The Stigma Surrounding Pole Dance

Updated: Sep 13

The year was 2011 and I had watched a video of pole acrobat Jenyne Butterfly (now a Cirque Du Solei artist) on YouTube and it was incredible. The video was titled “best pole dance ever” and when I shared it on my Facebook page, one of my friends commented “somebody got hacked.” I replied “Did you watch it?” She hadn’t. But to be fair, we live in a rural Montana community and neither of us had been introduced to poleFit before then. I dreamed of taking up pole dance after that, but because of the stigma surrounding pole (that it is something only done in seedy nightclubs by scantly clad women), I mostly kept my dreams a secret. Until one day I confessed to a fellow fitness instructor that I wanted to teach pole dance.


I don’t know why I said I wanted to TEACH it that day, especially considering I didn’t even know how to do it. I guess because I am a fitness instructor at heart and I love the camaraderie of group fitness. But since the words had escaped my mouth at long last, it was time to take action. I bought a home pole and poled secretly in my basement a few times before I headed to Helena to visit my mom AND Helena’s pole studio for a lesson.


The hour lesson slipped by quickly, and my return to Kalispell felt almost just as fast. Almost immediately after I was home, the owner of the pole studio posted on Facebook that she was closing down her studio. I knew this was a sign so I reached out to see if she would be selling any of her equipment. She was, so I needed someone in Helena to go pick up the poles for me. Since my mom lived there, I could ask her…but I was nervous about her telling her I wanted to teach the saucey sport. I didn’t have any other options though, so I made a phone call to my mom and honestly, she didn’t bat an eye.


Fast forward seven years later and here I am with a pole studio of my own; still reading articles and posts about the stigma surrounding the pole arts. And yet I have never once experienced anyone saying “isn’t it for strippers” and I certainly don’t see the sport that way. I see pole as just another form of aerial dance and a way to make beautiful shapes with the body. In fact, I have had people tell me that my dance style has changed a lot of people’s opinions about pole. I don’t know if it my dance style or people just finally appreciate that pole is more than a tool for stripping. Hopefully the latter, since I finally caved and bought my first pair of 7” heels. I resisted dancing in heels for a long time because, like pole, heels are also used by strippers. But, I love them because they make legs so long and therefore my shapes more dramatic.


What do you think? In 2019, is the stigma around pole dance still prevalent or is it only stigma to ultra-conservatives? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Author Mindy Cochran. Photo cred: Mariah Gladstone

Article by Mindy Cochran. Mindy is the founder of Kalispell's Levitation Nation Aerial Studio, where the catch phrase "fitness is fun" is embodied alongside a culture of movement & women empowerment. Mindy is also a columnist for "Montana Woman Magazine." Her column "The Real Levitation Experience" shares expertise for elevating health and wellness that she has acquired through her certifications as a personal trainer and life coach. For more about Mindy, please visit: https://www.levitationnation.org/mindy.