Creating Inclusive Spaces in Pole Dance

Jan 24, 2024

Pole is both an athletic discipline and an expressive art form. Its evolution has been shaped by pole practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds, and all sorts of people can benefit from the challenge, empowerment and community that comes with pole dancing. But every community, no matter how much it wants to be inclusive, is subject to the influences of wider society. These influences can be positive, such as the influence of the body positivity movement; but they can also be negative, such as the influence of societal racism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, colonialism, whorephobia, and white supremacy.

Every pole practitioner shapes the culture of pole, and it is important to make deliberate choices about what shape that will be. Pole Teachers especially have a powerful role to play in shaping the culture of the discipline. Pole dancing as we know it owes a large part of its development to the labour of sex workers, particularly black strippers. It is an art form that was pioneered by working class, marginalized people.

This history demands that pole be welcoming to plus size bodies, queer bodies, trans bodies,
traumatized bodies, bodies with sex work histories, nonwhite bodies, sick bodies and disabled bodies. It demands that Pole Teachers be aware of their privilege and the ways in which they influence the experience of pole.

Diversity is a strength, and inclusion doesn’t happen accidentally. Inclusion is an active choice that we must make every time we enter our studios, strap on our heels, and climb our poles.

Thing you can do right away
» Elevate marginalized voices and bodies in the studio, in competition, and online.
» Follow pole dancers online who have different lived experiences from your own.
» Listen to the input of those with less privilege than your own.
» Examine the ways in which your privilege may influence your opportunities, your biases and your behaviour.
» Examine the ways in which your privilege may influence your opportunities, your biases and your behaviour.
» Acknowledge that marginalized pole dancers are performing labour when they choose to educate you and others.
» Affirm that this labour is deserving of gratitude and compensation; it is not something to which you are entitled.
» Research independently to broaden your knowledge of issues outside your own experience.
» Breathe if you are criticized, and do not let hurt feelings get in the way of receiving knowledge.
» Act on the input you receive, to the best of your ability.
» Embrace anti-oppression in pole dance as an ongoing project of personal and professional development.
» Respect others with different perspectives and outlooks; everyone has the right to an opinion.
» Create a feedback system that allows students to share their experiences and suggestions anonymously. This can provide valuable insights into the inclusivity of your classes and help identify areas for improvement.

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