History & Future of Pole

Despite dramatic fitness results, pole fitness classes have not yet made it into the health club scene. This could possibly be because when a person hears “pole dancing,” and even “pole fitness,” the first word that enters their mind is probably “stripper”. The road that pole fitness seems to be traveling appears to parallel yoga in some ways. The perception that yoga was religious postponed it’s acceptance by the general public. There are also many different types of yoga classes, and there are many types of pole fitness classes. A pole fitness class can include sensual movements or it can be purely athletic, and a student can definitely benefit, both mind and body, through participation. Since it will take time to increase mainstream acceptance of pole fitness, it is important to learn about the history of pole in order to dispel any misconceptions that the general public may have.


Pole fitness today is a hybrid of athletic, and theatrical, male sports and female erotic dance and circus performing. The history of pole dancing can be traced back over two thousand years to dances that were performed by women for women and to an Indian sport called Mallakhamb, Chinese Pole, and also side shows in traveling circus’ and more recently “Gentleman’s Clubs”. Sheila Kelley, in her book ”The S Factor,” writes, “Though the exact date is not known, it is well documented that rolling, undulating hip movements were not originally intended as titillation for men but rather as expressions of the female body’s power to promote fertility in the land. In ancient matriarchal cultures, dance was performed by women and for women exclusively.” Mallakhamb, as well as Chinese Pole, is predominantly a male sport. Though they’re used in similar ways, a Mallakhamb and a Chinese pole is quite different from the western pole. The Mallakhamb pole is made of wood, is larger in diameter, and has a wooden ball on the top of it.  Chinese Pole is usually performed on two poles. The men will hop from pole to pole and perform many gravity defying tricks. Chinese poles are approximately twenty feet high. The history of pole dancing in the West is very different from that of India’s Mallakhamb. Western Pole dancing originated in the nineteen-twenties at the height of the American depression. Traveling fairs would go from town to town entertaining the crowds. As part of the fair there would be many different types of side shows in small tents surrounding the main tent. In one of the side tents, girls would dance suggestively on a small stage in front of crowds of cheering men. The tent pole became known, as the “dance pole,” which still exists today. Pole dancing gradually began evolving from tents to bars as burlesque became more acceptable in nineteen-fifties. Then in the nineteen-eighties pole dancing and striptease became popular in Canada and then in the United States. In the nineteen-nineties, Fawnia Mondey Dietrich, took the art of pole dancing and began teaching it to the everyday woman. She produced the first instructional pole fitness and dance DVD. Since that time, there have been numerous Pole dancing Championships and the skill level of competitors has increased dramatically. The first United States Pole Dancing Championship was held on the East Coast in 2009.

The International Pole Federation, the Pole Fitness Association, the US Pole Dance Federation, the American Pole Fitness Association, and the International Pole Sports Federation are unique organizations, governed by the leaders in the pole industry, for the benefit of pole community worldwide. They are setting standards for studios, instructors, and pole students to provide consistent, safe, and effective teaching methods. Pole enthusiasts across the world hope that we will soon see pole accepted as a reputable form of dance fitness and exercise. The leading pole organizations are even petitioning to have Pole Fitness in the Olympics! The IPSF held the first exhibition competition in London 2012. 

There are three general categories of pole dance:

1.       Exotic dance—this is what most people think of when they think of pole dancing. The women involved in this category are more involved in the ‘entertainment’ side of pole.

2.       Pole Fitness—this is the category that most women are involved in. Pole is used as a way to get fit and feel good. Classes are taken in a private studio or gym and the instructors are highly skilled and trained.

3.      Pole Sport—this is the competitive side of pole. The women and men involved in this category compete around the world and are involved with the Olympic pursuit. They display incredible amounts of athleticism, strength, flexibility, and control in their routines.

Pole Classes provide a unique workout for women of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. 

Search these organizations for more info on the growing pole fitness industry.

          Watch videos from the IPSF:  http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJMSNLzTSS7n2_xxgrOo2Eg