Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • February 2018
Written by 

Pole technique

I have been a dancer for many years, and in that time I have trained in many formats including ballet, modern, hip-hop and jazz. No matter what style of dance you are training in there are always certain techniques to be learned specific to that genre. In ballet, one must learn port de bras, or the carriage of the arms. In modern one must learn about fall and recovery, and contracting-releasing. These are all codified techniques from many dancers and choreographers over the many years the styles have been around.

I find this fascinating as a classically trained dancer because all forms of dance require control and certain skills the body must be trained in, including pole! Pole dance, however, is very young and while the techniques may not be codified, there are very specific ways to be able to use this apparatus correctly and without injury. The first and most important in my opinion is what we call push-pull. This means utilizing your grip on the pole to get enough leverage to take the feet off the floor into spins and tricks. We begin students with engaging their muscles in this push-pull motion without releasing their feet off the ground and gradually build up to that over time.

Another incredibly important skill is learning about pelvic tuck. This is vital in all of the aerial arts. Pelvic tuck is what enables someone to invert themselves while in the air. We begin training this movement with many different abdominal exercises from the floor. The tuck needed to invert oneself comes from the very deepest layers including the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor.

One more major building block is shoulder and back engagement. This can be difficult particularly for women as we naturally tend to have less upper body strength and more leg strength. To protect the shoulder joint from wear and tear, a pole dancer must always be engaging the shoulder because of how much mobility the joint has. This is especially true when the dancer starts to take their feet off of the floor and lift their own body weight. The latissimus dorsi, a major back muscle, plays a role in this as well, particularly in the pushing and pulling mentioned above. There are 17 muscles that control shoulder movement and each has to be properly developed for a dancer’s full, consistent engagement.

The last piece of technique from a dancer’s perspective is artistry. Artistry can be seen in all genres and is where the execution of technique and one’s own creativity cross paths. This can be different for anyone and everyone. We begin finding this artistry with free dances and games, combining different movements in each woman’s own way. This combination of muscle and grace is where we find our strength and believe our beauty.

As an instructor I sometimes hear students say things like, “I had no idea this would be such a tough workout” or “You make it look so much easier,” and I believe that is what is so special about all types of dance. There are so many things to think about and execute at one time and yet it must look powerful but effortless. These pole techniques when mastered lead to exactly that — a powerful and breathtaking performance! 

Olivia Meese

Olivia Meese is an instructor at Aerial Dance Pole Exercise in Appleton. With a degree in dance, multiple fitness degrees and a passion for the art form, join her for an inspiring class by registering online at or call 920-750-1441.

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