By COURTNEY LYNCH
When you hear the words ‘pole dancing’ what comes to mind?
For many, the images conjured are of strip clubs, sex, scantily clad women serving drinks, high heels, and most recently, former One Nation Senator Steve Dickson’s seamy American experience.
For the pole dancing community, these images are exactly what they say places a stigma around their sport and significantly isolates them from the wider sporting world.
Pole dancing — the sport — requires its athletes to have incredible strength, flexibility and coordination. It also requires athletes to expose their skin to ensure proper grip on the pole, and this often contributes to the negative stereotypes these athletes face.
On the Sunshine Coast, pole dancing is gaining popularity with new studios popping up.
Local competitive pole dancer Sasha Parlett, 28, has been pole dancing for 10 years and teaching the sport for five.
With several wins under her belt, she is a passionate advocate for ‘pole’, as it is affectionately called, and says that while the sport is gaining recognition and increasing in popularity, more can be done to address the stigma surrounding it.
“The stigma attached to pole dancing continues to be an industry issue,” she says. “In the past when I have attempted to encourage my students to enter competitions it has been explained that many of them feel unable to enter due to the stigma surrounding the sport; they feel the perception will negatively impact their professional and personal lives.
“As athletes they miss out and as a sport we do not progress or gain new followers.”
Ms Parlett says as a teacher she hopes to contribute positively to the sport and reduce the negative public perception pole dancing has unfairly attracted.
“I want competitive pole dancers to feel included and valued as members of the athletic community,” she says.
In 2017, pole dancing was recognised by the Global Association of International Sports Federation as an official sport with campaigns and applications still underway for it to achieve status as a competitive Olympic sport.
With competitions selling out amphitheatres across the country, Ms Parlett encourages people to “put themselves into someone else’s sparkling shoes” and try out this tough but rewarding sport.
She says despite the bruises, the world of competitive pole dancing will help athletes “build confidence, increase strength and flexibility.”
The Queensland Pole Championships will be held on July 6, 2019 at QUT Gardens Theatre.