North Texas Daily

Spinning the stereotype of pole on its head

Spinning the stereotype of pole on its head

Spinning the stereotype of pole on its head
January 23
20:47 2019

The backroom at Twisted Bodies in Denton does not resemble your average workout facility. Instead of treadmills and weight machines, colorful silk sheets drape down from the ceiling and hanging straps suspend metal hoops midair. The front of the room is lined with silver poles running from floor to ceiling, and dangling from one of the poles is a contorted Kait Robbins.

Robbins, a 25-year-old Denton resident, is a professional pole artist. As a class instructor at Twisted Bodies, her work attire for the day consists of a sports bra and spandex shorts, with a bottle of Dry Hands Sport Lotion instead of a laptop or briefcase. Underneath the colored ink of her large tattoos are visible layers of lean muscle, an obvious indicator of her physically demanding profession.

“I’ve seen men who can bench 300 pounds who can’t do stuff that I can do,” Robbins said.            

Robbins grew up in Flower Mound and danced from a young age through high school, where she said the drill team “left a bad taste in [her] mouth.” Her dance background helped provide her with a foundation for pole dancing, which she took up at Twisted Bodies in 2016. She said she was taking classes for about five hours per week when she first started her practice. 

Carissa Laitinen-Kniss, Denton resident and co-founder of Twisted Bodies, said she wanted her facility to serve as more than just a gym when she opened its brick-and-mortar facility in 2010.

“The people who come for the aerial arts and who come for pole dancing, they’re looking for something different,” Laitinen-Kniss said. “They’re looking for something that’s not an elliptical. Something that’s not a treadmill.” 

Robbins said part of what has kept her so hooked to pole dancing is that it makes her feel like she can do anything. She also opened up about her history with eating disorders and said pole dancing helped her take better care of herself.  

Robbins got into pole dancing two years ago and she has placed 3rd in the Pole Sports Organizations’ 2018 competition. Image by Adriance Rhoades.

“It was a great juxtaposition for me to have something that was strengthening my body and also [something] I had to be strong for,” Robbins said. “I didn’t have the option to treat my body like crap and then come to a class and try to lift myself up off the ground upside down.”  

It did not take long for Robbins’ passion for pole dancing to turn into a career. She earned her yoga certification and became trained to teach about a year ago and has been teaching at Twisted Bodies ever since. Being in a class, she said, is still an exhilarating and empowering activity that allows her to see how capable her body can be. 

Outside of teaching, Robbins also trains for the Pole Sports Organization Southwest competition in Dallas. Robbins took home third place at Pole Sports Organization Southwest 2018, competing at a level three. She said she worked tirelessly at improving endurance, as her piece was three minutes and 40 seconds long.

The piece, she said, hit a raw emotional place for her because it was based on a miscarriage she had earlier last year. The dance was meant to pay homage to all the women who have gone through similar experiences. Although she had an accidental fall mid-routine, Robbins said it contributed to its meaning.

“There was a lot of meaning behind my piece and that fall ended up being very, very right for it,” Robbins said. “Looking back at it, I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t fallen.”

During competition season, Robbins trains for at least 10 hours a week on a pole and does Pilates for five hours a week to build strength and stamina. She spends hours choreographing a piece for the competition, which is judged on both technique and artistry. 

Not everyone sees the artistry behind the art form, however, due to stereotypes that still surround pole dancing. Robbins mentioned that while she has not received much flack for her practice in her personal life, many who take classes at Twisted Bodies keep their pole practice a secret from their careers, which she refers to as “muggle jobs.”

Robbins is not as private about pole dancing as some of her classmates, but instead is open about what she does and why it is important. She referred to her marriage as a time in her life when this openness was essential to meeting family-in-law and her transition to becoming a stepmother. 

“I know when I got married, I had a lot of explaining to do whenever my husband’s family was first meeting me,” Robbins said. “They were like, ‘OK, this girl that you’re dating. Her Facebook picture is her on a pole.’ There’s that stigma of, ‘If it’s on a pole or if it’s with a pole, it’s got to be dirty,’ and there’s so much more to pole than that.”

Kayla Marie, the studio manager and pole instructor at Twisted Bodies, said she sees pole artistry as something with the potential to be sexy, rather than something inherently so. When people laugh after learning about what she does, she suggests that they attend her classes and performances so they can change their perspective.

“I’ve always seen it as just another form of art,” Marie said. “It can be sexy, but [pole dancing] also can tell so many stories. It can be funny, it can be serious, it can be sad, it can be happy.”

Robbins encourages anyone who is apprehensive about pole dancing to simply give it a try. She said the practice is empowering for women to see how they can be “a strong human being and also still be female, still be feminine.” She said she often sees participants in her classes break boundaries and shatter stereotypes.

Men also participate in her pole classes, as well as people of varying age groups and body types. 

“You’ll feel strong,” Robbins said. “You’ll feel empowered and capable. Everything about it is so fulfilling because you get this pride from doing something crazy and doing something scary.”

Robbins is patiently awaiting the Pole Sports Organization Southwest dates for 2019 to be released so that she can prepare for the next competition. For now, her classes at Twisted Bodies keep her occupied, and she said she could not imagine herself doing anything other than teaching and practicing her craft.

Robbins said she hopes that others will break free of the stigma pole dancing has acquired and instead realize that it is something everyone can do.

Featured Image: Kait Robbins, 25, is a competitive pole artist that teaches classes at Twisted Bodies in Denton and also competes. Image by Adriance Rhoades. 

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Haley Arnold

Haley Arnold

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