Pole dancing today conjures up less than tasteful images of women dancing around a pole for

someone else’s pleasure, but today, it has turned into something much more. Although many people

probably believe that pole dancing began in nightclubs, its history is actually much more


It all starts in China in the 12th century when circus professionals would use a pole to perform while

wearing full body costumes. Their performances were less fluid than modern pole dancing, but

many of the most popular tricks performed throughout the world today have their roots in Chinese


India also has a long history of pole traditions that go back over 800 years. Originating in

Maharashtra, this form is referred to as ‘pole mallakhamb.’ It was intended as a way for wrestlers to

train, but many would compete against each other using a smooth wooden pole. Because it’s such a

great way to develop speed, reflexes, concentration, and coordination, championships are still held

today in 14 Indian states. However, this version of pole is dominated by men. Women do not

practice or participate in competitions.

When it comes to modern day pole dancing, it starts with America’s traveling fairs of the 1920’s,

although many of the techniques have roots in exotic dance. Women in the 20’s would entertain

tent crowds by using the poles that hold the tents in place.

Pole dancing, as we envision it now, started in the 1960’s in the state of Oregon, where it then

became a craze in the 80’s in Canada. Today, you can find pole fitness classes, studios, competitions,

and more all across the world that combine centuries-old techniques.

Did you know that pole dancing may even become an Olympic sport? The International Pole Dance

Fitness Association (IPDFA) is currently seeking the International Olympic Committee’s recognition

of pole as a dance sport!

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