Oberlin Blogs

Pole Dance at Oberlin

November 20, 2023

Natalie Frank ’26

I hated working out.

I ran Track and Field and Cross Country in high school for six years each. I loathed running. I would suffer through the PACER, push-up test, and mile run in required gym classes, and I’d swear never to work out again. I did not expect this mindset to change drastically when I reached college.

But it did.

Over Winter Term, I participated in a micro-internship that left me time outside work. In my free time, I debated what to do and signed up for classes at a Circus and Aerial Arts school twenty minutes away. That Monday, they offered pole dance classes. I shrugged and signed up.

The Sunday before the class, my spontaneity evaporated. What was I thinking? I had no dance experience (unless we were counting ballet twelve years ago), flexibility, or strength. I could not be confident and sexy on a stage unless I was competing in Speech and Debate. Even before the class, I wanted to quit.

Natalie spinning on the poleI went anyway. The result was life-changing. In this dance class, I found inclusive instructors, a fun community of dancers, and my favorite way to work out. Unlike other dance/aerial apparatuses I tried, pole was beginner-friendly, and you could learn awesome-looking tricks from the get-go. For the rest of my Winter Term, I practiced pole every day at the studio.

When I returned, however, I was disappointed to find the nearest pole studio 45 minutes away. I had no car. I figured I would resume pole when I returned home for the summer if I wasn’t out with a job. 

One day, at a circus meeting, our President, Zoe, mentioned in passing that OBurlesque was securing a dance pole, and we had access to it. I could hardly believe it, but a few weeks later, OBurlesque officers assembled a stage pole in Hales Gymnasium. I began to dance on it, and as in my former dance studio, I befriended the other pole dancers and learned from them.

At the end of the year, the Pole Officer asked me if I would nominate myself as next year’s Pole Officer because they were leaving. As nervous as I was, I nominated myself and eventually joined the OBurlesque Board. I was privileged to join one of Oberlin’s most fun and supportive student organizations. 

Natalie doing a layback
Practicing a layback

In my campaign this year, I have built a newsletter of over 100 students, led dozens of trainings, and hosted beginner pole classes that gather 5+ students. I performed pole dance in a circus showcase, successfully tackling stereotypes around pole dance and bringing a new apparatus to our shows. December features a collaboration performance between OBurlesque and OCircus. I could not be more excited (or nervous!). 

I love how I can introduce fellow Obies to this dance form, challenge stereotypes, and encourage athleticism and sensuality in a beginner-friendly dance form. Participating in Obie Pole has been a pleasure, and it has changed how I think about working out and exercising. Now, I willingly do crunches and push-ups at night, with the promise of getting better at pole. I don't loathe stretching or weightless arms, and I don't even mind planks, and it's all because of pole.

And the best part? As a student, you can participate, too.

Here are my top ten reasons why I love Obie Pole and why you should do it, too:

  1. Obviously, pole increases your self-esteem. You will look so sexy to yourself when you rewatch videos of yourself dancing on the pole. 
  2. Pole improves strength, coordination, and flexibility. A.k.a., you will become very buff and will be able to out-wrestle all of your friends. ♡
  3. Pole classes are absurdly expensive anywhere else. $$
  4. You and your friends are 100% guaranteed* to have a fun time.
    1. *Don’t hold me to this.
  5. All your stress will disappear like this: *snaps fingers*.
  6. You can blast Beyonce and spin really fast. 
  7. You have this really cool story to tell people at parties.
  8. You can act mysterious when your friends ask you where you are going at 7pm on a Monday night. (⌐■_■)
  9. Pole dance releases endorphins (“happy hormones”).
  10. You can become a pole dancer and join a community of dancers who will support and lift you up. Pole dancing is a community that believes there is no “one size fits frame.” Everyone, anyone, can pole dance.
Natalie dancing on the pole in a Catwoman costume
Doing pole in my Halloween costume

Obie Pole is truly an example of Oberlin’s commitment to supporting its students. The college has enabled Obie Pole to thrive, along with help from OBurlesque and OCircus. As one of few college pole dance groups, we have the resources and support to confront conventions around dance and sexuality and create a positive and inclusive environment for Obies to express themselves. 

As I remind every student who wants to start pole dance or is interested in it, you are perfect to start pole dancing. You need absolutely nothing to start pole dancing, and it’s never too late.

If you would like to participate in Obie Pole or learn more, follow us on Instagram @obiepole or join our newsletter. If you have questions, email me at nfrank@oberlin.edu.

If you are an Oberlin student, attend The Cirquelesque Casino on December 2nd! OBurlesque and OCircus are collaborating to bring you sexy silks, straps, pole, trapeze, lyra, juggling, and acrobatics. Expect mocktails, glitz, and glamour. =^..^=


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