Fancy joining a society with a difference?By Emma Hill
Emma Hill describes her unusual extracurricular activities...
As a second year student at Newcastle University, I decided it was about time that I joined a society. There are so many societies available to students these days and they are a great way of meeting people, learning something new and creating or pursuing a hobby. When I decided to start pole dancing however, I had no idea I would love it as much as I do.
Why is it that pole dancing has negative connotations surrounding it in the Western world? Its origins don’t lie in strip clubs. In fact, in Africa it was a form of tribal dancing, in India the Mallakhamb (translated as Pole Gymnastics) was a form of strength training, and Chinese pole is a form of acrobatics that is actually dominated by men. Burlesque and strip tease in the 1900’s were glamorous and Hollywood-sensationalised performances popularised by renowned artists such as Gypsy Rose Lee. In fact, it wasn’t really until the 1980’s that pole dancing became a standard performance in strip clubs. Only ten years later it started to become a popular sport and fitness activity.
Even now, pole dancing is used in performances by the eminent Cirque du Soleil, where you can really see the strength and stamina needed to perform such moves.
Pole dance competitions aren’t centred around how sexualised a performance is either, instead it’s about being precise, showing fluidity and elegance. If you watch any of these performances, you’ll be impressed with the strength, stamina and intricacy of the routines which tell individual stories. It is through things like this, that the face of pole is changing
My first pole dance class was hilarious; I could not do any of the moves, but I don’t think I have ever laughed so much in my life. The girls on the committee, who had been doing it for a few years, were so patient and understanding and they happily reminisced about their first time at ‘pole’. This was great for my confidence, along with everyone else’s in the room. No-one judges or laughs when you can’t do a spin or position, because everyone is concentrating on getting it right themselves. Before you know it, people you’ve never even spoken to before are trying to help you out, which is a great environment to be in.
The fitness benefits to pole dancing are astounding. After my first class, I can genuinely say that muscles ached which I never even knew existed, and techniques that I was too weak for one week, I managed to do the next. Not only does pole dancing help to burn off calories (and believe me you can build up a sweat), but it also helps to improve flexibility and posture whilst building a new sense of confidence.
The pole dancing society in Newcastle has accomplished a lot, from winning talent shows to society awards as well as raising money for charities and the university’s RAG week. On top of this, in 2012 they attempted to break the Guinness World Record for ‘the longest Pole marathon’. This was completed in 30 hours of continuous pole dancing and is currently awaiting official confirmation. They managed to raise over £1,000 for the Infant Trust. My friends and I even got the opportunity to take part in this event, which was a great experience, even if at the time we had only been doing pole for five weeks.
I would definitely encourage anyone to take part in a society, particularly pole dancing. It is fun, it’s a great form of fitness, a fantastic way of meeting people and a brilliant sport to be a part of. I’ve even invested in a pole of my own.