Finding confidence in pole dancing

Pole dancing is a job considered both sexy and scandalous, depending on who's judging it. However, it is not only a job, but rather a reintroduced recreational activity. At one point, it may have been considered a form of income for women associated with the sex industry or for the entertainment of grimy men, but now it is also viewed as an enjoyable aerobic exercise. 

Because this form of dance is viewed as taboo by some in American society, it may come as a surprise to many people that it is becoming a preferred exercise of many. Just a little over a decade ago, the dance didn’t have much instruction, but now there are studios that teach the art of pole dance.

“I understand how some people come from families where it’s the only way to support themselves, so it’s not necessarily looked down upon,” says Bailey Moore, a sophomore dance major at Arizona State University. “I know some people who do it make more money than I make with all three of my jobs combined, so I can see why, if you’re financially struggling, you might get into it.”

Prowess Pole Fitness owner Lindsay Green faced many judgmental remarks about her profession in the beginning but has noticed a difference in the way people respond over the last few years.

“When I first started telling my friends, I always got the, ‘Ugh. Are you a stripper?’ I used to get quite a bit of scrutiny, and I used to just not even tell people because I didn’t want to deal with it,” Green says. “But now, over the past couple of years, I can tell anyone I’m a pole dancer, and people know what that means. They’re like, ‘That’s awe- some. I’ve heard of that.’ It’s come so far; now I tell anyone that I’m a pole dancer.”

Because of its provocative history, pole dancing usually isn’t considered as a physical education course. ASU has created obstacles in bringing a class to the campus, Green says. When Green contacted ASU about the possibility of bringing pole dancing to the students, the university's response was that she "would have to make some sort of jersey," she says. 

 “With any physical education class you have to look at more than just if it would be a fun class,” says Jasmine Gardner, an international dance instructor at ASU. “There are potential injuries to consider — the cost of equipment, availability of instructors, what physical benefits are going to be gained, how the class is going to be run — so many factors go into considering a class.”

Fortunately for ASU, if this class were to be considered, Green has volunteered to instruct the class and share her equipment as long as the students are comfortable taking the light rail two stops to avoid having to move the equipment back and forth.

Aware of the social concerns, Green assures those who frown upon the aerobic exercise that it’s not the provocative hobby some people make it out to be.

“The arm and core workout is intense, you can’t beat it,” Green says. “But other than that, coordination and flexibility are the main physical benefits. (Pole dancing) makes you feel more confident; it makes you feel strong, sexy and then you can take that kind of high self-esteem that you can create with this and use it in your daily life.”

But when introduced as an alternative way to increase arm and core strength as well as enhancing one’s self-appreciation and confidence, attitudes begin to change to- ward it. Moore, who was previously against the idea of pole dancing, said she would definitely take a class.

“Pole dancing has a bad name, but just a class itself isn’t any different than doing a hip-hop class,” Moore says. “People will do hip-hop provocatively as well, so I don’t know why it would have to be looked down upon to do it for fun or for fitness reasons.”

The benefits of pole dancing can be found in many other dances as well, but fail to be as intense in most cases. 

“Sometimes you just need a break, and dancing pro- vides an excellent avenue to rejuvenate the mind and body,” says Gardner. “Good music, getting all your muscles involved and just having a good time moving to the beat makes people happy.”

Like hip-hop or cheerleading, pole dancing is taken very seriously by many people. Green is Arizona’s first national and international pole dance competitor since 2009, winning first place in 2012 at Pole Classic before becoming a brand ambassador for Bad Kitty.

“People think it’s a strip club thing, but it’s absolutely not,” Green says. “These people are normal, everyday people that want to compete in pole.”

Competitions can be as small as a club competition, like at Denim & Diamonds in Mesa, or it can be as big as World Pole Dance, the dream of many pole competitors.

“World Pole is the crème de la crème, because you compete against pole dancers from every country, and it’s a very strict competition,” Green says. “For example, their music is instrumental only, there can’t be words. Their moves are very (uniform); they try to make it similar to what you would see in the Olympics.”

Similar to any profession or hobby, practice makes perfect. At Prowess Pole Fitness, they offer various classes to help its members rise to the top. For $20, the “Intro to Pole” class teaches the most basic level of pole dance to beginners. Once feeling comfortable, one can choose to begin Level 1 and work their way up to Level 4. Prowess also offers a few unrelated dance classes.

Though when Green first started her business, she was often under scrutiny for her chosen profession, many people are studying pole dance at Prowess Pole Fitness. Her studio, a sprawling 2,000 square feet, is becoming too small to fit her class size, Green says.

She imagines there will be a boom in the industry of pole dancing exercise classes in the next several years and feels the demand in her studio is indicative of that.

Green, and many others, hopes her passion can one day be fully accepted by society and young adults as a physical education class that not only can get one in shape, but also boost their confidence. 

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