When people find out that I’m a former pole dance instructor-in-training, they almost always ask me one of the following two questions:
Do you strip as well?
How did you get into that?
Over time, I’ve learned to respectfully ignore the first question (or give them a glare when I’m not in the mood for a joke). But I’m always happy to answer the second question, hoping my personal journey as a pole dancer would help change their perception of an incredible sport that deserves so much more credit than its association with strip clubs.
What is pole dance?
Typically, pole dance entails performance of a routine around and on a pole, such as floorwork (also known as exotic) and pole tricks. However, pole dance is so much more than what its sexy name suggests. It’s not just a type of dance, but it’s also a sport. It’s an exercise that requires you to utilize your own body weight, so you’ll need to be strong enough to maintain yourself up on a pole (if not, you’ll fall…been there, done that). This means that you’ll be using muscles in your body that you didn’t even know you had. It also means that you’ll need intense training in core strength, endurance, flexibility, balance and coordination. Think about it, you’re swinging your whole body around a pole and trying not to land on your ass, not to mention you’re constantly moving, doing one trick after another. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for pole dancers (including myself) to have to explain that it’s not just looking pretty in pleaser shoes. But the good news is that pole dance is slowly earning the recognition it truly deserves. In fact, it’s getting closer to becoming an Olympic sport – how exciting!
Pole trick: Cross-Knee Release (CKR) Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Why did I choose to pole dance?
I first tried pole dance back in November 2015, when I was in my second semester of grad school in Seoul. I was pretty burned out from my part-time job and school (I still don’t know how I managed to graduate…that’s a whole ‘nother story), so I was looking for healthy ways to manage my stress. I wasn’t (and am still not) a big fan of running or hitting the gym, so I was looking for alternatives that’d keep me both fit and entertained. I have to admit, Korea offered a lot of options when it came to fitness and exercise – yoga, flying yoga, hot yoga, pilates, spin classes, hip hop dance, latin dance…you get the idea. But nothing interested me more than pole dance, because all benefits aside, I was honestly surprised that it was so popular in Korea. I signed up for a trial class at a studio near school and needless to say I was hooked!
Pole trick: Ayesha Level: Advanced
What is a pole dance class like?
It depends on the pole dance studio and the level of class (usually divided to beginner, intermediate, advance and professional), so I’ll use my trial class in Korea as an example. We spent the first 20 minutes of class doing yoga, push-ups, sit-ups and planks…it was supposed to be a warm-up but I was already exhausted even before I got to touch the pole. After a five-minute break, I learned how to correctly grip the pole and how to slide down gracefully. It was a lot more fun and a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. The pole was extremely slippery so I had to wipe it with a cloth every second. I also had to figure out how to slowly release my grip on the pole as I spun around, so that I could actually spin. One thing that surprised me the most was the pain. Every trick and spin was painful as it required my skin to be physically in contact with the pole and create friction. Thankfully, it was bearable pain and I was having so much fun that it wasn’t a big deal. However, by the end of class, my thighs were black and blue from the bruises caused by the friction against the pole.
Pole trick: Daphne Level: Beginner
Gross, I know…but I had to!
There are so many spins, routines and tricks to learn in pole dance, and they each have a name so it’s best to bring a notebook and a writing weapon to keep track of what you learn.
Why do you have to expose so much skin?
Good question! This is actually something I’d wondered myself before trying out pole dance. Many people think it’s to look pretty and sexy, but the truth is that the more exposed your skin is, the easier it is for you to pole dance. How so? Well, your skin sticks to the pole much better than your clothes unless you’re using a silicone pole. Remember, your skin needs to be in constant contact with the pole in order for you to perform tricks – whether it’s inversions, climbs or spins. Your clothing would just make you slip right down the pole, which could lead to serious injuries. Of course, looking pretty and sexy is an added bonus!
Pole trick: Pole sit/Angel spin Level: Beginner
How can you become a pole dance instructor?
I was surprised to find out that a lot of people sign up for a pole dance instructor course (let me tell you, they ain’t cheap!) without doing a trial class or spending time learning the basic rules and tricks. I believe it’s really important to first see if you actually like pole dance. Its graceful movements make it seem easy, but pole dance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I think I’ve emphasized enough that so many elements are involved in performing just one simple trick.
Pole trick: Iguana Level: Advanced
Pole dance instructor courses (also referred to as professional course or semi-professional course – every studio calls it different) are designed differently, reflecting the demands and the preferences of each studio and each instructor teaching the course. The instructor course that I signed up for was a 5-month package. The first two months focused on building core strength, endurance and flexibility, as well as improving balance and practicing fundamental pole tricks and spins. The last three months was spent learning advanced tricks and routines. By the end of the course was the evaluation, in which I had to develop a three-minute routine and perform in front of people. Public performance was mandatory in order to receive the completion certificate, so I was super nervous. I also had to do a group performance with my fellow pole mates, which was even more difficult as we had to coordinate each and every movement. But in the end it all went well and even to this day I’m so proud of myself for sticking through.
Most pole dance studios in Korea follow the same format when it comes to the instructor course, and I’m not sure how studios in other countries structure their lessons. It’s on my bucket list to try pole dance in different countries and find out how it’s done.
As graceful and sexy it is, pole dance is not an easy sport – it takes a lot of patience, agility and practice. I’ve seen people get frustrated when they couldn’t master a trick quickly, myself included, which will always happen in your pole dance career. But don’t be discouraged! It takes time to get used to the pain and really enjoy pole dance, so make sure you don’t give up too soon. Always remember to have fun!
Are you a pole dancer or a pole dance instructor? Are you thinking about giving pole dance a try? Let me know in the comments below!
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