What do you think of when we say Pole Dancing? If your mind immediately goes to images of scantily clad women strutting their stuff in a gentlemen’s club… well, that’s so 80’s! This past weekend was the World Pole Dance competition, featuring contestants from over 26 countries and 5 continents, all coming together in Zurich, Switzerland to showcase their physical strength, performance skills and unique vision for the sport, proving that pole dancing isn’t just for strippers anymore!

Changing people’s perceptions of pole dancing has not been an easy task for the sport’s participants or its leaders. The sexual nature we associate with it is one that runs deep and crosses many cultures. The leading theory that connects pole dancing to the erotic style that we’re accustomed to is that it originates from an African tribal dance, in which a woman would dance with a wooden pole to demonstrate to her future husband the type of lovemaking that she desired. There are several other references of similar cultural traditions that come from the Middle East and Asia too.

World Pole Sport logo pole danceHere in the U.S., pole dancing was first introduced during the Great Depression, when women would perform suggestive “dances” on the poles of circus tents for money. This form of entertainment became increasingly popular in the 1950’s and eventually evolved and moved onto a center stage in men’s clubs in the 1980’s. It was only a decade later, that gyms and fitness studios started to offer pole dancing classes, and women quickly learned that the art of seduction comes with a six pack and that pole dancing is more about fitness than finesse.

In 2012, pole dancing has evolved, and so have we. We have a black President, 40% of the U.S. population has a woman senator representing them, and pole dancing is a sport. Progress is sweet!

To find a pole dance class near you, check out the U.S. Pole Dance Federation website.