‘I wanted to feel strong and beautiful’: Meet the Oxford Brookes pole dancers

They’re really bendy

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You know how it is. People used to think pole dancing was something seedy, restricted to lap-dancing bars. But now, with the rise of pole fitness, more and more students are getting involved, and it’s promoted as a form of endurance exercise.

Many Oxford Brookes students in fact, are members of the local pole dancing classes at Dance Inspires. This month they take part in the Pole2Pole Oxford heat. We spoke to them to find out what being a pole dancer is actually like, and just how hardcore the sport really is.

Equine Science student Jessica Lee started pole around February last year, going once a week as often as she could.

Jessica said: “Both my friend and I had heard about pole and were interested in it. It was something I’d never tried before, and hadn’t really had the time for before coming to university.

“I’m currently level five, due to going home for summer and Christmas, otherwise you usually level up every six weeks. I really just wanted to do it as a way to exercise and have fun, rather than do it competitively.

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Jessica practising her moves.

For Jessica, pole dancing not only helped her fitness, but also her body confidence.

“You have to have your skin exposed to do pole moves, because it’s how you grip. I think that’s something that puts people off at first – but everyone dresses similarly and nobody judges you.

“Going to pole is a great way to unwind, meet people and learn something new. Once you’ve tried a new move, you’ll want to continue practising on everything – Urban pole is sport in itself.”

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Second year Japanese student D’Yandra Forrester has been taking pole dancing classes for little over two months.

D’Yandra said: “I started pole dancing because I was looking for something to force me out of my comfort zone as well as improve my self-confidence. I wanted to feel strong and beautiful, and seeing my progress makes me feel those things.

Two of her friends have now joined up after her. The second year said: “One had fun and the other is now competing. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

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D’Yandra feels that pole made her feel powerful, elegant and beautiful, but says it isn’t for everyone.

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Ramona is currently doing a Short Qualifying Certificate in Psychology at Brookes, and hopes to start her Masters soon. She started Pole at the end of 2011 and did it for just over a year before taking a break.

She says: “All together it’s been 1.5 years. I usually go once a week.”

Ramona has competed in the 2012 Pole2Pole Oxford Heat, a competition that happens every year along with the Dance Inspires in-house competition.

“My favourite thing about pole is that against general perception, everybody can do it. Pole is very adaptive.”

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All the dancers we spoke to realise there are still negative connotations associated with the sport.

Jessica explained: “I think the reputation of pole is changing. I think previously it was viewed quite negatively and only associated with strippers. But as more and more opportunities arise and give more people a chance to give it a go, people’s opinions are changing and it is being recognised as something that is a form of exercise, rather than something sexual.

“Pole often still carries an essence of seduction, but it doesn’t have to and that’s what makes it so versatile. You can tailor this sport in a way that makes you feel good, whether that be by feeling a little sexier or just having the ability to do something really difficult with your body and nailing it.

“And it is by no means exclusive to woman either. Since I’ve been poling, I’ve had many people tell me that they’d like to try it, but they’re afraid to start for fear of being judged or just not knowing where to start.

“Doing pole doesn’t label you, and it only has positive benefits (except for a few bruises).”