Herstory of Pole Dancing

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Traveling Tent

by Hella Goode

Pole dancing originated-you guessed it-from the Polish! Not really, it was practiced to keep warm and to entertain Santa Claus on the North Pole…

Just kidding, there are a few very different theories though, on how pole dancing came about.
The first one is probably the most logical pole dance. Although not intentionally erotic, the Maypole dance did have sensual roots. This pagan ritual was a fertility dance dating back to around the 1100’s, with the pole representing (but not obviously resembling) the typical phallic figure. Basically, people danced in a circle around the pole, often holding ribbons that were attached to the pole. This was done on May Day every year until Christianity became the mainstream.

Other areas of the world were also learning to dance with poles. In India, there have been non-erotic forms of pole dancing or exercising since around the same time as the Maypole. Men would do yoga on a wooden pole to improve their strength, called Mallakhamb. Another variation is called Mallastambha which used an iron pole for building strength. Mallakhamb is still done today but only by males.

Pole dancing took a sexier turn in the heyday of traveling tent shows. Each act was housed in a tent. Poles holding up the tents tended to be in the way of the dancers performing inside, so a few innovative ladies began to use them as props, swinging and dancing on them from time to time.

The pole really began to be used for pole dancing as we know it today, was reportedly first used by Belle Jangles as she danced in Oregon at the Mugwump club in 1968. However, this was not the norm and did not catch on right away. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that strippers really began using the pole regularly. The rumor is that pole dancing first became the rage in Canada, and then spread throughout the US.

Today poles are making their way from strip joints into mainstream fitness program, even being given a less scandalous name, the fitness pole. They have yet, however, to shake all of the stigma of their past. What is left to see is whether or not they will stay in the spotlight or, like many a fad, return to whence they came….and whether or not Polish girls will dance on them again (ha!)

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