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!