Walking into my high school reunion after so many decades, I was bombarded with the big question: “Hey, Nance. What have you been doing?” My reply, “I’m a pole-dancing judge.” “No, c’mon, seriously.…”
All too often people pass judgment on things they know very little about, despite the old saying, ”Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We all do it at some point, even if it’s unintentional. The term “pole dancing,” makes them think of a seedy, dark, black-lit strip joint with scantily clad women moving and shaking across the stage and swinging on a silver pole. The ART of Pole Dancing could not be further from that.
It would be my complete joy to challenge anyone who passes negative judgment about this unique fitness activity to give pole a whirl. I’d bet it would take less than two minutes for them to change their opinion and realize the skills and ability needed to perform a single technical move or trick, let alone a two-minute routine. Most can’t even do a pointed toe kick up to their hip or a split on solid ground, even with minimal grace, but they are in full-force verbal judgment of pole dancing. I hear it all the time.
First, it takes courage to learn something new, especially if you can include the term century in describing your age, as in nearing the half-century mark. When I started doing pole fitness, I was extremely uncomfortable walking into a new environment like a pole studio, where I knew nothing, surrounding myself with younger, beautiful women who were flying through the air with ease and grace. I am older, injured and a bit slower in my body than my head wants to be. It took more than two months to learn how to climb to the very top of the pole properly. I could get the turns and splits, but with my back, core, and foot injuries, climbing was my personal challenge. But OMG when I finally made it all the way to the top, I was looking to ring a bell and wave like I just won the Miss America Pageant!
We all have personal demons that we face when we start something new, but I wanted this—and I quickly learned that my bruises were pole kisses, the badges I proudly earned. It was exciting and addicting.
Although I enjoyed my own pole-fitness education, watching other women grow in their abilities reminded me a lot of “Dancing with the Stars.” I watched them change right before my eyes. I watched their talent improve, their bodies change and, most important, I saw them become happy with their own talent. That is when I realized that pole dancing was so much more than people’s shallow perception. It was a powerful form of resistance training, a way for women to empower themselves, and I fell in love with it.
Pole was perfect, and it became another form of training for me. It combined all my passions in one place—art, fitness, dance, music. I don’t know anyone who has tried it who has not enjoyed the experience. If you feel that you’re up for a new challenge at this point in your fitness journey, I encourage you to look for the nearest pole studio. Do not be discouraged; remember that everyone learns at her own pace. For some, just deciding whether to wear heels on the pole can be enough of a challenge. For others, the decision is whether to take their talent to the stage and compete!
There are a number of organizations sponsoring pole-fitness competitions. I am humbled and honored to be a judge for “The Sleek, The Strong, The Sexy” that is the United States Pole Dance Federation. It was founded in 2009 by Wendy Traskos, a former fitness athlete who’s the owner of the New York Pole Dancing studios. USPDF competitions are awesome to watch, including guest performances by elite athletes, a wonderful experience for competitors and audiences alike. They’re always turning up the heat with gorgeous, powerful dancers igniting the stage with sultry and dynamic pole-dance routines. (The next one is set for March 31 and April 1, 2017, at Symphony Space Theatre in New York City.)
Believe me, it is not an easy task to judge these ladies.
The USPDF offers novice and amateur competitions for all levels. Even beginners can get onstage. If this sounds intriguing, I invite you to check it out at http://www.USPoledance.com.
Video courtesy of the United States Pole Dance Federation.