Pole dancing is a form of performing art, a combination of dancing and gymnastics. It involves dancing sensually with a vertical pole and is often used in strip clubs and gentlemen's clubs. A similar pole (Chinese poles) is used in cabaret/circus and stage performance in a non-erotic environment, in which context the style and moves are very different.
Advanced pole dancing requires significant strength, flexibility and endurance. In a strip club setting, pole dancing is often performed less gymnastically and combined with striptease, Go-Go, and/or lap dancing between performers. The dancer(s) may simply hold the pole, or use it to perform more athletic moves such as climbs, spins, and body inversions. Upper body and core strength are important to proficiency, which takes time to develop.
Pole dancing is now regarded as a recognized form of exercise and can be used as both an aerobic and anaerobic workout. Recognized schools and qualifications are being developed as pole dancing increases in popularity, with the overall sex appeal toned down.
It is probable pole dancing started in America in the 1920s depression, with dancers in traveling shows using a tent pole as a prop. The relationship to Chinese poles is unclear, Chinese troupes performed in Barnum and Bailey's Circus from 1914 but they did not perform on poles.
Pole dancing gradually began evolving from tents to bars as burlesque became more acceptable in the 1950s. In the 1980s pole dancing and striptease became popular in Canada and then in the USA.
Pole dancing has gained popularity as a form of exercise, with increased awareness of the benefits to general strength and fitness. This form of exercise increases core and general body strength by using the body itself as resistance, while toning the body as a whole.
Pole dancing as an exercise is very similar to Mallakhamb, an Indian men's sport with no erotic component, but there is no evidence of a link.
A growing number of men are incorporating pole dancing into their fitness programmes. In Australia, the UK and the US, dance studios are beginning to offer classes just for men. And in China, 2007's National Pole Dancing competition was won by a man. Dance instructor Zhang Peng, 23, beat a host of women dancers to the top prize.
Although the most common pole dance competitions are still amateur nights at strip clubs, there is a growing community who are trying to get pole dancing taken seriously as a sport and art form. There are local pageants held in venues such as Australia, France, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and the UK. More recently, amateur pole dance competitions have been held. These are strictly non-nude and non-stripping, and focus on pole dance as an athletic and artistic form of dance and exercise. The first "Miss Pole Dance World" competition was held in november 2005, and Reiko Suemune from Japan won the championship.
Pole dance competitions have attempted to shy away from amateur nights at strip clubs. These events are strictly non-nude and non-stripping with the focus placed on the athleticism and artistry of the performer rather than on pure sex appeal.
A group of advocates are even pushing for pole dancing to be represented as a test event in the 2012 London Olympics. But because this is a relatively new trend, scoring for competitions is not standardised, while names of the techniques vary among different clubs in different regions.
In Australia, "Miss Pole Dance Australia" was started in 2006. Danielle Asher took home the first prize in the latest 2010 competition, and Kelly Choi was first runner up. The first US Pole Dance Federation (USPDF) Championship was held on March 19, 2009, first place was taken by Jenyne Butterfly. The 2010 winner of "Miss Pole Dance Canada" was Crystal Lai, who went on to win the People's Choice Award at the worlds. Miss Pole Dance World 2009, which was held in Jamaica and opened to all nationalities, was won by Australian Felix Cane. The 2010 event will take place in Zurich, Switzerland. Miss Pole Dance World 2010 which was held in Switzerland and opened to all nationalities, was won by Australian Felix Cane.
Like other trends, pole dancing has its share of celebrity following. Actress Sheila Kelley was so taken with the sport, which she learned while preparing for her role in Dancing at the Blue Iguana, that she launched her own pole-based exercise programme.
Rima Fakih's victory at Miss USA 2010, including the fact that she had won a pole-dancing competition three years earlier, attracted media attention.
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