History of Pole Dancing
Pole dancing has barely just begun it’s journey. It’s evolution is not any slower or faster than other forms of dancing, such as ballet. Perhaps because we are in a fast pace information world, we expect people to know and understand more. But this is not the case. Educating ourselves and others on how pole has evolved through out history, to what it is now, will give us a peek into the future of where pole dancing has the potential to go. Along with the growth of pole, comes the importance of standards, certifications, clear differences and categories, and a common understanding of what the various types of pole dancing are. Pole has been around in a handful of cultures for a few centuries, but, approximately, in the last 5 decades has it been synonymous with stripping or other “lude” behavior. “Pagan fertility rites can be used for humans, cattle or crops and range from dancing round the maypole to blessing cattle as they go out into the field.” suite.com Perhaps that’s where this all started, pagan fertility rituals. It’s actually not that simple. Ever heard of the Hoochie Cooch dance? In 1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago, beautiful women from Egypt came to perform these sensual hip girating dances which were called Hoochie Cooch dances. These were also related to fertility dances and rituals. After the world’s fair was over, the Hoochie Cooch dance spread to vaudville, burlesque and carnivals. As it developed, so did stripping in theaters which were linked to brothels. At the time, female actresses that were not strippers were also linked to brothels and prostitution, which is why now most females in acting prefer to be called “actors” and not actresses. With stripping, the envelope got pushed further and further. In the beginning, even in ballet dancing showing ankles was regarded as vile and disgusting behavior. Once women began revealing their legs, it was over. Before you knew it, there were naked hoochie cooch dancers all over the country. You may be wondering what this has to do with pole dancing. These women and dances, as mentioned earlier found their way into carnival shows. They were specifically called girl shows. These carnival tents had poles in the center of them to hold it up properly. The following is a quote from the book, “Girl Show:Into the Canvas World of Bump and Grind” written by A.W. Stencell. It’s about a single-O show which was a show on a carnival midway with one attraction inside. “One Eye Tommy Fallon and Mom Fallon ran a single-O show called Princess Pat. The girl who worked it would strip naked and grind herself up against the ‘snorting pole’, simulating sex with an imagined male lover. The ‘snorting pole’ or pole in the front of the stage, was often the center tent pole. These cooch and single-O tops were often very small, twenty by thirty feet, so the center pole would be right up against the front of the stage, making it available as a ‘prop’.” Another fact from this book I found interesting, was that some of these women would lay down on the floor and imitate the Hoochie Cooch dance. Could this have been the beginnings of the floor dance work that we now strive to perfect? It seems as if the pole happened by accident. It was just there, near a dancer, who used it as a prop. Although the last known girl show was in held in Virginia in 1995, most of them stopped touring in the 70’s. There are pictures of these women standing next to and holding onto the poles that were there for structural purposes. Since then, there have been numerous amounts of strip clubs that have had poles in them, typically on a stage that is near the front or center of the room. Some say that pole dancing was invented by strip club owners in America, others say Canada. It seems, based on the facts, that pole dancing wasn’t purposely invented, it just happened and developed into something bigger than we all imagined. As I mentioned before, poles were a prop that happened to be in the vicinity of dancers, they held onto them and swung away! Let’s take a quick look into pole dancing in popular movies from the past and how some actors did the same. In the movie “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”, one of the song and dance numbers have 6 women grab onto wooden poles and swing and dance around them! This movie was made in 1954 and was set in 1850. Watch this particular scene below! If you haven’t seen “Jail House Rock” starring Elvis Presley, go ahead and take a gander at this video. Elvis and his inmate buddies pole dance In the movie which was made in 1957. Another quick clip in a movie with pole dancing with Marilyn Monroe in “Let’s Make Love”. Click here to watch, not only the legend herself, but men too! With pole dancing becoming more sensationalized in the 80’s, and the boom of the strip clubs, this specific type of dance was forming with common moves and styles, ones that may vary from region to region. There is no real record of who did what first, that is, of course, until Fawnia Deitrich entered the scene. In 1994, Fawnia Deitrich got hired as an exotic dancer in Canada. She immediately was drawn to the athletic yet sensual movements of the dancers she watched and learned from. After a few months, Fawnia opened the world’s first Exotic Dance School and became a pioneer for pole dancing and pole fitness. Since then, pole fitness slowly began to develop into what we are seeing now. It seems that pole dancing was more widely accepted in England and Canada before most other countries. Among many other fine titles, Deitrich is UPA’s Pro-Poler of the year for 2011. To learn more about Fawnia click here. What this Pole’r Bear finds with the history of pole dancing, is that we are making it right now. Because pole is so new to many people, and hundreds, maybe thousands are discovering it everyday, we are in the trenches creating our industry’s history. There is so little regulations and standards, so little record of who’s done what, that it is our duty to build, create and regulate this activity. People ask me all the time about the history of pole dancing, and from now on I will be saying to them, the history of pole is now. Some day, people will look back on the things we are doing now, and write about it, talk about it and so on. Once we figure things out, such as transparency in competitions, standard staging for events, competitions, common vocabulary for moves, and the importance of being trained and certified properly, then we will be in the present of pole. For statistics on numbers of studios around the world, the rate of pole studio growth and other information pertaining to the current growth of pole, click here.