WHEN you think of a university society, clubs like chess, hockey and debating quickly come to mind.
But what about pole dancing? No, I didn’t think so.
While traditional sports may still be more popular, pole dancing is quickly gaining a large following among women – along with a few brave men – who see it as a great way to get fit and have fun.
Now Huddersfield University has jumped on the bandwagon.
An official university accredited pole dancing academy was launched by pharmacy student Eilis Tobin.
The 21-year-old took her first swing at pole dancing at Marsh-based Princess Pole Dancing last year and loved it so much she asked the university if she could launch a society.
Now, after a number of months building up their skills with help from Princess Pole Dancing instructor Sarah-Jayne Marcussen, the academy has had its first showcase at the Students Union.
Click on the link below to view a picture gallery of the club members in actionRelated content
Eilis said she was aware of the association with ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ but said people needed to get over its risqué image.
“We have our fair share of ignorant comments and narrow-minded people having their say about it, but you just take it with a pinch of salt,” she said.
“I think it’s a shame they’re completely blinkered to the amazing strength and skills these girls have.
“Some people are calling it pole fitness or uni-pole. I don’t see the need to rename it to try to get rid of the stigma.
“I think people should make up their own minds what they think of it. If you look at it for what it is, it’s basically gymnastics.
“Another way people put it is vertical aerial art. It isn’t what people go into strip clubs to see – the only similarity is the pole.”
Eilis said the new club had been popular among students.
“It does have a bit of a shock factor to it but lots of girls joined it because they know people at other universities who did it and have had a good time,” said Eilis.
“The main reason it got on my radar is one of my friends is president of the Newcastle University club.
“Quite a lot of big universities including Newcastle, Manchester and York have all got uni-pole clubs.
“I looked into it because I’ve done dance and it’s just something new to try.
“We’ve got 35 active members with past experience and some beginners. I’ve heard nothing but good things from them – they’re really enjoying it.
“It’s something that can really fill the fitness side of things.
“It’s more fun than going to the gym and you still get that feeling of a good workout.”
The group currently has just one official male member but Eilis said plenty of her male friends secretly enjoyed a go in the privacy of their female friends’ homes.
She added: “There’s some fantastic male pole dancers. They’ve got the strength for it, but unfortunately because of the stigma that pole dancing has got there aren’t many who are interested in doing it themselves.
“Some of my male friends have had a go on the poles that the girls have at home and you’d be surprised how much fun they seem to have when they get to do that.”
While the academy is primarily for fun, some members are now hoping to dance at a competitive level, including against other universities.
Eilis added: “Some of the girls are at a level where they can start thinking about entering uni-pole competitions.
“But most people just do it for fun and fitness.
“It’s not just something for young skinny flexible girls. Anyone can do it – you just have to have the determination.”