Which major sporting event will be taking place in London next week? If you answered the Olympics, you’re a week ahead; the correct answer, believe it or not, is the first ever World Pole Sports Championship, organized by the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF). That’s right, a pole dancing competition.
If the words “pole dancing” bring to mind images of strip clubs and struggling actresses hoping to pay their rent, it’s time to re-think. The physical strength, flexibility, and stamina required of competitive pole dancers is on par with that required of Olympic gymnasts, many argue, and there’s a serious push to get pole dancing to be recognized as an Olympic sport by the 2020 Olympics, or even by 2016.
One of the women who has been behind the movement from the beginning is KT Coates, who in 2006 posted a video of herself dancing to Swan Lake and the David Guetta song “Love Don’t Let Me Go.” When the video went viral, with 3.5 million YouTube hits, and as people began to see the athletic ability required to dance competitively, Coates released a petition to include pole dancing as an Olympic sport. The petition was key: it led Coates to be noticed by Timothy Trautman, who became her partner in founding the IPSF and who now serves as its president of the organization.
The IPSF may be the key to unifying the collection of pole dancing competitions into a body that can be recognized as an Olympic sport; they’ve written official rules and bylaws, and the World Pole Sports Championship will be the biggest and most international competition that’s ever been held. Those two facets, the unified governing body and the international competition, are required of sports hoping to receive Olympic recognition.
If all goes according to plan, the championships will raise global awareness about the athletic aspects of pole dancing. While figure skating and gymnastics require equal athleticism and are performed in equally form-fitting uniforms, pole dancing remains the purview of strippers in our cultural consciousness. Seeing what competitive pole dancers can do definitely convinced me that it should be considered a sport. As one YouTube commenter said about Jenyne Butterfly’s viral video “Pole Dance Pressure,” “She looked at gravity and went, ‘NOPE.’”