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Class strips stigma from pole-dancing, trades fetishization for self-expression

Candace Cane will be the instructor for Sexploration Pole Art Class, which will take place Friday in Kerckhoff Art Gallery. The class is part of UCLA Sex Week and aims to make students more confident in their body and sexuality. (Courtesy of Alloy Images)

Sexploration Pole Art Class

Friday, April 19

Kerckhoff Art Gallery

Free with RSVP

By Eva Kaganovsky

April 17, 2019 11:12 p.m.

Students will pole-dance to find their inner power on Friday, said TaMisha Greathouse.

In honor of this year’s Sex Week, a beginner pole-dancing class will be held in Kerckhoff Art Gallery. Hosted by the UCLA Sexual Health Coalition and UCLA Housing, the event is targeted toward students who have not previously pole-danced. Greathouse, co-chair of Sex Week, said students are encouraged to enter the space with any motive they choose, whether that be improving fitness or exploring their sexuality.

“The goal with pole is to get in touch with yourself through movement,” Greathouse said. “We want students to leave with a better understanding of their self and more confidence for themselves than they came in with.”

[RELATED: Student channels her self-confidence through burlesque in her new club]

Instructor Candace Cane, who has been teaching pole classes since 2013 at venues around Los Angeles, said she plans to begin the class by allowing students time to get acclimated to the pole. They can then discuss any emotions the apparatus might elicit, from fear to excitement. Initiating open lines of communication will be effective in developing confidence, Greathouse said.

“I am hoping that the students will gain more confidence in their appearance, because when you see yourself accomplishing something that you thought you couldn’t, it opens up a whole other world,” Cane said. “Just feeling good doing something makes people feel more confident.”

Elle Mendelson, a first-year molecular, cell, and developmental biology student, said she is attending the event because pole-dancing has many unacknowledged merits, including sexual empowerment and combating objectification. Though pole-dancing can be thought to increase objectification, Mendelson said it actually decreases it by highlighting that women can be sexy, but are also human beings with emotions and personalities. Having had body dysmorphia for as long as she can remember, Mendelson said pole-dancing might help her move past her insecurities because the classes provide a safe space in which she feels a sense of belonging.

“Having a pole-dancing class available to students gives them a way to take control of the way they present themselves, and in that way people are able to take back the objectification,” Mendelson said. “People are able to be like, ‘Hey, I am here, and I am sexy and a human being.'”

[RELATED: UCLA Sex Squad’s performance aims to spread sexual health awareness through humor]

Cane said it is valuable for students to feel comfortable with their own bodies because it may help them better enjoy intimacy in their relationships. Developing a healthy and self-assured relationship with oneself is a precursory step to developing intimate relationships with others, she said.

Meanwhile, Greathouse hopes to convey the idea that pole-dancing is not a method of pleasing other people, but a form of self-expression. There are acrobatic and aerobic aspects to pole-dancing despite its sensual roots, she said. She hopes the class will help eradicate the negative stigma surrounding pole-dancing, including the ideas that it only occurs in strip clubs or is restricted to promiscuous people.

“Pole-dancing is for anyone, at any age, with any body type or any gender affiliation. Literally, if you have limbs – even if you are missing a limb – you can still pole-dance,” Cane said. “People with only one leg, one arm, women, all genders, robust women, small women – everyone is able to pole-dance if they allow themselves to.”

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Eva Kaganovsky
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