Pole studios around the world have been shut down due to COVID-19. Some were closed weeks, and some (such as in the UK) have been closed for over 3 months. In this time some instructors have had poles at home, some haven’t. Some have gone to the studio to train, some haven’t touched a pole at all.

I’ve seen countless people reviewing their relationships with pole – their training, their teaching, their studio running. Lockdown is giving us time to think about our relationships with pole, the industry and our work within it. I’ve seen people going back to basics, others moving away from tricks, and some possibly even thinking of closing down their studios in favour of online classes or other areas of work. Everyone is dealing with this differently, and it will be interesting to see how this changing landscape impacts the pole industry in 6 months, 1 year, and beyond.

No Spotting

Is it going to be prohibited to spot our students, at least in the short term? Are we going to have to move away from a trick intensive model for a while?

If we are not able to spot our students, then perhaps we might have to reconsider the intense gymnastics influence on pole for a little while. For some this will be a blow – those instructors who adore teaching flips, advanced tricks, and potentially dangerous combos that require spotting will be most affected by this change. Hopefully for them a vaccine or clearing of the virus can come sooner rather than later!

In the mean time, are they going to be restructuring their business model to focus on more grounded movements? Combos or tricks low to the ground, with a crash mat, might be a good alternative for instructors who still want to focus on tricks, but need the safety element to remain intact.

For those who focus on dance, such as myself, this won’t be such an issue. Grounded movement is very safe in terms of spotting, not requiring any additional adaptation to make up for these changes. For those that don’t do dance, is this becoming more of an option for them now? It will be interesting to see whether grounded movement experiences more of a resurgence now in these new circumstances.

Slow the Pace

Higher intensity movement increases cardiovascular work, and in turn the amount of aerosols produced by students. Will we see a move, especially for studio owners who have small spaces, towards slower paced, lower impact movement?

I personally am considering whether to switch to low intensity routines for a short while, to prevent a couple of things:

  1. Overheating, especially during the summer. Fans can increase air circulation of potentially infectious droplets, so being able to stay cool will be important.
  2. The heavier you breathe, the more likely you are to breathe out infectious droplets that can hang in the air. Minimising this will help prevent cross-infection.

I’ve read articles about infection amongst indoor choir groups. The strong exhaling of air was one of the contributing factor in how the virus spread within the group. As studios prepare to reopen we are spending a lot of time considering social distancing, and making our spaces as safe as possible, and many instructors are also considering these additional elements that may contribute to ensuring their spaces are as safe as possible.

For those who offer additional classes such as boot camp, body pump and other cardio fitness classes, will they be adapting their business model away from these high intensity classes? Will they be moving them outdoors, or reducing class sizes? It will be interesting to see if studios move away from those into lower intensity classes.

Learn to Love Again

All of these conversations and thoughts have led to many instructors reconsidering their own personal relationship with pole dance, which in turn impacts their relationship with teaching pole to their students.

Maybe you want to move away from tricks long term?

Maybe you want to retrain both sides from scratch?

Maybe you are reconsidering how to train based on injury management?

As instructors it is important that we always have a love of what we do, so that we continue to train (both physically and through ongoing professional development), to put energy into our businesses and classes, and to find our role fulfilling and gratifying. I know for me personally that when I am struggling with pain and injury it makes my job more difficult, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. I’ve been trying to adapt my business model so that I can teach classes that minimise my pain and allow me to give my best self in each class that I teach. There were times during my studio growth that I knew I was burning out, and I didn’t offer a teaching experience that I was satisfied with. When I handed over classes to other instructors, I was able to do my job better as a result. These are hard learned lessons I want to continue even after lockdown has lifted, and this time away from my studio has been invaluable for helping me to evaluate my business plan, and also my personal relationship with pole dancing.

Are you adapting how you teach after lockdown? What ways are you transforming your business model to relight your love of pole? Or have you realised that you perhaps don’t want to return to pole after this welcome break?

A Whole New World

Regardless your plans, what we are dealing with is something that is unprecedented (how many more times do we need to hear that word!!!). How we deal with this will be different for everyone, but it will be interesting to see how all industries, including ours, adapt to these changes.

What do you think is going to happen in the pole world? Do you think there will be a further move towards dance based movement? How do you think events are going to adapt and change? What changes are you nervous about, and which are you excited about?

Let me know in the comments!

If you’re a student reading this, just realise how much work is going on behind the scenes to help you get back to your studio. It isn’t as simple as adding some sanitising stations, but a potential restructuring of an entire business model. Be kind to your studio owner and instructor at this time. It is going to take some getting used to, and I’m sure we all have many creases to iron out as we return back to our class schedules. Tell your instructor how much you appreciate them, and let them know that you support their growth as a pole dancer, business owner and individual, as we negotiate and navigate this whole new pole world!



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