I had to write a feature article for my News Writing class this summer. I chose to do it on the healing power of pole, mostly inspired by Paula’s recent blog post.I could have made this much, much longer, because the lovely women I interviewed provided me with so much content. This really only brushes the surface! They are spectacular women, and I am grateful to know them! Enjoy 🙂 
Confidence. Self-Love. Trust.
These are not the first words most people think when they’re introduced to pole dancing. People tend to think of shady establishments with low lighting and scantily-clad women who dance around a pole and remove clothing to entertain guests. Pole dancing is more than that.
Pole dancing is a sport, and that surprises many people. According to the International Pole Dance Fitness Association (IPDFA), the history of pole dancing dates back to before the 12th century. The IPDFA says that modern-day pole draws from different styles of pole dancing, including Chinese and Indian style pole. While both styles did have artistic qualities, the focus remained on strength, skill, and agility. IFPA goes on to say that today’s pole dancing not only draws from its origins, but also adds in expressive elements that were influenced by various styles of dancing. Despite the long, rich history of pole dancing, very few recognize it as a sport.
Even fewer people realize that pole is a powerful healing and empowering sport. Paula Brusky, PhD, Founder and Owner of Aerial Dance Pole Exercise LLC, is trying to share that empowerment with all women. Brusky discovered pole fitness while she was in Australia doing graduate research. She returned to Wisconsin found no pole studios in sight. She had a dream of sharing the sport of pole with other women, so she started Aerial Dance Pole Fitness LLC in September 2010. “The reason I wanted to expose women to pole was the empowerment it naturally gives,” says Brusky. She has seen students come through her door who were frightened to wear shorts and fearful of the studio’s wall of mirrors. In a few months, those students are confident enough to wear the small pole shorts that allow for more movement. Those students also smile at themselves in the mirror now and no longer fear what they’re seeing. “It’s such a cool change,” says Brusky, who knows the empowerment of pole through her personal journey. “Pole made me accept myself as I was,” says Brusky, “I hated wearing shorts, and I was terrified of my body after a sexual assault. Pole made me realize that I am strong and O.K. just as I am.” She still recalls her pole-breakthrough moment vividly. “The first day I lifted my weight into [the pole move called] a Twisted Overhead V, I knew that I was the only person who could truly take my power by being afraid of my own potential.”
Aerial Dance Fitness Instructor Kim Simon has the opportunity to witness many journeys as she teaches, and she notices a change in her students as they continue through their classes. “When students start in a beginner class, they are generally quite timid,” says Simon, “but by their last beginner class, they have so much more courage and meaning in their movements. They become more self-assured and more confident in their skills.” Simon found the healing power of pole in her own journey as well. “I struggled with eating disorders when I was younger, and I had low self-esteem and a poor body image when I started at the studio,” says Simon,” Working out at the studio and being around such positive women has had a tremendous effect on me.”
One of those positive women, Kyra Evers has been dancing at Aerial Dance since January of 2014, and it’s been a powerful experience for her. Her gymnast background helped pique her interest in the aerial arts, and she hasn’t looked back. “Pole is a way to incorporate my love for all things acrobatic with sensual expression, which I’d never really felt comfortable with before,” says Evers, “Pole lets us revel in being physical, creative, emotional, and allows us to express sensuality in a safe way, on our terms, in a safe place.” It wasn’t just the love of the gymnastic and the appreciation of the sensual nature that got Evers started in pole. “Part of the reason I started pole was to celebrate the body I tried to destroy with eating disorders,” says Evers, “I spent nearly seven years struggling with bulimia and various other eating disorders. I was trying to die—not lose weight. For me, the disorders were about control, which I felt I didn’t have in my life.” Evers has heard Aerial Dance be referred to as a sanctuary, and she doesn’t disagree. “Everybody helps each other and celebrates each other’s accomplishments, large and small,” she says, “It’s a safe and welcoming place, and you are treated with respect, patience, and plenty of encouragement.
Each journey is unique, though they all come back to confidence, self-love, and trust. “Pole makes you trust yourself,” says Paula, “If you don’t trust yourself, you don’t take your feet off the ground. As you learn to trust your body, you climb and spin and laugh, and learn that you were strong all along.”