This morning, a friend and student of mine posted up a picture of herself with her belly exposed, doing pole. She accompanied it with an explanation saying she didn’t care about her size and who saw, because she was proud of the move and that was what was important to her. I was so proud. I’m a big advocate of body positivity in poledancing, and it’s so good to see people getting to grips with their bodies.
When girls come into my classes as beginners, I see a lot of nerves. Many of them are uncomfortable wearing even regular gym shorts, and stare at my teeny-tiny booty hotpants with a mixture of horror and trepidation. And that’s ok. I know the concept of poledancing is intimidating, and it’s a big leap of faith just to walk through the door on the first class, I accept that and I really do try to help ease girls into it. One of my favourite parts of poledancing is teaching the gemini, as it’s the first move where you really need to expose your midriff. I’ll stand there in in my sports bra front of the same girls who were desperate not to take their leggings off a few months ago and tell them they’ll need to roll their tops up to get some skin to grip, and they’ll look at me for a second. Then they just do it, no worries about what they look like or who’s watching, just “Oh, I need to be able to grip here, better get it out.”. And it’s beautiful.
There’s a profound change in the way you see your body that comes with all exercise and sport if you’re in the right change of mind, and that’s the shift from ‘What does my body look like?’ to 'What can my body do?’. That’s why so many of us find the stripper connotations of pole such a drag - because it implies we want people to look at our bodies, not what we do with them. No matter how you feel about your body, you can’t help but love it when you finally nail that hold you’ve been working on, or hit that flexibility goal. When we dance, our bodies and minds become synchronised to our environment, and it feels wonderful.
As I tell people all the time, pole is for everyone, regardless of gender or size. It’s marketed as a great way to get fit and lose weight, but that doesn’t mean you have to be skinny to get good. I’ve taught people of all sizes, and everyone’s different; a lot of skinny girls are more flexible, but larger girls tend to be stronger, slim girls often have more mobility around the pole, but find getting good grip a challenge. Men are generally less flexy, particularly in the hips, but have extra power across the chest. I could go on, and for every one of these traits there’s 1000 exceptions.
Pole is an art form, a workout and a therapy all in one. Try it, love it, embrace it, make it your own. Be a dancer, and acrobat, a weightlifter, a contortionist. Learn to love your body, to forget who’s watching, and push it to it’s very limits.
And yes, every once in a while get down and dirty and let yourself feel sexy, because you’ve earned it.