Learning The Language

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Learning The Language

Learning to speak pole has been an interesting challenge. As with any new sport, or hobby, or job, or whatever, there’s a wealth of new vocabulary and concepts to master. The relatively recent surge in popularity has also left a bewildering array of “Also known as” in its wake. Sometimes the hardest part to finding a tutorial is figuring out what the heck people call it.

Online search algorithms certainly help. I googled “upside down split grip thingy with your legs in a v” and three of the first four links were to pole dance sites. But it still takes a while to get your feet solidly under you (or above you as the case may be) when it comes to terminology.

The real struggle for me, though, hasn’t been in learning to talk to polers about pole, but in learning to talk to everyone else.

As a guy, learning dance is a touchy subject. Certain forms are deemed acceptable. Hip-hop, break dancing, even swing are “manly” enough to learn without much in the way of negative social pressure. They’re all set to loud, raucous party music for the most part, and learning them is sure to get you at least noticed amidst the sea of booze and bodies out at a club. But ballroom? Ballet? Generally, girls think it’s great; a guy who wants to dance is not an unwelcome thought. Other guys, however, if they said anything, typically just questioned my sexuality as if somehow liking dance and liking girls were mutually exclusive. (I assure you, they’re not.)

Pole Is Even Touchier

While ballroom and ballet may not be seen as “appropriately masculine”, they are at least socially acceptable forms of dance. You start to talk about pole and some people immediately think, “strip club”. Now the conversation has a whole extra set of stigmas and taboos layered upon it.

In some ways, I’m lucky. No one has ever looked at a box labeled “Normal” and thought, “That’s where Kenn belongs.” At least, not once they got to know me. So when I started talking about pole dancing, those closest to me did little more than raise an eyebrow. I then hastily added, “You know, like in Cirque Du Soleil…” and the eyebrow settled back into position as life continued.

It hasn’t been enough for me, though, to share this with just those nearest to me. The confidence I’ve gained in myself, the joy of pushing my body beyond what I thought it was capable of, the pure ecstasy of just letting go and dancing… I want to share that with as many people as I possibly can! So how then do I talk about pole without wasting time defending against ignorance and misperception?
The answer I’ve hit on so far is pretty simple. When people ask what I’ve been up to lately, I say I’ve been learning acrobatics, gymnastics, and dance, that I’ve been studying Chinese pole.

“What’s that?” they typically ask.

And I explain it’s the type of pole dancing you see in things like Cirque. I show them pictures of the moves I’ve been working on, and generally speaking, I end up having really awesome conversations in which I get to share my passion without defense. It’s a simple psychological exploit that invokes intrigue and interest about something new and exciting before challenging some hard set cultural stigmas.

Not Everyone Is Totally Won Over

There are those who hold on to their misconceptions about pole dancing more fiercely. There are those who are excited for me, but would just as soon keep their distance from the sport. That’s fine. As the art gains more and more of a foothold in the mainstream, hopefully they’ll come around. At least as far as moving past the negative assumptions.

I’ve found, though, that with this approach, I end up with a lot more people excited about what I’m doing and sometimes wanting to share their own experiences. My favorite discussion so far happened as I was explaining pole to some acquaintances.

A grizzled, older biker decked out in beat up riding leathers and a bandana who overheard our conversation chimed in, “Yeah, man. I used to be into that s*** when I was younger.”

It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “Really?”

We then had a fantastic conversation as he shared stories of doing gymnastics and working on the bars and pommel horse back in high school. It made my day.

Art, dance, music, sports—these are all things that can bring people together, sometimes in some very unexpected ways. With pole, I find all of those intertwined. For those of us who dance, we know how great this can be. Now, I’m trying to let the rest of the world in on a secret we’re not trying to keep. Who knows, maybe someday, we’ll find a pole installed next to the water cooler.

Category: Discussion

About Kenn Macur

My name is Kenn. I’m 34 years old, a dad, an electrician, a writer, a photographer, an artist, an adventurer, a hiker, a camper, a soccer player (football for those of you anywhere else in the world), a natural history, physics, and psychology enthusiast. In short, I’m a geek, I’m a dork, I’m a nerd, and, now, I’m a pole dancer too! I love it! If you’re looking for me, best look up. I’m probably hanging upside down from something, thumbing my nose at gravity.

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One Comment to “Learning The Language”

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