“It’s empowering”: Pole Dancing Club raises money for the food bank

“I encourage everyone to do it. Boys, girls anyone. It’s such an empowering sport.”

On the evening of December 6th, the Pole Dancing Club at the University of Essex performed in Sub Zero to showcase their talent, as well as to raise money for the local food bank which they raised a sum of £318 for. Over a third of the people helped at this food bank are children; this event helped so many young people in need, as well as families during the cost of living crisis.

Throughout the event, various members of the club performed solos for the audience to songs such as ‘Under the Influence’ by Chris Brown.

The audience applauded and cheered throughout the event and expressed how impressed they were. 

“Everyone here has done amazing! They’re super, super talented people,” one audience member commented. “I thought it was quite invigorating… these lots have done such a good job.”

“I feel like this should be seen as an art… the choreography is incredible,” another said.

Ellie Redford, an art history and modern languages student who also works for communications for the club.

Ellie Redford, who has been volunteering at the food bank as well as suggesting it as the chosen charity, mentioned: “It’s an amazing place and the people who run it are incredible.”

Other members stressed their feelings about the cost of living crisis and how people need charity now more than ever, especially in this festive season. Ellie also added that, since the start of the cost of living crisis, she had seen an increase in people in the food bank.

Ellie also trains in the club and wanted to emphasise the amount of strength that pole dancing requires, stating: “I’m taking a break right now to build strength because you need so much strength for pole, I think it is really underestimated.”

Ellie also touched on the negative stigma surrounding pole dancing and the over-sexualization of the sport. She said: “I wish more people saw it as a sport and as something taken seriously and not sexualized as much. If you are doing it in a sexual way then that’s amazing, completely, but the other side is also so important.”

She responded to views of strip clubs being anti-feminist by saying: “Being a feminist is encouraging women to do whatever they want with their body… if anything, people should be focusing more on providing a safe and happy environment for them to work in.”

She added, “The community is so positive and welcoming and amazing, it’s all completely overlooked.”

She further added that it’s okay for people to do it like that and it’s a “free sport”, it’s just not that way for every pole dancer.

Edinburgh Council is set to close down strip clubs.

Stephanie Scott, a first-year nursing student.

Stephanie only joined the club in the last weeks leading up to the showcase, but she has 10 years of pole dancing history. She gave an incredible performance despite only getting her music the night before the event.

“Nothing can keep me away from the stage… it just makes you feel empowered and free,” Stephanie said.

In encouragement to those who want to try pole dancing but haven’t, Stephanie spoke on the pride felt after finally learning a challenging move saying: “Building up your strength… that’s another thing that gives you the pride…you might spend three of four weeks learning a move and suddenly it clicks in your brain and you feel so happy that it’s finally happened that you want to continue on.”

“The mark of a good pole dancer is to make it look easy. It’s not easy,” she added.

With the stigma over-sexualization surrounding pole dancing Stephanie added, “How people react to pole dancing is their problem, not mine.” Stephanie went on to emphasise the need for safety and security at strip clubs for the performers.

Commenting on her friend’s experience she stated: “They dance because they want to dance not because they are forced to.” It is clear that members of this club perform because of the passion they have for the sport and the freedom they feel.

Many commented on the empowerment they felt as they took control.

Charlotte Houlihan, criminology student, performer, and President of the club.

Charlotte started performing before she came to uni. “I kind of started out because I used to do aerial hoop… I used to see people do it and think ‘Damn, that’s really cool, but I could never do that!’ I wanted to try it and see what I can do within it. I think everyone who starts pole probably underestimates it before they start.” 

Charlotte added: “It’s a very physically and mentally demanding sport. The shape you have to be in to do some of the stuff is crazy.”

While talking to us, she told us how important it is to be able to have an open conversation about pole dancing and strippers in order to educate others. She, and other performers, mentioned the importance they felt of not ignoring comments and that they aim to educate others and steer away from the forced sexualisation of it.

“These lots have done a really good job.”

“The choreography is absolutely incredible… I couldn’t do half the stuff these girls are doing.”

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