sexuality that accompanies a strong performance. To take that away would, in essence, deprive women of the very thing that makes pole dancing such an empowering practice.