Pole dancing has become one of the hottest fitness trends. When you watch these women do it, you'll see why, says Shape magazine.
Like many forms of women's dance, pole dancing has had a fraught history of seedy clubs and leering men — a reputation that often chases would-be dancers away. But aficionados are bringing it out of the shadows and into fitness studios to show women how empowering and fun it can be to twist, twirl, and (oh yes!) be sexy, all while getting a fantastic workout. So when Why I Dance, a film that's now gone viral, asked pole dancers to share why they love the sport ("Because I love my body," "Because it's a killer workout," "Because it makes me feel happy"), the only surprising thing was what wasn't on the list: there was absolutely nothing about how their moves make it rain dollar bills.
"Pole dancing accomplishes so many things at once. Not only is it an incredible core and upper-body strength builder, it is also sexually liberating, emotionally cathartic, a form of expression, and an exploration of self," says Amy Main, coproducer of the film and self-proclaimed fitness fanatic. "It's the most transformative type of fitness I've ever experienced. And I've never been so in love with my body and curves!" (Try 5 Classes You Should Take Outside of the Gym.)
Pole dancing is also a feminist act, says coproducer Sascha Alexander. She — with fellow pole instructors Main, Julia Roth, and Melanie Zoey Weinstein — decided to make the film not just to promote their favorite sport but also to help women reclaim their bodies, sexual power, and freedom. After seeing the sport help women in their local studios, the four instructors wanted to spread the message to even more women. "We were inspired to create the film when we realized that our experiences had massive potential resonance to the world around us and to the feminist movement on a global level," Alexander explains.
But not everyone feels so comfortable mixing workout time and sexy time. To those who worry about being "too sexy," Weinstein, the film's director, says that learning to let go can be one of the most valuable lessons you take away from a pole class (after how to keep yourself from falling on your head, of course).
"The phrase itself implies that there is such a thing as 'being too sexy' and that it's something to worry about. This line of thinking is crazy. It's designed to instill fear, to pit women against each other, to make women play small," she says. "It's like saying, 'Whoops, I woke up sexy again this morning. Better do something about that sexy that keeps cropping up. I must need a product to help me put all that sexy away.'"
In addition to better balance, coordination, and arms to rival Michelle Obama's, another major benefit of pole dancing is the body confidence it brings, says Roth. Learning to trust your body and remembering how much fun it is to just play are two core principles of dancing. "We teach women: don't be afraid to get messy. Love that mess. Love anything your body reveals to you. Trust yourself. Be wild!" she adds. (Give it a go with Olivia Wilde's Crazy-Fun Dance Workout.)
But perhaps the best part of pole dancing as a workout is that women of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels are encouraged and welcomed, say the filmmakers. "Let's light up the world with our beautiful, courageous, wholesome, sexy selves," says Weinstein, "exactly as we are." Check out Why I Dance for yourself, below.