History of Pole Dance: from 12 century Mallahamba to today

Despite its controversial origins and stigma surrounding it, pole dancing has become more widely accepted and celebrated as a form of art and athleticism. Pole Dance, as we know it today, is quite a young and developing sport and art. But it has great potential. And to understand this, you need to learn more about the history of Pole Dance.

India, Mallakhamb

In the 12th century, Mallakhamb sport was born in India, which combines acrobatics and yoga elements on a pole 35-55 cm in diameter (the pole narrowed in height). The word "Malla" means "wrestler" and "Khamb" means "pole" or "column". The earliest mention of Malahamba is in the Indian classical Manasollas, written in 1135 AD.

Mallakhamb lost its popularity over the centuries, but in the 19th century, about 250 years ago, the sport became popular again. Today, there are official Mallahamba competitions in India. There are three main forms of Mallakhamb: pendant, rope and fixed. Interestingly, this is a traditionally male sport, but in recent years women have been actively taking part in performances and competitions.

Watch the video below and if you are already familiar with Pole Dance, you will definitely notice familiar elements such as cupid (Peter Pen), mantis, Inverted Crucifix, etc. It's just that in Mallakhamb there are also elements of yoga.

China, Chinese Pole

The emergence of the Chinese Pole sport is also associated with the 12th century. That's when men in China started using rubber-coated poles 5-9 meters high to perform acrobatic tricks. Traditionally, again, it is mostly a mans sport, existing and is still popular today.

It should be noted that for performances on the Chinese pole, two poles are often used (as in the competition scenes on Pole dance) to jump from one pole to another. You can also notice familiar tricks and elements such as the Inverted Crucifix, The Chinese Flag, the Chinese Pole Split, the Shoulder mount, etc.

Europe, Maypole dancing

Maypole dancing is a pagan dance of fertility during which girls danced around the May tree (any high tree or pillar) decorated with flowers.

Africa, tribal traditions

In a sense, the ancestor of the Pole Dance can also be called tribal ritual dances in Africa. During these rituals, Engaged Women danced around a high pillar, showing how she wanted her future husband to make love to her.

20th century

    • 1920. As we know Pole Dance today, it became known in the 1920s when circuses were camping. In the middle of such tents, there was always a long high pole that held the tent. For the entertainment of the audience, girls in short tops and skirts danced around them. That's when the sexual connotation starts to appear in dancing on the pylon (Hoochie Coochie).
    • 1950. From tents, Pole Dance moves on to clubs and bars. The pole begins to use for the show burlesque.
    • 1968. Belle Jangles performs Pole Dance at a club in Oregon, USA. Since then, many clubs in the US. and Canadian have started installing poles for this kind of performance.
    • 1980. The active period of distribution of strip clubs with poles, where semi-clothed girls, who performed in thematic outfits and pole shoes & heels, perform. At the same time, Vancouver opens the first studio to teach dancing on the pylon. Remarkably, the studio taught not only the work on the pole but also choreography.
    • 1994. Fawnia Mondey, who was working as a stripper at that time, begins to train her colleagues and dancers she knows.
    • By 2001, Fawnia Mondey not only trained her colleagues but also opened her own classes and then school in Canada and was the first to record a video course on pole dancing on the pylon. This story was the beginning of the spread of this dance around the world and the beginning of its recognition as a sport.
    • In 2000 actress, Sheila Kelley opens a dance studio S-Factor, where she teaches dancing on the pylon. She is the one who popularizes Pole Dance exactly as fitness for women, as physical sport, as one of the ways to exercise and maintain the physical tone and weight loss of the female body. She is also starting to produce video courses and books.
  • Since 2003, several first Pole Dance competitions have been held. The rules of such competitions prohibit excessive nudity and intimate gestures during performances in order to separate the pylon dance from striptease, and focus on athleticism and artistry, rather than on the sexual appeal of the performer. In some competitions, clothing, and stripper shoes made of leather, latex, and lacquer are prohibited.
  • The 1st Pole World Championship was held in 2012 and only 43 athletes from 14 countries took part in it.

The Future

The Pole Dance federations are working today to make Pole Dance an Olympic sport. Thus, in October 2016 the IPSF submitted an application to the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the Olympic program in 2020.

So we can see that, Pole Dance still has a long, centuries-old history, which goes back to the traditions of ancient India and African tribes. The sport has become a hybrid embodiment of different cultures, and historical and international influences. Pole Dance has been developed, popularized and recognized by the world community as a sport. It has moved away from the stereotype that it is a striptease. And now this sport has all the chances to become an Olympic sport.



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