The Ancient Power of the Circus Dance Pole

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The grace and skills of a Chinese circus performer, the acrobatic energy of the Indian art, known as “Pole Mallakhamb” and enhanced with the sensuous dance influences from Western cultures, all combine to create the modern art of Pole Dancing. If you are seeking an exciting method of fitness that is fun at the same time, or are attracted by the previously guarded secrets of the circus world, there is specialized training available for you. Pole dancing, as well as the exotic dance, form part of modern day pole fitness disciplines, traced back to ancient times, like the artistic dancing culture of the striptease.

The flag pole dancing pose
A pole dancer performing the flag an ancient pole dancing move

The history of China is varied and mysterious and it should be no surprise that the disciplined art of the pole dance was practiced there before the 12th century. During this era, professional circus performers, wearing complete costumes, would use a 3, 9 meters long pole to entertain their audiences. Although performances by these Chinese pole artists appear less fluid than those seen today, it could be related to the grip used and the costumes worn. However, many of the acts such as, ‘the flag’, with the body extended at a 90 degree angle to the pole, are still performed. The modern circus culture has followed and expanded on the Chinese pole fitness and dance traditions, with displays of strength, agility and grace; for example, climbing, sliding, stretching and holding positions requiring particular techniques and ability.

A graceful demanding discipline

Pole dancing is an extraordinary, supremely graceful art, which contains elements particularly suitable for improving fitness, body toning and developing body strength in males and females. Participants in gymnastic and dancing are turning more towards the pole fitness and dance routines for these reasons and as a means of individual creativity and freedom of self-expression. This has had the affect of elevating the art to higher and demanding overall levels, especially in the professional sphere.

It is a discipline, ideal for conditioning and resistance training, using body weight as the resistance. The conditioning of circus and other types of performers utilise movements that focus on strength and body control. Concentration is primarily related to core, arms, shoulders, and the back regions for muscle development, as well as hips and hamstrings for stretching purposes. Pole fitness disciplines are invigorating; developing strength and stability, and importantly, working muscles that may not necessarily be included in gym training sessions.

Ancient to the modern form

According to various researches, one of the earliest recorded professional pole dance performances was in Oregon, USA in 1968. It is believed that from this particular event, a pole dance craze evolved in Canada during the 1980’s. In 1944, Fawnia Dietrich initiated one of, and possibly the first ever outlet for teaching the pole art to non-performers. This enterprise expanded to create the first pole dancing school in the world and also the production of instructional videos. The modern art form developed quickly in America, Asia, Australia, and Europe; incorporating the aspects of pole fitness classes, studios, academies, competitions and training facilities worldwide.

The pole art of today is a mental and physically demanding discipline, combining centuries old circus techniques. Its evolution into the modern form is dependent on dance techniques as well as high levels of fitness skills. For many who practice this art, professionally or as enthusiastic amateurs, it has become not only an entertaining, effective means of fitness, but an integral part of their lives!


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