POLE fitness is a far cry from the erotic routines performed by scantily clad dancers in night clubs, according to a local instructor.
Alicia Millard, who runs the South Coast Pole Studio, said some people were offended by the thought of children as young as five using poles for fitness as they associated the sport with seedy strip clubs.
She said the activity had been slammed in the news and on social media platforms in recent weeks for “teaching kids an adult art form”.
“If a person thinks about strip clubs and erotic dancing then they are greatly ill-informed about what pole dancing or pole fitness is about these days,” Alicia said.
“I offer pole fitness which concentrates more on learning aerial acrobatics, strength-based holds, spins, climbs, inversions and flexibility.
“These individual qualities are related more to gymnastics and circus, it just so happens that our apparatus is a vertical pole, not a horizontal one.”
Alicia said pole fitness did not start in strip clubs, but originated in India more than 800 years ago from a sport called Mallakhamb, which utilised principles of endurance and strength using a wooden pole.
“Modern pole fitness also incorporates Chinese pole, on which men would perform gravity defying tricks as they leapt from pole to pole at 20 feet in the air,” she added.
While pole dancing for kids may conjure images of youngsters wearing bikinis, sparkly heels and make-up, Alicia said that was “definitely not the case” in her studio.
“We do not encourage children to wear makeup, nor do we encourage any sort of style that may expose children to an adult style of dance.
“The idea that this sport is inappropriate for children is absurd and, like any sport, I am only here to encourage kids to get fit and healthy.”
Alicia teaches 15 primary school aged children, who train in bare feet and wear gym clothing.
Many trained with their parents, including Sammi Stiff who had been doing lessons for about nine months.
“After going to classes for a month or so, my daughter started showing interest,” Sammi said.
“I had removed my daughter from dancing only months earlier as she was expected to wear full makeup and a rather revealing outfit at the end of year concert.
“Personally, I was not comfortable in having my daughter dress or act as an adult, but I have felt more than comfortable having her learn pole alongside me.
“It is gymnastic based, and the strength, flexibility and coordination she has gained since doing pole is amazing.”
Mother of four Emma Tibbitts said it was difficult to find a sport that all of her children, including one with severe autism, could enjoy.
“Having my children involved with Pole Monkeys, I have not only noticed a huge difference in my children’s physical abilities, strength and health I also have noticed their team work, friendships, sharing, communication, following instructions and the bonds they have built strengthen.
“Having a child with autism has its challenges and to be able to take him to a sport with his siblings with no pressure has been an incredible experience.”
Marie Hibberd described the pole fitness environment as “nurturing, energetic and fun” for herself and sons Kyuss, 8, and Metuki, 5.
“I feel it's an awesome allround fitness for kids,” she said.
“I have no problem with my children participating in such a fun sport run in a professional and caring manner.”
Alicia said bystanders were impressed when they saw the athletic kids on poles during the Blessing of the Fleet Festival and said opinions towards the sport were starting to change.
“In two years pole fitness will be recognised as an official International Sport and the International Pole Sport Federation is currently promoting a campaign to include competitive pole dance in the Olympics in 2016,” she said.