What is Pole Dancing?

pole dancing

Pole dancing is a sport that tests endurance, flexibility, and creativity. It is a blend of dance, gymnastics, and strength training, and one of the most fun and electric ways to get a whole-body workout. People of all shapes and sizes find it surprisingly confidence-boosting and easy to fall in love with. Whether telling a story through interpretive dance or perfecting your gymnastic forms in classic fitness style, it’s sure to be thrilling to watch and perform.


Pole dancing has origins in many different cultures, from fertility dances in Africa to acrobats in 12th century China and India. It was grown in these cultures and spread to more of the world by traveling circuses, eventually gaining popularity in America in the 1920s. For years it was popular in club settings and for fitness, but gymnasts and athletes who took  part in it from the 1980s on helped elevate the dance to the sport it became. In 2006, it became an officially competitive sport supported by the International Pole Sport Federation. 

The Dance Floor

The Dance Floor

Dance poles come in a variety of options to best suit the dancer’s convenience. A floor-to-ceiling permanently mounted pole, found in gyms and dance studios, can withstand great force without budging. It’s the best option for climbing or high-performance acrobatics. A freestanding pole is around 9 feet high, with a heavy rounded base as an anchor. It’s not recommended for high climbing, but it’s safe for most stunts. A popular option is the friction-fit pole, a pole extending from the floor to ceiling which can be installed and removed at the dancer’s convenience. It’s safe for climbing and acrobatics, but proper installation is essential.

Pole Dancing Equipment

Pole Dancing Equipment

Pole dancers need a properly installed pole with adequate space to swing and perform. Be sure to bring athletic wear like shorts, a tank top, or a sports bra, keeping in mind that bare skin on the arms and legs is necessary to grip the pole. Similar to gymnastics, some dancers use chalk or liquid chalk to coat their palms in case their hands get too sweaty to grip. A crash mat is also a good idea for beginners.

Here is the essential pole dancing equipment you should have:

  • Athletic wear: Tank tops, t shirts, and  shorts are best for pole dancing. Bare skin is necessary to grip the pole.
  • Chalk: Chalk helps dancers keep their grip if their palms get sweaty. Liquid chalk is especially popular.
  • Crash mat: The crash mat goes at the base of the pole, providing cushion for falls.
  • Pole: The dancing pole should be solidly secured.
  • Water bottle: Always stay hydrated! Pole dancing is a full-body workout.  


Pole dancers swing and climb on a pole to perform acrobatics like spins, splits, and flips. They are always looking to innovate the sport with new tricks and acrobatics. Many people enjoy it as a creative outlet and  fitness activity that promotes flexibility and strengthens the core and arms. Competitive pole dancers perform in front of a panel of judges, earning points which are rewarded for the form, precision, and creativity of the athlete.

Rules and Regulations

Pole Dancing Rules and Regulations

To avoid slipping, pole dancers need to keep their palms dry and make sure their skin is exposed on the arms, hands, knees, feet, and ankles. It’s also a good idea to do a load test on the pole, which means checking that it doesn’t buckle or come loose when force is applied. Spotters and crash mats are recommended for beginners or when a dancer is trying new moves.  

Here are the most important pole dancing rules you should know:

  • Stretch beforehand
  • Don’t wear lotion that could cause slipping; wash hands or dust with chalk when sweaty
  • Test your weight on the pole before dancing; screw in tighter if wobbly or loose  
  • Don’t wear rings or jewelry that could scratch the pole or fall off
  • Keep skin exposed on the arms, hands, legs and feet to grip the pole
  • Have a spotter, and possibly a crash mat (for beginners especially)


Pole dancing can be broken down into several main disciplines. Erotic style is perhaps the most well-known, focused on seductive dance over acrobatics. Fitness or sport style is focused on the athletics of pole dancing such as aerial performance, gymnastics, with an emphasis on form. Last but not least is artistic style, which combines gymnast athleticism with creative expression and interpretive dance.

Here are the most important pole dancing strategies you should know:

  • Sport/Fitness: Sport style, also called fitness style, focuses on gymnastic forms and acrobatics.  
  • Erotic: Erotic style focuses on seductive dance.
  • Artistic: Artistic style is all about creative expression and telling a story through a dance, using some gymnastics forms as well.


Pole Dancing Lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in pole dancing:

  • Flow: The overall feel and grace of the choreography or how a dancer moves.
  • Carousel spin: Spin where the dancer jumps and spins around the pole with legs bent behind them.
  • Static pole: Pole that stays still as the dancer spins around it.
  • Spin pole: Pole that spins with the dancer upon contact.
  • Baseball grip: Gripping technique where the dancer holds the pole as if it were a baseball bat, a key anchoring method for pole dancing.
  • Inversions: Spins where the dancer is upside down on the pole.
  • Combo: A sequence of moves in a dance.

Pole Dancers

Countless talented athletes and performers have helped elevate pole dancing to make it the sport it is today. From pioneers like bodybuilder Fawnia Monday to current-day gymnast superstars like Yumiko Harris or Ashley Fox, professional pole dancers have proven themselves top-notch athletes and performers. The sport has been shaped by those with backgrounds in dance, gymnastics, and all around performance.

Here are the most famous pole dancing players you should know:

  • Fawnia Monday: Fawnia Monday was a pioneer for pole dancing as a sport, bringing her bodybuilder background into pole dancing as a sport in the 90s.
  • Ashley Fox: Ashley Fox is  2-time American pole dancing champion and a world-class gymnast with her own fitness empire.  
  • Davide Zengoli: Davide Zengoli is an Italian acrobatist who’s known to perform daring, memorable shows  throughout Europe.
  • Felipe Mendoza: Felipe Mendoza has won or placed high near in many South American pole dancing competitions.
  • Yumiko Harris: Yumiko Harris is a multiple-time pole dancing champion and award-winning choreographer.


Pole dancing leagues support a creative and athletic pole dancing community worldwide. The broadest-scoping league is the International Pole Sports Federation, but regional leagues such as the European Pole Dance Federation, the Korean Pole Sports Association, and the American Pole League have sprung up worldwide.

Here are the most popular pole dancing leagues you should know:

  • International Pole Sports Federation: The IPSF is the largest organization promoting pole sports across the world.
  • Pole Battle League: PBL is an international league where people compete to see who has the best acrobatic pole dancing skills.
  • Korean Pole Sports Association: The Korean Pole Sports Association another regional strain of the IPSF.
  • American Pole League: The APL is the American faction of the IPSF.
  • European Pole Dance Federation: THE EPDF encompasses pole sports across all of Europe.

Events and Competitions

Pole dancing competitions are thrilling to watch and perform in.

Here are the most popular tournaments in Pole Dancing:

  • World Pole Championship: Held over the course of the World Pole Weekend, the World Pole Championship is a competition for athletes worldwide.
  • US National Pole Championship: The US National Pole Championship is a must-see event every year, bringing together the brightest American pole dancing stars.
  • International Pole Championship: The IPC is perhaps the most prestigious pole dancing competition in the world. Top athletes worldwide are sure to show up, making it a must-see event!


Does pole dancing always have to be provocative?

It can be as modest or provocative as you like! Erotic pole dancing isn’t the only style, although many enjoy it as a valid art and means of self expression. Fitness pole dancing emphasizes athletic form and classic gymnastics, while artistic style focuses on interpretive dance.

Am I too old or out of shape for pole dancing?

Absolutely not, pole dancing is for everyone. People of all sizes, shapes and ages take pole fitness classes, and your moves can be as simple or as flashy as you feel comfortable with. The pole dancing community at large is very body positive.

Where can I start pole dancing?

Beginners should always start with an instructor, or at least a spotting partner. The pros may make it look easy, but swinging on a pole takes some time to master. It’s common to fall down a lot at first.