What is your first impression when you hear the phrase “pole dancing?” No matter if you chuckle or start to get excited, do not get overwhelmed by it. Pole dancing is a full-body fitness that requires the participant’s overall strength and flexibility. Parker Skutt ’25 and Sarah Shiffman ’25 are thinking about bringing this seemingly far-away activity onto the Brandeis campus. Being the Treasurer and the Media Outreach Coordinator of Brandeis Pole Dance and Fitness Club, they worked hard to cultivate new pole dancers at Brandeis.
Skutt developed an interest in pole dancing when she was in high school after watching a YouTuber that does pole dancing; she remembered thinking “this is just so badass and awesome.” When she started college in a big city, she started to explore this sport by herself by finding places with instructions. She took her first class last summer and fell in love with it. “So then I just kept taking classes and I really, really love it,” Skutt said.
Shiffman started aerial arts and pole dancing at a younger age. She grew up around people who pole dance and was comfortable in the space. She has been actively watching it and started her own exploration of aerial arts in middle school. “And then, this summer I went back to my aerial studio and I was kind of bored with silks and stuff, so I decided to try pole. And it just clicked,” Shiffman commented. She highlighted that people would be able to find community in pole dancing: “You can learn from each other and there’s always gonna be someone who knows something and the other person doesn’t and vice versa … [You] can kind of tailor [it to] yourself and however you feel best.”
Skutt and Shiffman both expressed their strong desire to make pole dancing a presence on campus. Skutt wanted to make pole a thing at Brandeis since she took her first class in the studio. As they found the previous pole dance club, Brandeis Firecrackers, had died out, they contacted the old club members and managed to let it come back under a new name: Brandeis Pole Dance and Fitness. The Firecrackers members have been very helpful with the restarting of the club by giving them their old constitutions and helping them set up the poles, according to Skutt and Shiffman.
The biggest thing that the club is currently working with is the teaching part. None of the club leaders are certified trainers, so they will have to use DVDs and other online resources for training. More importantly, they wanted to cultivate an environment where people can learn from friends instead of teachers. However, they were thinking of bringing in experts for future club events if possible. The club leaders are currently working on re-establishing the club to apply for future funding. They are also thinking about getting new poles and other necessary supplies.
Aside from funding, the biggest challenge that the club faces is the stigma around pole dancing. For them the appeal of pole dancing is that everyone can do it and it can be tweaked into whatever one wants it to. “So it’s how do you make a space where people feel comfortable,” Skutt said, “first of all, try it in front of your friends, like doing it with friends and then doing it however they wanna do it or pursue it … It takes a lot of muscles and a lot of strength, and I think highlighting how much of a fitness activity this can be for people, and you’ll feel really confident and good, but it also doesn’t require that strength coming into it.”
Targeting this stigma, the club leaders wanted people to be open about the sport. “[It’s] not like, ‘oh, don’t tell people I pole dance.’ You can post it on Instagram. You can talk about it. It’s like I will mention it to people and they’ll be like, ‘I would be interested, but I have no upper body strength.’ And I’m like, You don’t need that right now. You can get that,” Shiffman said.
“Exactly. We’re definitely very conscious of the line between, you know, respecting people, especially with posting on the internet.” Skutt added.
The club is currently at the word-of-mouth phase. Skutt thought the visibility of the club and letting people know what to expect were the biggest things. “For my first class, I had no idea what to expect. I’d never done any type of activity like that. I was Googling on the Internet and I was trying so hard to figure out exactly what was going to happen. And so I think being very transparent about this—what you should wear, what you should expect … that type of thing is gonna be really big for us.”