Fistful of Steel

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Over the last two decades, pole dancing has emerged from strip clubs as a unique and highly expressive art that combines athleticism and sensuality. The product of dance traditions from across the world, contemporary pole comes in many different styles, not all of which are inherently sexual. Pole first appeared in strip clubs in the 60’s, but did not become synonymous with stripping until the 80’s. In the mid – 90’s, a Las Vegas-based dancer named Fawnia Dietrich revolutionized pole by offering the very first class, thereby making it available to non-strippers. Others soon followed suit, and pole rapidly gained popularity as a fitness trend that appealed to all kinds of people.


Today, there are over 1500 studios in nearly a hundred countries throughout the world and countless competitions where the most skilled dancers constantly expand and advance the field. The community includes nearly 750,000 people. As pole continues to flourish and begins to enter mainstream pop-culture, its relationship to its roots in exotic dance has become a source of tension. Some feel that pole must dissociate from stripping entirely if it is to become legitimate.


Yet the stigmas and taboos associated with pole dancing are, in many ways, the very factors that have enabled it to connect with a diverse array of people and create a tight-knit, international community. Through the stories of the women and men who have established and shaped pole dance, we’ll tell the story of its evolution to date and reflect upon its future as a sport, an art form, and a means of self-exploration and expression.