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Is Pole Dancing a Sport or an Artform?

Is pole dancing sport or art?

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Pole Dancing is an incredibly popular activity for fitness, entertainment, fun or all 3! If you’re recently started on your journey towards becoming a pole superstar – you’re probably wondering whether pole dancing is a sport or an artform. Let’s discuss this.

Pole dancing has been around for centuries. It’s a form of performance art that first emerged during the 12th Century in India. It was also practised by performers in China. In more recent times, pole dancing has become popular in Western culture as well.

But is it an art or a sport? ?

It can be hard to categorize something as complicated as this because there are so many different ways we define what constitutes art, including the performer’s intention and their expression of movement.

So let’s take a deeper look at the world of pole dancing: What does it mean for something to be considered a sport or a form of art? And how does that relate to whether or not pole dancing should be included in formal sporting competitions?

Let’s explore.

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Pole Dancing Began as a Sport

Pole dancing is a form of sport that originated in Asia. It was first performed exclusively by men, but has evolved into an athletic sport.

By its very nature, climbing, spinning and inverting on a pole is an athletic activity. It requires agility, flexibility and above-average strength.

However, use of the pole as apparatus was about endurance; performers were not competitive.

Pole Dancing Has the Potential to be a Gymnastic Sport

Pole dancing has the potential to be a gymnastic sport.

In fact, it is already used as an aerobic fitness activity at many fitness centers and gyms around the world, not just in the US. And the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) was established to globally promote pole dance as a competitive sport.

The main difference between gymnastics and pole dancing is that while gymnasts use equipment like balance beams or uneven bars to demonstrate their skills, pole dancers perform their moves on one vertical pole instead of using any other form of equipment.

Floorwork and modern or traditional dance is also incorporated into routines.

This makes pole dancing similar to professional sports such as gymnastics, where performers are scored on their entrances, exits, and overall execution of tricks using the apparatus.

See also: Tips for male pole dancers

Pole dancer practicing - how to get better at pole dancing

Pole Dancers Share Skills with Athletes

Pole dancers share physical skills with gymnasts, divers, dancers, aerialists and ice skaters.

It is a form of exercise that uses a variety of muscle groups around the body. Pole dancing requires:

  • Upper body strength to perform lifts and climbs
  • A good deal of flexibility to stretch your body to create beautiful shapes
  • Lots of stamina and physical endurance – pole dancing is a high impact workout!
  • Plenty of core strength so you can effortlessly lift your legs up to perform inverted tricks

Gymnastics also requires all of these skills! Many professional athletes strive to achieve better strength, flexibility and endurance – pole dancers are no different.

See also: These workouts will complement your pole workouts

Pole Dancing Performances are Theatrical

Even though pole dancing looks like a sport, it has a lot in common with theater too.

We mentioned in the introduction to this article that art includes the performer’s intention and their expression of movement.

When a pole dancer creates or choreographs a routine to a piece of music – they want to tell a story. They want you, the audience, to feel something.

In that respect – pole dancing is art as well as being a sport.

For a performance to be theatrical and tell an effective story, it needs to look effortless from the performer. In order for pole dancing to look effortless – the performer needs to practice and train as if it were a sport.

Get it!?

A Woman's Right to Pole Dance

Expression & Intention

There are many ways to define art, but they all have to do with intentionality and expression.

In my opinion, there are three main ways we can define what art means:

  • Aesthetic—what makes something beautiful to look at? What speaks to us on an emotional level?
  • Expressive—how does this make us feel about ourselves/ourselves as humans/the world around us? How can we tell our story in a pole dancing performance?
  • Communicative—how does this allow us to communicate with others (or even ourselves) in some way that isn’t possible otherwise? Why is the pole integral to this performance?

Art is subjective, so it’s hard to say something is not art.

Art is subjective, so it’s hard to say something is not art.

Also, art is highly personal, emotional and interpretive and as such, everyone has their own definition of what constitutes “art.”

You can’t define in any concrete terms because every individual will have their own idea about what makes something art.

What one person may consider beautiful, another may not. This makes sense; we’re all different and have different tastes, experiences, and backgrounds.

Art can be any form of expression—visual, verbal, or otherwise—and this includes pole dancing!

Pole dancers use their bodies as their medium while expressing themselves through movement with music which communicates ideas. In doing so they create beauty for themselves (or others) to appreciate; this is why many people find pole dancing so enjoyable!

Pole Dancing is a Sport Because Dancers Compete Professionally

As pole dancing has become so popular – there are always new ways to push the boundaries with any sport.

Pole dancing competitions are a huge driver for pushing boundaries within the pole community. Devising new tricks and combinations that haven’t been seen before helps us all strive to become better pole dancers.

There are many pole dancing competitions around the world where performers are scored on their routines and abilities. There are usually different levels in which dancers can compete:

  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate Level
  • Advanced Level
  • Instructor Level
  • Professional Level

This way, it gives more people an opportunity to compete as they won’t be immediately overshadowed. Most competitions have an entry-stage where hopeful competitors must submit a video entry to be judged prior to the main competition.

Pole Dance Inspiration


Pole dancing is both a sport and a form of art. It’s undeniably athletic, creative, theatrical, and requires physical skill and training similar to that of professional athletes.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article on the history of pole dancing, then you may also enjoy these other articles on our site:

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