Yeah, it turns out that guys don’t like deals on laser hair removal or pole dancing lessons. —Andrew Mason
Communicating across different areas of interest and different social structures can be difficult. What gets the attention of one group may be completely ignored by another. It seems, though, that there is, at least, one medium capable of cutting across art, fitness, fashion, and advertising in ways that are universally effective: pole dancing. I’m guessing that’s not a topic that was covered in your communications class in college, but pole dancing has the ability to conquer one of the biggest challenges in communication: getting people’s attention. If you have a pole dancer in front of you, for whatever reason, you can’t help but watch. What other communications medium can dominate a room in such a way?
Sure, there’s a stigma that exists with pole dancing and always will as long as there are seedy little strip joints where the only thing safe is the coffee. That doesn’t change the fact that pole dancing itself is a skill that some have turned into an art form, requiring tremendous strength and muscle tone across the entire body. As provocative as it may appear, one doesn’t simply jump on a pole and start dancing. In fact, doing it wrong can result in serious injury.
One of my favorite figure models was a champion pole dancer. Having worked with the pole daily for several years, she had an incredible muscle tone and could control each major muscle group separately. Even relaxed, she presented a strong physical definition that is difficult to find outside the bodybuilding world. When she flexed, it was almost like the anatomy chart in your biology textbook had come alive. Every muscle group was identifiable in a manner that was exquisitely beautiful.
Pole dancing as exercise has been around for quite awhile now. Despite all the giggles and side glances that come whenever someone mentions that they’re taking a class, many women, and yes, some men, across all strata of society have found the pole to be an effective and enjoyable way of working their core. Both gymnast and swimmers have found the pole to be a good way to maintain their strength during the off-season while business executives find the dancing to be a welcome relief from the stress of the office. This part of pole dancing is well documented.
What has been a little more surprising, though, is some of the other places pole dancing has shown up recently, such as Alexander Wang’s spring/summer fashion show. While Wang stopped short of putting the dancers center stage during the runway presentation, their presence at the after party, held in the same building just steps off the catwalk, was all anyone talked about for weeks afterward. The typical conversation went something like this:
“Did you see Alexander Wang’s show?”
“Oh my god, yes! Those pole dancers were amazing! I can’t believe he did that!”
“I know! I can’t wait to buy everything from the collection!”
Using pole dancers to sell fashion may not seem like a natural course of action, and one might argue that their presence was more for shock and entertainment, but the fact remains that it was the pole dancers, not the runway presentation, that brought consumer-level attention to the collection (which should be hitting stores right about now).
Then, there’s the rather humorous case of this ad for MoneySupermarket, a financial services website in the UK:
The ad worked, not only in the company’s target market, which focuses specifically on financial services in the United Kingdom, but around the world. Moreover, it made a bit of a celebrity of pole dancer Kyle McIntosh who used the opportunity to speak out against body and fat shaming. Pole dancing and financial services may not seem to be natural partners, but the ad was effective in communicating the uniqueness of the brand and bringing global attention to the website.
With pole dancing seeing such success as a communications medium, perhaps we should be asking ourselves what other ways it can be put to good use. Can we imagine using pole dancing in the classroom? Certainly, biology and anatomy would seem to have logical connections, but what about physics? If you think defying gravity hanging upside down from a pole is easy, give it a try; just make sure your insurance is up to date first. I think other match and science-related subjects could be applied to pole dancing as well.
I will even go so far as saying pole dancing might be effective in the church. Think about it a moment. Many Christians are observing Good Friday today. A pole could easily be symbolic of a cross and a skilled dancer could create a very beautiful depiction of the whole Passion story. Use some imagination. It could work.
I think what we are slowly discovering is that pole dancing, because of the stigma of its background, is a unique way of capturing an audience. Taken out of the atmosphere with which it is generally associated, viewers are not sure what to expect from a pole dance, therefore, they give it significantly more attention than they would more traditional forms of communication. Those who experience communication that involves pole dancing are also more likely to retain the brand/product name over a six-month period, significantly longer than with print advertising.
As long as there are strip clubs, and I can’t imagine those going away anytime soon, pole dancing is going to have a bit of a PR issue. I think that can be used to its advantage, though, and pole dancing can be a very effective, entertaining, and low-tech means of communication.
Given its communications value, perhaps we should be giving pole dancing, and those who perform it, a little more respect. Even when they’re not wearing clothes.