Thursday, July 25, 2013

How long can you pole dance?

Last weekend was full of lots of pole goodness.  One of the conversations I had was about the length of a pole dancing career.  Sure, we currently see amazing dancers of all ages...teens, 20's, up to 50's and 60's.  When you see a pole dancer in his or her 60's, though, can you imagine their bodies still doing that in their 80's?  One might think that starting young might extend that career, but sometimes putting that much pressure on a young body isn't good either.  I also understand that the body really starts to change in your 30's, so maintaining muscle and flexibility becomes more of a full-time job.  

The pioneer of pole dancing in North America is Fawnia Dietrich.  She started pole dancing in 1994.  That means Fawnia is 19 years into her pole career.  Fawnia may be one of those people who is the perfect mix of great genetics, hard work and good luck.  Her body is amazing and she may easily have another 20 years in her.  The industry as a whole is still very young, though -- mostly under 10 years old.  And I think the average dancer may not luck out with a 40 year career. 

I think there are so many factors and no easy answers.  What is your fitness background?  What kind of training did you do before pole?  Genetics.  Injuries.  Pure luck.  

Pole is still a somewhat new sport.  However, I'm sure if you look at the careers of ballet dancers, gymnasts and circus performers, you will see that most bodies can't handle the physical rigors of dancing for 50+ years.  I was reading up on ballet dancers and many start by the age of 7 but retire by the time they are in their 30's (and I am sure many have a much shorter career).  Hopefully they have picked up some additional skills along the way to pay the bills since true retirement age is still 30+ years away.  I imagine gymnasts follow a similar pattern (and I wonder if they are all putting their health at risk by starting to train their bodies at such a young age). 

I worry about the health of the pole industry as I see studio owners struggling to keep their doors open.  Not only are some barely able to cover their studio bills, but they can't even pay themselves, or buy medical insurance and retirement plans.  And they are doing a sport that has a very high risk for career-ending injury.

I don't have an answer to my own question.  So, I put it out to the pole world.  How many good years do you think a pole dancer has, regardless of the age they started?  


  1. I think about this all the time, and then I wonder, what the hell am I doing to myself? Why can't I just be normal and want to sit down and watch tv...? In my experience, my injuries have sometimes led me second-guess pole. Yes, the tricks can defy gravity, the drops are a deathwish, but the way we get there doesn't have to wreck our bodies the way we have.

    I really won't be doing pole for very long at all if I'm trying to get into tricks that I'm not strong enough or flexible enough to do. I recognize that my competition with myself and others is only me denying care and consideration for my body. I am using it to prove something, rather than praise it. The truth is I need to accept that there are some things I need to take it easy on no matter how cool it looks.

    To keep a long career in pole, I need to know how my body works. Every person needs a program catered to their unique physique to help them strengthen or increase flexibility where THEIR body needs it? There are some people that do pole only, but there are some people who made need a cross-training program, and diet plan, restorative training, etc. We all come from different places and to put ourselves under someone else’s routine, may not be the best thing to extend the longevity of our individual pole lives. My friend who was a professional swimmer has no problem lifting into twisted grips, where I being someone who has naturally less strength in my shoulders, is going to have more risk that way. Her way doesn't work for my body right now.

    So along with the stigma, I also consider that a possibility as to why studios can't stay open is maybe due to the fact that students keep hurting themselves. If my friend asked me to come to her pole class but was always complaining about her shoulder, my first thought would be, that doesn’t sound like a healthy lifestyle to me. It's not something you hear often in a yoga class, and it seems like there's a yoga studio on every corner in my city. What we do is high risk, but I believe it can be done safely so students can get strong and keep coming back.

    Just a thought...

  2. A very interesting discussion!

    I think we should also consider how each person does pole. For me, pole will always be a fitness hobby like my stretching and running. I'll be excited to get to the point of running marathons but it's not in my plan, neither is being part of a contortion act even though I have some lofty flexibility goals. Likewise I would love to compete in pole regionals one day but it really is not why I pole. Someone who competes internationally and is a professional will certainly see tons more wear and tear than the average home poler.

  3. I started late. Only 4 years of pole dancing. 45 years old now. So!!!! Age is just a number and I listen to my body talk. If it doesn't feel right I don't push it.