Changing the Stigma Around Pole Dancing

Despite more fitness studios offering pole dancing, there’s still a huge stigma. The Land of Lakes Pole Dance Festival (Jan. 17-19) hopes to change that.
A pole dancer at the Land of Lakes Pole Competition, David Rubene Photography, courtesy Myss Angie
A dancer at last year’s Land of Lakes Pole Dancing Festival

David Rubene Photography, courtesy Myss Angie

To address the stigma around pole dancing, Myss Angie, the founder of Minnesota’s first pole competition, now known as Land of Lakes Pole Dance Festival, has the following to say: “People hear pole, and they think, ‘Oh, strippers.’ The first argument is, it doesn’t have to be. Actually the first argument is, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a woman being beautiful or thinking she’s beautiful and sharing that with people. Two, is it can be anything else. It can be performance theater; it can be contemporary; it can be funny, and sad, all kinds of things.”

En L'Air Aerial Dance Co. performing at a past MN Pole Competition (now known as the Land of Lakes Pole Festival); Alyssa Kristine Photography
En L’Air Aerial Dance Co. performing at a past MN Pole Competition (now known as the Land of Lakes Pole Dance Festival)

Alyssa Kristine Photography, courtesy Myss Angie

The Land of Lakes Pole Dance Festival aims to showcase this. The fifth annual event takes place at Park Square Theatre from January 17-19 and is beginner friendly—on Saturday and Sunday, it’s branded as family friendly. (Why not Friday? Because the 18-plus night is devoted to routines classified as “classic exotic,” a style most influenced by burlesque and pole dancing’s origins.) Between the competitions, Myss Angie has also intermingled health seminars, dance workshops with pole stars, exhibition performances, food and marketplace vendors, and more. Hence, the switch to the term “festival.” 

Depending on when you visit the event, you’ll see classic exotic; performance theater, which focuses on a creative, comedic, or upbeat storyline; artistic dance, which draws influences from contemporary, lyrical, and modern dance; and pole sport, which is all about the athleticism. And, if you’re feeling inspired and want to try it yourself, you can. (The day and weekend passes include admission to the many beginner (and advanced) classes, and you’ll be able to connect with local studios while you’re there.)

Day 2 of the Land of Lakes Pole Festival, David Rubene Photography, courtesy Myss Angie
2019 Land of Lakes Pole Dance Festival

David Rubene Photography, courtesy Myss Angie

When Myss Angie first created the competition, she was filling in a hole she saw in Minnesota. There was no pole competition in the state, and not every student of hers could travel to compete. More than that, though, she wanted to share that pole dancing could—and for many practitioners, does—create a radical expression of self love. “I was angry that people would have this stigma. … I should be able to claim my power, and it should be accepted. Maybe not understood, but accepted,” she says. 

While telling her friends and family she pole danced wasn’t difficult for Myss Angie, she knows it can be for others. People can be shunned from their churches or fired, but for some, it’s worth it. The same goals Myss Angie worked on when she was a mental health counselor and a nutrition coach are the same she works on in the studio: boosting confidence, mental health, and a healthy lifestyle. Some of her students discovered how toxic their relationships were—how they were with people who made them feel degraded for feeling beautiful in this way. “It’s like you sprinkle magic dust! Pew, pew, pew!” she says, miming magic spells shooting from her hands. “People are loving themselves, looking in the mirror at themselves and feeling strong.”

Myss Angie (above) and Dakota Wolfe on a dance pole.
Myss Angie (above) and Dakota Wolfe. Among Myss Angie’s accolades, she took home first place in the 2017 Central Division Championships for a routine with Wolfe.

Nina Reed Photography, courtesy Myss Angie

“The best thing about it is everybody’s body is so different; there’s no one way to look, no one body type. Everybody’s body type does something different in a cool way,” Myss Angie says. “We could have the same choreography, the same dance, but it looks different and still looks good. I can be whatever size or age, and I can still be strong and make cool, beautiful shapes.” 

The Land of Lakes Pole Dance Festival isn’t trying to ignore the part of pole dancing that is tied with strippers; it’s simply trying to show that the form is much more vast than that one view. At the festival, you’ll be able to see what the pole dancing community in the Twin Cities actually looks like and dances like. And—surprise—you’ll find that there are a lot of different answers.

If you can’t make the festival, consider some of these studios offering pole dancing classes in the Twin Cities:

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