If 11 women gathered to pole dance in front of a live audience at a sold-out theater, would you consider that an athletic event or adult entertainment? For plenty of dancers, it's the former. And I have to say -- I'm on their side. Last Friday, the third annual U.S. Pole Dancing Championship was held in NYC, and the winner, Natasha Wang, walked away with $5,000 and the honor of being named the top professional pole dancer in the country.
But plenty of people still doubt whether or not Wang and her fellow competitors are real athletes.
That's a little disheartening for many women who take up pole dancing either professionally or personally. The thing is ... strippers may use a pole to dance, but to compete as a pole dancer, you don't strip.
Says Wendy Traskos, the co-founder of the U.S. Pole Dancing Federation:
The definition of stripping is taking something off and these women are not doing that. They're coming out in their outfits and you do have to have your skin exposed in order to stick to the pole.
But there's more to it than what competitors wear (or don't). Pole dancing is a legit form of self-expression, just like any other form of dance. In fact, it incorporates other forms of dance, such as jazz and ballet. By nature, any form of dance is athletic -- just look at how ripped Dancing With the Stars contestants get!
Many of the women who compete on the pole dancing circuit also come from athletic backgrounds. For instance, the championship runner-up on Friday is a native New Yorker named Gabrielle Valliere, who used to cheer for the NFL. She explained to CBS how she took pole dancing for physical activity:
It's a nice partner to what I do in regards to health and wellness in my other life. But also when I first started pole dancing, I just wanted something totally different from what I had been doing when I was cheering for the NFL for a really long time and I found my niche in pole dancing.
Personally, it's awesome to see what these pole dancers can do. In many ways, I'm sure doing what they do requires the same kind of strength and agility as a gymnast or a ballerina. We honor those practices with competitions, applause, and understanding that they're legitimate sports. Pole dancers should have the same granted to them. The only reason they don't (yet) is because the sport is wrongly associated with stripping. But the USDF has made it clear ... it's time for us to differentiate.
Check out some clips from last week's competition ...
Do you think pole dancing should be considered a legitimate sport?
Image via litonali/Flickr