Let me tell you a story.
Seven years ago, a young girl tried pole dancing and fell in love. She learned how to move with the music, how to walk in killer heels, and satisfied the monkey-tendencies she developed during her tree-climbing childhood.
Four years later, she moved to England, and found her beloved pole dancing wasn’t quite the same – in England they were all about pole fit. She searched high and low, in London and beyond, for a school that taught a similar style to her school in Sydney, but it wasn’t to be. So, like a well-adjusted human being, she had adapted her expectations and get on with life. Only to find that she discovered a friendly pole school in Durham, and rewarded with loads of new moves to learn, a completely new style to get to grips with, and lots of new friends.
This post looks at the differences between pole dance and pole fit, and is 100% based on my own experience: I’d love to hear from people who have different experiences too. When I first arrived in the UK, I noticed significant differences between the style of pole in Australia (dance) and the UK (fit). Here is a basic breakdown on the styles:
Both are designed to be challenging, fun and to reclaim the idea of pole dancing as something that’s not inherently related to the red light district. But they do it in slightly different ways.
Pole dance reclaims it by maintaining the overt attractiveness to the dance: fitness and strength are as equal to mastering a smooth routine, with sexiness an important part of the performance. You as the dancer are in control – you’re not being objectified (not that there’s anyone there to objectify you!), and you are choosing to demonstrate your strength and femininity in that way. And looking objectively, apart from the shoes and the costumes, a lot of the routines aren’t overtly sexy – what makes them sexy is the attitude of the dancer themselves. They consciously steer their performances towards a certain interpretation.
Pole fit has a different focus: it focuses more at the actual move itself in isolation, with an emphasis on building core and muscle strength. In my experience, UK dancers know loads more actual moves than the Aussies, but they don’t always have the stamina to do combos or routines. They reclaim the sport by trying to negate any sexual connotations: their focus is on the sport and fitness of the activity, and work to steer their activity away from any inherent sexiness.
So, basically, the Aussies are saying ‘too bloody right, mate, being sexy is a part of the sport and we’ll continue to work that into our routines with kick ass moves, and we’re true blue proud of it’ (because that’s how all Aussies talk), the UK are saying ‘excuse me, actually, you can have a perfectly respectable sport without reminding ourselves of the stripper pole, thank you very much. Now pass the tea’. And I am qualified to make those statements because I am: a) a pole dancer, and b) have lived in both countries, so know how they talk.
In recent years, there has been a shift in both spheres to focus on really contortion-y moves: how you literally tie yourself in a knot around the pole. The only way I’ll do this is to remove a few ribs, or quit my full time role and spend my days on a rack, like the good old middle ages.
Recently it seems like UK has started to focus on expressionist dance. Performances are done bare foot, and costumes have to include a certain amount of material to pass: you can’t be too sexy. So with that in mind, here is some homework before we continue.
Go and watch these videos:
- Here is a performance by Bendy Kate – UK pole superstar, and winner of the World Pole Dance 2014 as well as many other titles (web address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV_zbt7ycUc)
- And here is a personal hero of mine, Cleo the Hurricane, two-time Miss Pole Dance Australia, dancing to Courntey Love (web address: http://www.poledancevideos.com.au/weddingday/)
So. One is a competition entry, and the other is a freestyle dance. Both are really fun, amazingly impressive and super advanced, but in my opinion, Cleo seems a little more free. Maybe cos it’s not a competition entry, but still. The routines that are based in pole fitness are often more creative because they interpret it in so many different ways, however they sometimes lack a certain…. liberty that is present in the routines based in pole dance.
Personally, I love the energy in Cleo’s style. It’s fun, and she’s completely in control of what she’s doing – like I said before, there’s no objectification there whatsoever: what you think says more about your attitudes than her, and her unapologetic confidence is like a huge f*ck you to any naysayers out there.
That’t not the only reason why I like her style, but I appreciate what the Aussie style pole has done for me personally in terms of not being awkward about yourself: now instead of feeling self-conscious on the dance floor, I frickin tear it up, as we found out on Friday (whether the moves were any good is a different question…).
Anyway, this is a bit rambly now. The main points are:
- Although I like the inventiveness of the expressionist pole routines, as long as the UK is still a little conservative towards certain styles of pole dance, Aussie pole dance will be my favourite
- The sexy element of pole dance is what has had the biggest impact in my overall attitude, and I don’t think I’d be as open minded, happy or relaxed in myself if I’d learned only pole fit – if that sounds weird, I’m happy to talk more about it!
- The moves that my pole heroes can do are breathtaking in their grace, strength and contortion, and both pole fit and dance are moving in an incredible direction
- I have made some amazing friends through pole fit in the UK, and so even though I don’t get my headrolls in as much as I’d like, I would never choose to be without these ladies
So that’s that. Like I said, this is all based on my own experience, so please feel free to agree, disagree, go off on a tangent in the comments…..