Pole dancing often gets a bad press. Pikun Wilhelm, pole dancing coach and founder of the Mystique Pole Dance School in Zurich, explains what pole dancing is and who can do it.
Interview: Clau Isenring
What is pole dancing? Dance, sport, show, art, acrobatics, fitness?
We say that pole dancing is a dance that combines horizontal and vertical moves. It can certainly be seen as a sport, not least because it’s organised into sports associations whose ultimate aim is to have “pole sport” made part of the Olympics. However, it’s more than a sport. As a dance form it combines artistry, acrobatics and, when done to a high standard, a moderate level of fitness.
Pole dancing is often associated with strippers. What do you say to that?
It’s got nothing to do with stripping. Although pole dancers wear little clothing, nudity is a no-no. As with other sports such as gymnastics or swimming, the skin is bare for purely practical reasons. The contact between skin and pole ensures dancers have the necessary support. Dancers would need incredible strength if they only used their hands.
Who can do pole dancing? What are the prerequisites?
You need to be willing to persevere. Age and weight are not important. In the first class, most participants can’t hold themselves on the pole or lift their own weight, but if you keep at it and train regularly, you’ll soon be amazed at the things you can do.
How difficult is it to learn the right technique?
It normally takes several years until you can perform choreography involving more difficult elements smoothly. But you’ll experience initial successes much faster. The great thing about pole dancing is that there’s always something new to learn.
Do you train in groups or individually? Are trial lessons available?
Pole dancing is usually taught in groups, but it’s also possible to book private lessons. That’s a good idea if you’re not making good progress or if you’re having trouble with a specific move. We strongly recommend that anyone interested book a trial lesson so beginners can decide whether they enjoy pole dancing and advanced pole dancers can find a class that suits them.
Pole dancing is only for women, right?
Actually, there’s no reason why men shouldn’t do pole dancing, too. Men get involved in all other forms of dance and are well represented in other acrobatic sports. Unfortunately, pole dancing has never really caught on among men in German-speaking Switzerland, even though it doesn’t compromise masculinity in any way. However, there are a number of good male pole dancers in French-speaking Switzerland. Internationally the number of male pole dancers varies from country to country, but nowhere is participation as low as in German-speaking Switzerland.