“I felt like a fairy, like a princess, I can’t even begin to describe it.”
“You know, these women become more confident, they walk with their shoulders back. Self-esteem and a feeling of belonging are that miracle every woman needs. These women become charismatic and it’s not only because of the training of the back. The body, the very movements become an expression of the inner self.“
Yes, we are going to talk about pole dancing with the charming Vera Hitova, but before we start, some information you might not know:
If you google “pole dancing” or search for it on YouTube, 90% of the search results will be photos or videos from strip clubs. There is one huge misunderstanding regarding pole dancing that I intend to fix right now.
“Guys, it doesn’t mean I’m a stripper, but it sure as hell means I am stronger than you.”
Pole dancing has been around for about 900 years. Yeah, I know, surprising, right? It was a sport for men and originated in India. Men danced on wooden poles much larger than the ones you see nowadays. Later, pole dancing gradually moved outside India and women started doing it too. It was a sport till the beginning of 19th century when it hit the circuses, but where it did not stay too long. Female dancers emitted sexual appeal and alluring grace and were soon shoved into bars and clubs as a most profitable asset. That is why people associate the sport mostly with erotica nowadays. Have you ever tried to lift your whole body around a thin spinning pole? I thought as much. What seems entertaining to most men, is in fact a complex combination of skills, which everyone could develop, but few actually would. Pole dancing is an art, truly. The strength, the concentration, and skills the dancer needs are far beyond the comprehension of the observer.
Now, there are international and world championships and the stigma around the sport is beginning to fade away as more and more training dance halls are beginning to open. Women, men, children – everyone is welcome to try. Pole dancing has even been proposed as an official Olympic sport. Given the current circumstances, I am not entirely sure when we are going to see the Olympic games in their usual glory, but one must hope.
Interview with Vera Hitova:
Q: How did you get into pole dancing?
A: A friend of mine called me and asked me if I wanted to go with her and try. She told me: “You are crazy enough to do it, let’s go and see.” I thought it couldn’t do any harm to go and see what it was like. At first, it was strange to see the dancing hall with all the poles in it. Our instructor was very kind and told us what to expect and explained the three parts of the training – warming up, dancing, and stretching. It was exhausting, really, but I loved it from day one. A week later I had already bought a pole for my home. Everyone was looking at me like I was insane. I started training so much, maybe four or five times a week, and probably that’s why I got to the advanced level so quickly and was offered a job there as instructor. I can’t explain the sensation of dancing on the pole – I felt like a fairy, like a princess… I can’t even begin to describe it!
Q: The sport comes from old Indian traditions. Would you say it combines other Indian philosophies and techniques, and if so, have they been preserved in the dance? A: There is a lot preserved, sure. The sport is about flexibility, strength and stamina. At the beginning it was a male-dominated sport. The strength one needs to lift the whole body in the air, to make it turn and twist into shapes, is enormous – in some positions, you have to hold your whole body on your elbow or knee, hooked around the pole. Yoga is also implemented here, especially some elements of stretching like the splits. Agility is key and any sport you have done before related to stretching such as yoga is helpful because you need your muscles to be trained, strong and flexible when you’re on the pole. That can be achieved for untrained muscles, but it takes time. Flexibility is the first thing one has to work on, followed by body strength.
Q: I have watched a lot of contests and performances and every time my breath hitches out of horror and sheer amazement and I keep telling myself that this talent is otherworldly. Is pole dancing dangerous?
A: I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. There are two types of poles – spinning and static. When you are on the spinning one, sometimes you don’t know where up and down is and when you slide down headfirst, you really need to know what you’re doing, you must always stay focused. You must condition yourself to stay calm and concentrated. Sometimes people let go and fall, but we take all precautionary measures, and no one has been injured.
Q: Is there a certain age limit? Is it too late to start training if one wants to do it for the sake of keeping fit, both physically and mentally?
A: Speaking from personal experience, age does not matter. There are women above 40, above 50 who come to us. They are doing it for themselves. Everything is achievable with time and practice. With each day of training, they get better and the sport becomes easier. Age is of no importance here. The main factors are how you have maintained the elasticity of your body, its flexibility and if you have taken good care of it. I also have separate classes with children above three years of age. My favourite student is a woman above 50, who is really good and when she moved to Sweden, she took her pole with her. Men come to the classes too. Everyone can join.
Q: What’s the reason for the common misunderstanding that pole dancing is just an entertainment for guests of strip clubs? Why do so few people think of it as a sport?
A: Maybe because when it came to Europe, it stayed too little in the circus with the other acrobatic sports. Vendors saw having pole dancing in strip bars as profitable. It was not considered as a sport, but rather as a form of entertainment – hence the stereotypical thinking. People are not aware that there are different pole dancing styles and for them everything is exotic pole dancing – the dancing on high heels where the focus is more on the erotic movements. There is a complex and extremely difficult choreography. It’s not striptease; it provokes the senses in a most impactful way. Exotic pole dancing is the popular form of the sport and that’s why people associate it mostly with bars and clubs, not with sports halls. Yet, the effort one needs to put into three minutes of any kind of pole dancing is enormous.
Q: What should one know before starting? What training schedule is needed if a person wants to only keep fit?
A: Most people come out of curiosity and are not prepared for the fact that it’s so difficult. People often watch me and say: “Oh, it looks so easy!” But to make it look easy, I have practiced a routine many, many times, perfected the positions, the movements. If a person wants to keep fit, 2-3 times a week is enough, but many get hooked and come more often. It’s important to control your face expression. When you exert your whole body while lifting, twisting, and twirling, your face must never look tense. It needs loads of practice to execute every move perfectly and that’s when it looks easy.
Q: Could you share something about the psychological benefits of training pole dancing?
A: Phycologists say that if you want to increase your feminine energy, you should turn around eight times in one direction and eight times in the opposite. Imagine the energy in a room full of women! We have our group, a close circle, we are connected through what we do, we encourage each other, we cry together, we are happy for each and every individual achievement, we clap, we hug each other – it’s this positive energy I’m talking about. The feeling of belonging – that’s it.
Q: Why do women come? Are they doing it for themselves or for the sake of impressing others?
A: Well, there are women who come to have their pictures taken, to surprise their husband or boyfriend with a video or with some choreography. These women don’t do it for themselves, but for someone else. Or they just want to show off. But there are women who are doing it for their own personal growth. The feeling you get after you’ve achieved something after many tries boosts your confidence, you realize you can succeed at anything, you realize you are a go-getter. We become stronger individually and as a group. The training becomes a part of your life. Individual sports are a form of an individual therapy, but pole dancing? It’s group therapy! You know, these women become more confident, they walk with their shoulders back. Self-esteem and a feeling of belonging are that miracle every woman needs. These women become charismatic and it’s not only because of the training of the back. The body, the movements become an expression of the inner self.
Q: Do you think the women of today are changing for the better?
A: Women should preserve their innocence, purity, and femininity. We don’t need to be as strong as men – we are the tender, gentle part of humanity and we should stay like this. Of course, equality regarding human rights is a must, but you know, there was point in my life when I thought I could do it all alone, that I didn’t need help from anyone. With time I learned that I don’t have to do man’s chores. I am not a man, I need to feel protected, I need to be taken care of. I truly hope women realize that going to extremes by stating they are better or stronger than men and that they can even do without them is not in their best interest. I learned to show a man that I want to rely on him. Yes, I can change the light bulb alone, but he’s better at it, so he should do it. You have to make room for his masculine power. There is nothing wrong with that. Women should reconnect with their femininity.
End of interview
You know what I would really, really like to see? Imagine all the judgmental women and all the men watching greedily and drooling over pole dancers, pushing money bills into their bikinis with a look of superiority plastered on their faces. I want to see them pushed to the pole. I want to see them climb it. Just once! Some will say that pole dancers get paid for doing their job. True, but why underestimate the effort they put into executing the choreography? And don’t forget, some are doing it for themselves. I remember a Russian girl coming on the stage of some talent show and the chairman of the jury asking her if she was seriously considering taking part in the contest dressed in that revealing leather outfit. The girl was slightly embarrassed, but she went on with her performance and she brought the house down. People were screaming with fear because of the extremity of the danger and with awe at her grace.
For those who are willing to try, but are afraid they might fall, consider this: you might fall, but you might also fly. Go for the latter, no matter what you do in your life.