SWANLEY, UK – Parents in Swanley, England are outraged after witnessing a child as young as four participating in pole dancing, a form of dance usually reserved to strip clubs that has recently been made into a fitness craze.
Performers from Revolutions Pole Academy demonstrated the form of dancing at a summer party a Crockenhill Primary School, reports The Daily Mail. The performers were dressed in shiny hot pants and crop tops as they spun around to music from Disney's Lion King, as well as Bonnie Tyler's “Holding Out For a Hero.’
One dad said he thought it wouldn’t have been as bad if the performers “had been more appropriately dressed,” but, he said, “for what they were wearing, and having their faces all made up, it just wasn’t right. I felt like I was entering something quite unsavory.”
One of the performers was reportedly four years old, and another 12.
School officials and the owner of the dance studio, however, defended the display.
Headteacher Sarah Warshow said she had invited Revolutions Pole Academy to perform at the school fair because she believes that pole dancing is a “circus skill.”
“The Crockenhill School Association has a history of inviting organisations with an association with the School or the wider village community to perform at our fairs,” Warshow said in a statement on the school's website following the outcry over the display.
“We try and put on entertainment that's free of charge for anyone who wants to have a go and at this event had a number of circus skill-themed, gymnastic activities, of which pole fitness was one, along with the hoop, diabolo and plate spinning.”
In a letter to parents, Warshow said, “Some of you might have heard that unfortunately a negative comment was made to a local newspaper, The Kent Messenger, about the appropriateness of the 'Revolutions' pole fitness and dance presentations.
“It is a shame that the focus over the last couple of days has been taken away from the fact that the summer fayre last Saturday was an enjoyable, fun day aimed at raising funds for the benefit of pupils at Crockenhill Primary.”
Owner of the dance studio, Cat Ledbetter, denied the show was “sleazy” and said parents' anger was an “over reaction.”
“I don't feel there is anything inappropriate in what was displayed at the fair,” Ledbetter told the Daily Mail.
“It's a huge over-reaction. The pole workout is one of four or five workouts they do and a staple part of my business. To separate it and tell them they can't do it would be putting a stigma on it,” she said.
However, despite recent attempts to co-opt pole dancing as a form of fitness, the style of dancing is deeply connected with the world of adult entertainment.
This is the first time critics have raised concerns about promoting the form of dance to children.
In reaction to a similar controversy about pole dancing lessons given to young children, Vancouver psychologist Dr. Derek Swain argued that teaching pole dancing to little girls could lead them to enter the sex industry later in their lives.
“My guess is that that’s going to be a real challenge [to separate pole dancing from its sexual stigma],” he explained. He was responding to a CTV story about a dance studio in British Columbia that teaches girls as young as five pole dancing moves with names like “Sexy Flexy, Pole Fit, Babes on Bikes and Bunny Bootcamp.”
Although the owner of the BC studio denied teaching children “sexual moves” and that her lessons are not “geared toward stripping,” Swain stressed that, “There would be that potential and that is something of concern, because we know that people in the adult industry are out recruiting in colleges and universities, as well as attempting to recruit in high schools. That temptation would certainly be there, and for someone who already has those skills it would be an easy transition.”
“Pole dancing is very athletic, that itself is a good and healthy thing for kids to be involved with. The big issue is whether it becomes sexualized, that comes down to the attire and the moves that the girls would be participating in,” Swain said.
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