Recreational pole dance
Pole dance/fitness is an international form of dance fitness that has become increasingly popular since the early 2000s. This thesis is an ethnographic case study focusing on a specific community of people who participate in pole dance/fitness as a recreational activity in Tampa, Florida. This ethnography highlights the motivations of participants who take pole dance/fitness classes and applies theories of feminist anthropology and embodiment theory. Throughout my research I found that, with the support of their pole family, women continuously (re)created their sense of self as they worked towards their ideal self by embodying the pole community’s values. These values included diminishing an emphasis on physical appearance as a marker of a women’s worth and promoting self-love. Despite the stigma attached to pole dance/fitness, those who participate in it continue to do so because of the mental and physical benefits it offers them. The pole community provides a safe space and encourages participants to explore freedom of sexual and gender expression. In this thesis I analyze the demographics, practices, and beliefs of polers. I provide a holistic understanding of one small pole dance/fitness community in Tampa, but my findings are applicable to understanding the wider pole dance/fitness community.