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History of Pole Dancing (Complete Timeline)

Pole dancing is a sport, an art form, a fitness exercise, and a kind of erotica that has been around for centuries, with its origins thought to date back to India and China.

Pole dancing has come a long way since then, with pole dancing courses now offered in all major cities becoming more popular than ever, and it is pursued by hundreds of thousands of dancers all around the world as a pastime. 

Let’s take a look back at the long history of pole dancing and where it originated from.

Where Did Pole Dancing Originate From?

Using poles as a sport originated from India. Poles were first used in acrobatic performances about 800 years ago in India. 

And in the 12th century, poles were used for performances in China, where acrobatic dancers performed on poles for the Chinese emperor.  At the same time period people danced around poles in Europe on pagan festivals. 

Pole dancing made its way to the United States in the 1890 – 1920 where sensual dances were performed on wooden tent poles in traveling shows.

Pole dancing continued to gain popularity in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, when it was often performed in strip clubs. In the 1990s, pole dancing began to be used as a form of exercise, and it has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Also read: how to pole dance without a pole

Let’s look at these timelines in more detail:

Mallakhamb (India) – 12th Century 

Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian sport played with a wooden stick. Men would do acrobatic and yoga-inspired moves on the bar.

The poles used were much wider and made of wood than a modern dancing pole. To perform, you must have a lot of strength, agility, and stamina.

Chinese Pole (China) – 12th Century 

Chinese Pole poles are either silicone or powder-coated, allowing performers to complete their routines while fully clothed.

Chinese pole performances frequently featured two poles up to 20 feet tall, including climbs, inversions, and leaps between the two poles.

Maypole Fertility Dance (Europe) – 12th Century 

The Maypole dance is associated with a Pagan fertility celebration. The dance was done by women, who tied a ribbon on the top of a large pole and danced around in circles, wrapping the ribbon around the pole. The dance then continued with the dancers retracing the steps to unwind the ribbons.

Maypole plaiting may currently be observed in Guyanese folk festivals, as the dance was introduced to the country during the British era.

Hoochie Coochie Circus Sideshow Dancers (USA) – The 90s

In the 1930s and 1940s, dancers of Middle Eastern or Eastern European descent performed “Hoochie Coochie” or “Little Egypt” sideshows. 

Gypsies adapted the dance style and performed stunts like spinning around the pole and doing feats on their way down, with the main pole, located in the middle of the tent. 

It immediately became a catch-all term for sexually suggestive, belly dance-style dancing.

Modern Pole Dancing

Hoochie coochie-coochie dances were popular in the 1920s and 1930s as part of traveling circus sideshows. They would soon supplant the can-can as New York’s choice of dance, inspiring a new generation of dance genres such as burlesque and pole dancing.

Modern Pole Dancing

During the 1960s and 1970s, some cabaret stripteases evolved into full-naked performances. As dancers began to embrace the attraction, lap dance and (full) striptease became popular forms of club entertainment.

Also read: How to become a male pole dancer

Two Vancouver strip club co-owners built a training facility for its exotic dancers. Perhaps they recognized an opportunity to capitalize on the increasing popularity, or perhaps the bar for talent was rising.

Pole dance studios were established around the UK in the 1970s and 1980s to teach pole technique, floor work, and choreography. This was the start of the pole dancing revolution, with dancers opening their studios to share their methods and learn from one another.

What began as a casual suggestion here and there evolved into lessons for many employees. Fawnia, a young Canadian woman, was employed as an exotic dancer at a strip club. She quickly found herself training several of the girls with whom she worked how to be professional dancers.

Fawnia began extending out to non-strippers in 1995, kicking off the revolution. She had her studio by 2001 and was the first to make and release an instructional film

She paved the path for pole dance and poling at home.

Sheila Kelley popularized and promoted the phrase “pole fitness” as a sport. Of course, this contributed to pole dancing gaining popularity among the general population. She eventually started her S-Factor studio in Los Angeles, California.

Pole dancers from all over the world began to share, teach, and interact with one another, allowing even more people to discover the dance.

Pole dancing contests, such as Miss Pole Dance UK and World Pole Championships, began to appear throughout the world in 2005. More events, such as Pole Sport Organization, USPDF, and International Pole Championship, have emerged in recent years.

Pole dancing has many different styles all around the world, and each one contributes to the progress of the art. And it has brought a lot of individuals together, whether it’s Dramatic, Lyrical, Exotic, or Fitness – or even more than one.

Types of Pole Dancing

Pole Dancing is quite popular nowadays. Its remarkable advantages are enjoyed by both men and women all over the world. Pole Dancing evolved from ballet, modern dance, and gymnastics. 

As a result, depending on their style and athletic or dance background, performers love various styles of pole dancing.

The three main types of pole dancing types are;

Fitness/ Sports

It prioritizes physical strength, technical difficulties, and drilling. As a result, choreographies emphasize acrobatics and minimize dance techniques.

Is Pole Dancing Bad


The more sensual category is because the dancer can wear high heels as well as more exposing clothing. 

Furthermore, choreographies are not rigid, and flexibility is emphasized. However, exotic pole dancing should not be confused with strip performances. 

Also read: how to spin on a static pole

It’s just a more sensuous approach to pole dancing. As a result, whoever selects this style should not be discouraged by preconceived conceptions about exotic pole dancing.


It focuses mostly on movement and music, which requires dancers to be more creative to design a tale and establish a character. 

As a result, this genre emphasizes dance and expressiveness while excluding acrobatics.

Will Pole Dancing Be In The Olympics?

Pole dancing was proposed as an Olympic sport in 2012, but it has yet to be approved as one. But the International Pole Sports Federation has been granted formal observer status, recognizing and legitimizing the sport. 

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) serves as an umbrella organization for all Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. This recognition from the GAISF is the first major step toward potentially competing in the Olympic Games.

The sport would next have to be recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which might take several years.

“Pole Sports entail considerable physical and mental strain; strength and endurance are necessary to lift, hold, and rotate the body,” the GAISF notes in a statement. ” 

Pole dancing, like skiing, volleyball, swimming, and other fan-favorite Olympic sports, demands training, endurance, and considerable strength.


Pole dancing is a unique and graceful form of dance that has survived centuries of disapproving looks and criticism. 

Whether you see it as a sensual art form, a form of exercise, or simply a fun way to spend an evening, pole dancing is here to stay.