Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have a new fitness craze on our hands. It’s exciting, progressive, and somewhat controversial, and I really want to talk about it.
Before we get started, I’d like to be the first to admit I had pre-conceived notions on the nature of pole dancing (or pole fitness, a term I now see as far more fitting) before strolling into my interview with KCL’s Pole Dance Fitness club on Guy’s Campus last weekend. I walked into Activity Room 1 not knowing what to expect, but extremely curious about what kind of people made up this club dedicated to a practice still seen by some as relatively taboo. I’ll be honest, I was intimidated. Are they going to be cooler than me? Are they going to make me try it and judge me for being unable to lift my un-athletic scrawny butt off the ground? After meeting them, I can say with confidence that no, they wouldn’t have judged me. They would never judge anyone. KCL Pole is a club that built itself from the ground up on the pillars of community, strength, and empowerment, and hold on to your spandex, fellow students, because they’re just getting started.
Established four years ago, KCL Pole started as a small group composed of interested students looking to follow their passion in a less-commonly known sport. It has grown exponentially each year since its inception, reaching a record 100 sign-ups to begin the 2018 season. Social secretary Stella Friedrich was quick to inform me most of the club members had never tried pole fitness before joining, explaining that she hadn’t either when she joined at the start of last year. Friedrich went on to compete in beginner’s category in competition last season. The club’s flexible training schedule allows for members to be as involved as they want; quick progression can be achieved by turning up to all four of the weekly training sessions held between Guy’s Campus and the London Dance Academy. Attendance is not mandatory, however, making it easier to manage the #studentathelete lifestyle.
As I sat on the floor of Activity Room 1 chatting with Friedrich and fellow members Leah Siegel and Anja Škevin, Siegel interrupted her train of thought to make sure I knew who was in charge of the KCL Pole operation. Zoonii Kayler, beginning her second year as club president, is the driving force behind the team’s activities. “She’s a quiet, strong leader,” Siegel said, before adding, “she really knows her stuff.” This couldn’t be truer, as Kayler has been previously offered to exhibit her incredible talents by performing with a circus. Kayler is also at the forefront of lobbying for KCL Pole’s recognition on campus as a veritable, legitimate sports club, culminating in pole dancing being included in last spring’s Varsity Series, which she said was a “great step in the right direction”. KCL Pole ended up taking home the victory defeating UCL’s squad in competition. “I would say I lobby for prejudicial misconceptions to be removed from pole,” Kayler explains. “Poles are just mediums of expression, after all.”
If you take nothing else away from this article, I’d really like you to recognize one very important thing: pole dancing is a sport. These people are athletes, and they work hard. Most of all, it is a form of self-expression. “Pole is whatever the athlete wants it to be; be it sport, be it art, be it fitness,” Kayler states, adding she wishes to change “misconceptions that prevent people from trying it”. It can be easy to reduce pole dancing to an erotic activity taken up by strippers for male attention, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I find it to be one of the purest displays of athleticism and flexibility out there (how many footballers can hold themselves up on a metal pole using little more than the strength of their elbow?) Additionally, there’s far more to the sport than sexy dances performed in stilettos. Did you know that there’s such a thing as a pole comedy routine? I didn’t! “Sometimes, you have to embrace the ridiculousness,” Friedrich notes. In an environment that has the potential to leave anyone feeling vulnerable, the ability to step back, laugh, and ultimately support each other through anything is incredibly valuable. The girls made sure to emphasize that there was no place freer of judgement that the training room. If you attempt a trick and fail, you’ll be met with applause. If you try a trick and succeed, you’ll most likely be met with celebratory screaming, because with KCL Pole, mutual respect and community is the name of the game.
If you’d like to learn more about KCL Pole Dance Fitness, be sure to check out their website and follow their social media pages to stay up to date with upcoming competitions and opportunities to get involved!